Archive | September, 2010

Rapids romp at home again

Posted on 30 September 2010 by pshea

While Philadelphia Union forwards faded like ghosts, Omar Cummings struck twice in the first half at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday night, sparking a 4-1 Rapids victory.

Going all-in with three midfield substitutions at halftime, the Union reacted to Colorado’s dominance with prudence, if not desperation. But it didn’t matter. The Rapids positioned perfectly on defense, swarmed the middle of the field, and poured on speed and creativity for the crushing third and fourth goals.

Player Ratings

Colorado Rapids

Matt Pickens (6): The visitors took six shots all night, and Pickens saved one of two on-goal. After Kosuke Kimura chased down Sebastien Le Toux in front of the net in the second half, Drew Moor cleared the ball away, and Pickens snagged the subsequent cross.

Drew Moor (7): Moor took a beating, particularly in the second half. But he didn’t whine, and he earned Save of the Game honors with his goalmouth clearance.

Marvell Wynne (7): Wynne used his speed wisely and positioned properly. He also blasted a shot on-goal at the close of the first half, but the deflection for a corner kick marked the end of the period.

Kosuke Kimura (8): Kimura was once again a warrier who used speed to attack with the ball and strength to hold his ground when he positioned himself on defense. Kimura sparked the first goal by sprinting up the wing with the ball, pausing play, and sending a pass forward to Macoumba Kandji, who worked to the endline and cut in before delivering a silver-platter drop to Cummings.

Anthony Wallace (6): Wallace won balls in the air and on the ground, and he foreshadowed the third goal with his long free kick in the 11th minute. Lined up with four on the ball, the Rapids executed the either/or play. For this shot, the touch went to the left of the wall, and Wallace blasted it on-goal, forcing Brad Knighton to deflect it.

Pablo Mastroeni, 70 minutes (8): The captain started the game receiving iffy passes that put him in jeopardy, but he didn’t whine when he got crunched. In the 68th minute, Cummings suffered one of many fouls from Jordan Harvey between the posts about 35 yards out. With the four-man either/or alignment for the free kick, Mastroeni received the touch and blasted an uncatchable shot at Knighton. Wells Thompson swooped in to put away the rebound for the third goal of the game.

Jeff Larentowicz (6): Larentowicz and Mastroeni play central midfield like a sweeper/stopper pair. When one gets beat, the other supports and contains. The beaten player retreats and often wins the ball back right away. The Union midfielders never had much time to play.

Jamie Smith, 62 minutes (6): Smith’s attacking dribbles produced chances, and he blasted a shot on-goal.

Brian Mullan, 28 minutes (6): Immediately creative on attack, Mullan also kept the defensive shape. 

Wells Thompson (8): Thompson scored the third goal, and he also fed the ball to Kimura, who sparked the first goal. Thompson’s speed and controlled defending helped keep the game flowing fast for Colorado. (Fouls give visitors a chance to rest.)

Omar Cummings, 75 minutes (9): Although he had a few errant passes and missed a chance for a hattrick in the 53rd minute, Cummings was consistently deadly (despite an injured ankle). He earned himself space for the first two goals of the game, and he kept the visitors on their heels.

Quincy Amarikwa, 15 minutes (7): Amarikwa increased the tempo to close out the game, and he brought Kandji back to life. Amarikwa scored the fourth goal by simply sprinting into position while Kandji carried the ball, and he slipped with a similar play moments before the goal. His first run made Danny Califf look like a statue.

Claudio Lopez, 20 minutes (6): Lopez added a velvet touch and tempo while Kandji and Amarikwa flew forward. Lopez took two shots and changed the attack.

Macoumba Kandji (8): Although he faded at the start of the second half, Kandji was deadly and played a part in three of the four goals. His speed and touch were relentlessly helpful, and he didn’t whine when he got fouled.

Philadelphia Union

Brad Knighton (6): Knighton can’t be blamed for Cummings getting open and other Rapids players running too fast.

Danny Califf (4): Califf had a tough assignment.

Jordan Harvey (5): Harvey played hard, winning tackles, fouling, and getting forward. After he hammered Thompson, he hammered him again on the ensuing play.

Michael Orozco Fiscal (6): Fiscal was the most consistent defender.

Sheanon Williams (4): Long throw-ins make up for sloppy defending.

Fred, 45 minutes (3): Fred’s passes were too ambitious, and he didn’t win the ball in the middle.

Kyle Nakazawa, 45 minutes (4): Nakazawa didn’t add to the game.

Justin Mapp, 45 minutes (5): Mapp showed the most pulse for the Union in the first half, but like his fellow first-half midfielders, he didn’t take a shot at all.

Jack McInerney, 45 minutes (5): McInerney calmly pushed the ball forward in the 90th minute and calmly reacted to Moor’s sliding deflection and half-volleyed the consolation goal.

Stefani Miglioranzi, 45 minutes (3): Miglioranzi was not a factor.

Andrew Jacobson, 45 minutes (2): Jacobson didn’t take a shot during his 45-minute stint, but he fouled consistently.

Amobi Okugo (3): Okugo suffered a reverse-nutmeg when Cummings first-timed the second goal of the game off a corner kick.

Sebastien Le Toux (5): Le Toux flew down the wings and into the final third, but Kimura and the other backs denied clear chances.

Alejandro Moreno (4): Moreno fouled twice during his 90 minutes, but he didn’t shoot at all.

Up next

Following a triple-hat-skunk (three 3-0 shutouts in three consecutive home games), the Rapids won again by a three-goal margin. Colorado hosts D.C. United on Saturday night.

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Olsen’s nightmare contiunues with 3-1 loss to Houston

Posted on 27 September 2010 by Steve Long

Ben Olsen struggled to find a positive note on Saturday night and it took a direct question from the press to get him to cite the only real joy from the nightmare season that he is living through. Andy Najar, the seventeen year old prodigy who now wears his number 14 continues to amaze.

“I feel like a kid like Andy, he could step into the World Cup and play the way he plays. He just doesn’t care where he’s at. He loves to play the game and he plays it in the proper way. And not just the goals, all the other little stuff, the way he tackles, the way he runs up and down the field. It’s wonderful to watch. It really has been a huge bright spot this year.”

For his part, Najar was only marginally positive, “I think we had a good game, we gave it all, and we hoped for things to improve, we hoped for things to go our way, but we lacked concentration at key times, and we lost, unfortunately.” He was more insightful than he realized.

He scored his fifth goal of the season with brilliant and cool-headed footwork, tying him with Santino Quaranta and Freddy Adu for the most goals by a DC United rookie. Quaranta, now United’s captain, provided him a fine crossing pass to set up the series of quick moves that saw him put the ball in the net for an early DC lead.

The captain was still not satisfied, “Any stat that anybody gets, you can throw that down the toilet. To be honest with you, I want to win games. Good for him for scoring goals, but we’re just not good enough as a team.”

Despite a growing sense of DC United’s control, Houston scored, in Quaranta’s words, “Out of nowhere—that’s when the game changed. The ‘Here we go again’ thing, same story all year. I don’t know what else to say.”

Bereft of solutions, reporters turned to Jed Zayner, fresh off some winning years with the Columbus Crew. He admitted befuddlement, but volunteered that, “If you’re not detailed every minute of the game, it’s gonna bite you in the butt.”

He partially agreed with Quaranta about the deflating effect of the Dynamo comeback, but placed the full effect later, “I think heads down on the third goal. The second goal I think we were still fighting.”

He also offered that good things have been happening under the new interim coach’s tutelage, “I feel bad for Ben, because he’s an awesome coach. We all love him. We all know that there’s a better feeling out here. We’re playing better, we’re fighting harder. We’re getting goals and that’s been rare this year.”

Zayner also holds out hope for the future, “You look at Columbus. I was there when we were the worst team in the league. Three years later, the best team in the league. It takes that core, the building. Diamonds have to be built. They have to be rough and have to be smoothed. That’s what our team has to do. We have to be smooth.

“These last two games were the toughest to deal with. — We had a statistic before LA that if we scored the first goal we were 2 and 0 or 3 and 0. It’s a stinger when you go up and then give goals away. We’re not defending well and then countering well.”

His final comment touched ironically on one of the evening’s more telling moments, “It’s tough to teach details in the game. It’s tough to teach a detailed mentality sometimes.” That is especially true for younger players.

United’s staff have rightly allowed Andy Najar to attack in his own aggressive manner. He has responded well, showing great wisdom and a reading of the game far beyond his years. Olsen’s praise has been well earned.

He has done especially well in working hard at both ends of the field, developing his defensive mindset more slowly, but nonetheless steadily improving in support of his backs. However, he lost track of Brad Davis during the buildup to the Dynamo’s first goal.

From above, it was clear that Davis was slipping in behind him and Najar was cheating quite a bit up the field and too far inside. When the cross came through from the right, the rookie’s mark had an unimpeded shot. The fact that it went in off Devin McTavish did not make it any less a product of Davis’ freedom from pressure.

Failure to attend to detail doesn’t plague only rookies. Canadian international Dejan Jakovic had an uncharacteristic slip up earlier in the season and Clyde Simms, usually reliable and steady with the ball, hesitated an instant too much to allow Landon Donovan to slip past him and Jakovic to score in Los Angeles.

Now it’s off to Colorado next weekend with the added element of altitude to sap concentration. Olsen’s baptism of fire continues.

Scoring Summary:

DC — Andy Najar 5 (Santino Quaranta 2) 29
HOU — own goal (Devon McTavish) 66
HOU — Geoff Cameron 2 (Brad Davis 9) 70
HOU — Dominic Oduro 4 (Brian Ching 3, Lovel Palmer 1) 100+

Houston Dynamo — Pat Onstad, Richard Mulrooney (Danny Cruz 69), Adrian Serioux, Ryan Cochrane (Eddie Robinson 63), Andrew Hainault, Corey Ashe, Lovel Palmer, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis, Brian Ching, Joseph Ngwenya (Dominic Oduro 59).

Substitutes Not Used: Samuel Appiah, Mike Chabala, Cam Weaver, Tyler Deric.

D.C. United — Troy Perkins, Devon McTavish (Junior Carreiro 83), Julius James, Dejan Jakovic, Jed Zayner, Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic, Kurt Morsink, Santino Quaranta, Danny Allsopp (Carlos Varela 74), Pablo Hernandez.

Substitutes Not Used: Jordan Graye, Stephen King, Jaime Moreno, Clyde Simms, Chase Harrison.

Misconduct Summary:

HOU — Ryan Cochrane (caution; Dissent) 29
DC — Andy Najar (caution; Reckless Tackle) 69
DC — Jed Zayner (caution; Reckless Foul) 79
HOU — Brad Davis (caution; Delaying a Restart) 82
DC — Julius James (caution; Reckless Tackle) 89
HOU — Geoff Cameron (caution; Reckless Foul) 93+

Referee: Alex Prus
Referee’s Assistants: -George Gansner; Adam Wienckowski
4th Official: Landis Wiley

Attendance: 13,828
Time of Game: 1:58

Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-85-degrees

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Rocky Mountain clash ends in dismal 1-1 draw

Posted on 26 September 2010 by Patrick McShane

It was another fascinating installment of the Rocky Mountain Cup Saturday night, as Real Salt Lake came back in added time to steal a 1-1 draw from the Colorado Rapids. It has been a contentious relationship between both rivals over the years, particularly last season as RSL eliminated Colorado’s playoff hopes on the final match of the season while simultaneously sealing their own playoff dreams. Add to the equation that many key RSL players used to ply their trade with the Rapids, and it makes every meeting between both teams personal and filled with bad blood.

Thanks to the sordid history between both clubs, matches are typically not very entertaining and often end up being a physical, scattered affair. Saturday night was no different, as neither team could get any sort of rhythm early in the match and both were trying to play chances over the top with the long ball. RSL in particular appeared to struggle with their tactics as they fielded a largely unconventional lineup of role players in order to rest their starters for their CONCACAF meeting between Toronto FC on Tuesday. This meant that usual starters Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, Alvaro Saborío, and Robbie Findley were all watching the match from the bench, while Javier Morales and Jamison Olave weren’t featured in the game day 18.

Because of the lack of cohesion between teammates, the match had little-to-no offensive production, with much of the match being played in the middle of the pitch. While RSL produced a couple of chances early on, it was Colorado that struck first with Conor Casey heading home the opening goal off of a brilliant cross from Kosuke Kimura. While the finish was class and Casey easily beat stand-in center defender Rauwshan McKenzie, the goal was completely against the run of play and surprised both the Rio Tinto fans and RSL. Noted RSL coach Jason Kreis after the match: “I’m pleased with everything except for 15 seconds in the first half when we gave away that goal. I thought that was a play completely against the run of play.”

Hoping that the infusion of typical starters would jumpstart a rally, Kreis inserted Beckerman, Saborío, and Johnson early in the second half. Though these substitutions produced a better looking display of soccer, both teams continued to struggle to create substantial chances in the final third. As regular time came to an end, it appeared that Colorado defender Marvell Wynne committed a blatant handball in the box. While referee Ramon Hernandez initially awarded the penalty kick to RSL, he later changed his call after consulting with his linesman and instead ruled a surprising drop ball. With the reversed call it felt like RSL’s lone chance to earn an underwhelming draw had passed, until Borchers came to the rescue with an unexpected goal off the back of his head to secure the 1-1 draw and the continuity of RSL’s undefeated home streak.

RSL will now turn their attention to a chaotic upcoming schedule, playing 6 matches in 18 days between MLS and CONCACAF Champions League play. While the draw to Colorado is disappointing, the possible positive outcome of resting so many starters could be actualized on Tuesday if RSL were to beat or tie Toronto FC and earn their way into the Championship Stage. “We’re going to put all our cards on the table for [the game in Toronto],” noted Kreis. “I feel like that is the one we have to get a result in to wrap up this Champions League stuff so that we can turn our focus to the Supporters Shield and the playoffs.”

REAL SALT LAKE (13-4-9, 48 pts.) v. COLORADO RAPIDS (10-7-8, 38 pts.)
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2010 – RIO TINTO STADIUM – SANDY, UT

Scoring Summary:
COL — Conor Casey 11 (Kosuke Kimura 1, Brian Mullan 1) 36
RSL — Nat Borchers 1 (Andy Williams 6) 93+

Misconduct Summary:
COL — Conor Casey (caution; Reckless Foul) 10
COL — Marvell Wynne (caution; Reckless Foul) 16
RSL — Pablo Campos (caution; Tactical Foul) 32
RSL — Fabian Espindola (caution; Dissent) 66
RSL — Collen Warner (caution; Dissent) 78
COL — Anthony Wallace (caution; Delaying a Restart) 82

Colorado Rapids — Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace (Scott Palguta 89), Brian Mullan (Wells Thompson 63), Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith, Macoumba Kandji (Ross LaBauex 73), Conor Casey. ?

Real Salt Lake — Kyle Reynish, Tony Beltran, Rauwshan McKenzie, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Andy Williams, Jean Alexandre (Kyle Beckerman 56), Collen Warner, Ned Grabavoy (Will Johnson 70), Pablo Campos (Alvaro Saborío 62), Fabian Espindola.

Referee: Ramon Hernandez?
Referee’s Assistants: Ian Anderson; Paul Scott?
4th Official: Yader Reyes?
Weather: Clear and 76 degrees / ?Attendance: 18,317

All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial

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Philadelphia Union vs. Chivas USA: Player Ratings

Posted on 26 September 2010 by Breton Bonnette

A helpless Zach Thornton...

The Union bucked recent trends and converted their chances on Saturday, dispatching Chivas USA with a 3-0 scoreline. Fred, Alejandro Moreno, and Seb Le Toux provided the fireworks while Brad Knighton, with help from a rock solid back four, recorded his second shutout in three league appearances.

Philadelphia Union Starting XI

————————–Knighton—————————–

Williams——–Califf————Orozco F.———Harvey

————————-Miglioranzi—————————-

Le Toux——————–Fred————————Mapp

——————Mwanga———Moreno——————–

GK: Brad Knighton – 6

The FC Dallas fiasco probably flashed before his eyes mid way through the first half after a through ball found Alan Gordon barreling down on Knighton and net. A well-timed and luckily feet-first tackle kept Gordon from capitalizing. Wasn’t fully tested again until the 89th minute when he parried a rifled shot from Alan Gordon. Post-match, Nowak was more than satisfied with Knighton’s presence in goal, “I think right now he has all the confidence to be #1 in goal”.

DR: Sheanon Williams – 7

The whole team looked to be a bit rusty after two weeks off but Williams especially. The youngster has pace, however, and the ability to track back after an errant touch or two. His long throw continues to be dangerous as was his pace. Williams almost got on the end of a Fred cross in the 56th minute after pushing forward. His man-to-man marking is shaky at best, showcased midway through the second half. Luckily, Alan Gordon isn’t known for his medium to long-range shots.

DC: Danny Califf – 7.5

Shut down Alan Gordon after being isolated. Not the hardest thing to do but it was vital as Gordon was the most energetic for Chivas during the first half. The central pairing of Califf and Orozco Fiscal kept things quiet for Brad Knighton and it was a performance certainly worthy of the captaincy.

DC: Michael Orozco Fiscal – 7

Solid the brunt of the game. Lost his mark, however, early in the second half leading to a wide-open Jesus Padilla look at net. Padilla mistimed the volley thankfully sending it wide of Knighton’s net. Orozco Fiscal dealt with the Goats’ danger man Justin Braun (9 goals) well though, keeping him silent and far from Knighton’s net.

DL: Jordan Harvey – 7

Harvey had a good day, getting into the attack and wreaking general havoc on the Chivas backline. It was ensemble performance for the back four but even in spite of a shaky start, the fullbacks were particularly dangerous throughout the whole match. Tracking back, at times, was an issue as Lahoud and Sal Zizzo were able to jumpstart counterattacks after Harvey was caught forward.

MR: Sebastien Le Toux – 8

Even though things weren’t as organized as usual on the offensive end, Le Toux’s motor was once again running beautifully. He’s dangerous up top but his work on the flanks really got to the Chivas USA defense. Both him and Mapp were able to deliver better than usual crosses with his efforts paying off right before the end of the first half. Le Toux and Moreno renewed their partnership early in the second half with a couple well-played combinations. Despite the 2-0 scoreline, Le Toux didn’t let up. After a foul he suffered, Seb deflected the free kick off the Chivas wall and right past a wrong-footed Thornton. Only a minute later, he almost added with a rocket from the outside.

MC: Stefani Miglioranzi – 7

An understated game. Decent distribution and not afraid to get in the mix. Miglioranzi, even without Coudet or Jacobsen in the first half, was able to clog up the midfield and shut down guys like Paulo Nagamura. He rarely gets the credit but his play as of late allows Le Toux, Fred, and others room to really go at the opposing defense. Migs at times was almost acting as a third centreback, shutting down passing channels and picking up loose balls .

MC: Fred – 7.5

His quarterbacking of the Union offense was part at best in the first half but, surprisingly, Fred was back quite a bit and made some key poke tackles at the top of the box. Right before the half, after a low Le Toux free kick, Moreno feint, and Zach Thornton parry, Fred ushered home the rebound to make things 2-0. Probably one of Fred’s best performances in a Union uniform.

ML: Justin Mapp 6.5

Plagued with the same bad touch in the early moments but made up for it with pinpoint accuracy on his dead balls. His corner found Moreno for the first goal of the match. He delivered several deep free kicks into the danger area. Probably should wind up the set piece taker from the corner as well as kicks 30-40 yards out.

FW: Danny Mwanga 5.5

His touch was all over the place early on and looked a little out of place. His touch impeded forward progress on several occasions. Had a couple promising moments but all in all it was Mwanga’s first forgettable appearance in a long time. Replaced by Jacobson at the half.

FW: Alejandro Moreno – 8.5 *ASN Philly’s Man of the Match*

Sheer determination almost saw Moreno power a diving header past Zach Thornton in the 18th minute after a beautiful cross from Seb Le Toux. That determination did pay off in the 25th minute after Moreno muscled home a fade away header off of a well delivered Mapp corner. The goal did wonders as Moreno continued to threaten throughout the first half also providing the flick on that ultimately led to Fred’s goal. It was good to see Moreno at 100%. Scored points with Union faithful post-goal by kissing the badge.

Substitutes:

Andrew Jacobson – 7

Came on for Danny Mwanga at the half, pushing Fred left and Le Toux up front. A great performance all around although his passing was a bit heavy for the most part but he supplies a defensive presence that Coudet cannot. His service of the forwards and overall vision is improving. Frustrating Paulo Nagamura.

Amobi Okugo – N/A

The youngster came on in the 74th minute for Fred.

Roger Torres – N/A

Replaced Justin Mapp in the 77th minute.

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Philadelphia Union vs. Chivas USA: Updated Game Musings

Posted on 25 September 2010 by stoma

As we get ready to kick off here on a sweltering afternoon by the river at PPL Park, the Union are trapped in purgatory, somewhere between playoff relevancy and playing out the string.  They take on Chivas USA, who have endured an equally disappointing season, although their road has not been quite as dramatic a roller coaster as Philadelphia’s, their playoff dreams effectively dashed by a 7 game winless streak in May and June.

Not much by way of change in the lineup for the Union, although what they have rolled out can more be called a 4-1-3-2, with Miglioranzi supplementing the defenders full-time, and Fred as a central attacking midfielder with Le Toux and Mapp on the wings.

2′: Nice to see Sheanon Williams hold down his spot in the first XI as the season winds down.  He’s a project for sure, but if there’s one thing the Union have at this point, it’s time to develop players like Sheanon.  Their first year in the MLS has built up an incredible amount of goodwill in the community and among the fanbase, who have no call to complain what with the top-of-the-line stadium.

6′: The Union are playing as though they have not played in live game action in two weeks.  Of course, this is because they haven’t.  It’s not as though they look bad, it’s just that everyone’s touches are a beat slow.  Let’s see if they can turn it around as the game settles in.  However, if this early malaise leads to conceding a goal, all bets are off.

10′:  OK, so Fred is playing more of a roving central midfield role than a straight attacking mid.  Someone remind me to ask Piotr Nowak if this was pre-ordained or it’s just a concession to the fact that Fred is not going to stay in the area the team asks anyway.

14′: Checking to make sure this is not a high school game, as the touches are increasingly sloppy from both sides. The play says yes; the 16 thousand in attendance says no.

16′: Alan Gordon finds space and is two steps away from a 1 v. 1 with Knighton, but the young keeper sees it immediately and, with the FC Dallas game red card flashing before his eyes, goes to the ground feet first (he’s learning!) and clears the danger a second before Gordon can run onto the ball.

17′:  Immediate action the other way, with Sebastien Le Toux finding space and sending a lovely cross to the front of the goal, where both Danny Mwanga and Alejandro Moreno were crashing.  The ball finds the head of Ale, who pushes it wide right. One can’t help but think that Moreno would have found a way to hit the back of the net with that one 5 years ago. Heck, 3 years ago.

23′: Seriously, if there’s one saving grace for Philadelphia here, it’s that Chivas is in even poorer form right now.  Rodolfo Espinoza just basically got tired of waiting for Justin Mapp to make a move and went at his legs instead.  Good times.

26′: After yet another unsung play from Stefani Miglioranzi who, seeing no hopeful developments while holding the ball near the end line, banged it off a defender to draw the corner, the Union get on the board and notch a rare tally from a set piece.  For only the second time all season, Philadelphia scores off a corner, with Justin Mapp raising his assist total with a beautiful ball towards the back post that Alejandro Moreno helps all the way to the back post once he gets his head to it, looping it out of the reach of Zach Thornton to make it 1-0.  Moreno atones for his earlier missed header and puts home his 2nd goal of the season.

33′: In the immediate aftermath of the match’s first goal, not much has changed except for the mood of the Union supporters occupying the River End.  The sloppy play continues and neither side has changed tactics.  I will say, however, that Ale Moreno looks positively buoyed by getting his 2nd. He’s playing with very high energy right now.

37′:  Random note: Michael Orozco-Fiscal’s green boots > Danny Califf’s red boots.

42′: Both teams are now playing with one foot in the locker room.  This is one of the more disjointed halves of soccer I can recall viewing in some time.

43′: The new and improved Philadelphia central defense: through ball comes, first defender attempts to clear, second defender expects the first defender to fail at this task and tracks towards the action to finish the job. It’s like I always say: if you can do the job of 1 man with 2, then maybe unemployment wouldn’t be such a problem in this country.

43′: Full disclosure: I’ve never actually said that before.

45′: Justin Mapp just ran into Dario Delgado, who went down in a heap.  Mapp gets the yellow, Delgado gets the stretcher…which he refuses, of course.  Instead we get

45+’: Well, if nothing else, that run-in has woken the teams up.  Some fast paced action here in stoppage time, with Mariano Trujillo picking up a yellow card of his own for a hard tackle on Le Toux as he streaked down the touchline.

45+’: And there it is…goal #2, this time Fred puts home his 3rd of the year off of the free kick from Le Toux.  Seba put a semi-cross, semi-shot, all “hey, if I put this somewhere on frame, something good might happen” ball that Thornton got a mitt on, which accomplished nothing other than to direct the ball back towards the masses in front of the goal mouth.  Fred won the mad dash to the ball and slammed it into the back of the net to put the Union up 2-0 and send the fans to the concession stands happy, as the halftime whistle came almost immediately after the restart.  See you on the other side of the half.

As we begin the 2nd half, a couple of clarifications: (1) the assist on Fred’s goal was credited to Moreno, who got a slight touch on Le Toux’s cross, redirecting it towards goal before Thornton’s hand got in the way; and (2) Fred did, indeed, receive a yellow card for taking his shirt off after the goal.

45′: Andrew Jacobson replaces Danny Mwanga at halftime, which means that he slots into the other central midfield spot while Le Toux slides up top with Moreno and Fred & Mapp are the wings.

’50: Let’s explore this more.  If, three weeks ago, you had told me that Andrew Jacobson was the best substitute possible to improve the defensive side of the ball for Philadelphia, I would have [insert sign of incredulity here]. But, that’s just what Jacobson has become.  With his ability to push up and link the attack while still getting back in plenty of time due to his blazing speed and instincts, he is the perfect defensive complement to Miglioranzi in the middle.

55′: Chivas has now used all three of their allotted substitutions. This should end well for them.

’56: Sheanon Williams is an awesome athlete.  Fred sent a cross towards the back post in the air from the left flank just above the penalty area.  He did so after spotting a streaking Williams completing a run all the way from the backfield.  He did so after making eye contact with Williams, who didn’t break stride after a 40-yard sprint.  He did so after Williams adjusted his path to the goal just enough to give Fred a chance to time his run.  No, Williams did not get on top of the resulting header and put it on frame, but it was still a sight to behold.

’57: Sometimes, you wonder what Moreno is doing. Then, a few seconds later, after some deep reflection, you realize that he’s doing exactly the right thing, assuming that his teammates will also do the exact right thing.  In this case, he took a ball down the left flank of the penalty area and sent a low cross towards the back post.  Now, nobody was there or even close to there, but think about it: somebody should have been making that back post run.  I don’t  know whether it’s an endearing statement about how much Ale trusts his teammates to do the right thing despite myriad evidence to the contrary or incredibly foolhardy, but it’s definitely a big reason he’s so beloved in the locker room.  He’s going to treat everyone, rookie or veteran, like a pro.

’59: This has been a renaissance game for Moreno.  He came within inches of having a clear chance at his 2nd goal of the game to go along with an assist.  Le Toux chased down a long ball and sent a low cross towards a streaking Ale all by himself at the top of the area, but the ball managed to skip over Moreno’s foot before he could one-time it on net.

’67: Whether it’s the heat, the score or just a compendium of losing, Chivas is getting utterly frustrated. Ugly tackle by Michael Umana draws another caution for Chivas.

’67: That won’t help the frustration.  The resulting free kick is taken by Le Toux, who attempts to go through the wall.  But it’s the Union’s day, and for the first time this season, a deflection leads directly to a goal.  Le Toux gets his 12th of the season and the romp is on.

74′: Amobi Okugo on for Fred.  This not only saves Fred’s legs, but allows Jacobson to push forward a bit more.

77′: Final sub for the Union as Roger Torres makes his first appearance in a little while, coming on for Justin Mapp.  The infusion of youth on the pitch serves two roles: (1) this game’s in hand, no need for the veterans to risk further fatigue; and (2) with only 6 games left in the season, there’s an expansion draft to worry about and only a limited amount of players the team can protect.  Further, unlike last offseason when teams only had to worry about Philadelphia poaching their prospects and aged veterans, there are two new franchises (Portland & Vancouver) making the rounds. That’s two guaranteed players lost per team.  Better be sure about who you’re protecting.

’85: At this point, as Paulo Nagamura draws yet another yellow card for Chivas, you just have to hope nobody gets hurt for the Union as the result of a frustrated tackle.

POST: Another clean sheet for the Union, tying the MLS-low of 2 in one season and assuring they will not hold the ignominious record all by themselves.  With 5 games to go, perhaps they can even get another one and save their names from the record book.  In the immediate future, they pull within 6 points of Kansas City for 3rd place in the Eastern Conference.  Which means…well, nothing, ultimately, but it’s definitely a good showing and something for the home crowd to celebrate.

More importantly, this was the first game all season that Philadelphia won convincingly on the scoreboard and did not have to sweat out at the end.  They needed a game like this, where they took their chances and put the game out of reach early.  A game in which scoring didn’t seem so damn hard, in which the breaks actually seemed to go their way.  A game in which they didn’t look like a franchise in their inaugural season.  A game like this.

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RSL to host first leg of Rocky Mountain Cup

Posted on 24 September 2010 by kali

Real Salt Lake has checked a few items off of its to-do list over the past week:

Claim the league home unbeaten streak with a win over the Chicago Fire last Saturday?  Check.

Earn a crucial CONCACAF Champions League victory in Panama to put the team in excellent position to advance?  Check.

Get a few of the team’s key players some well-deserved rest?  Check.

Next on that list is claiming a victory over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium (8 pm MT, Fox Soccer Channel), an accomplishment that would not only give RSL a leg up in this year’s Rocky Mountain Cup but also substantially boost the team’s Supporters Shield chances.  However, a result won’t come easy in a heated rivalry match that has playoff implications for both teams, as the Rapids are seeking to earn a playoff berth of their own.

While Real’s tough schedule may put his team at a bit of a disadvantage, coach Jason Kreis left several players home from Panama to mitigate some of those concerns.  Frequent starters Andy Williams, Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers, and Javier Morales remained in Utah to rest and in Morales’ case, recover from a minor injury, giving Kreis some fresher legs for Saturday’s match.  However, injuries remain a bit of a concern for RSL, as Morales (quad strain), Fabian Espindola (hamstring), Robbie Findley (knee), Paulo Junior (hamstring), Robbie Russell (concussion), and Alvaro Saborio (knee) all continue to manage their injury problems.

Meanwhile, Colorado will be without striker Omar Cummings, who has 10 goals in league play this year, due to an ankle injury, dealing a tough blow to the Rapids.  In addition, defender Julian Baudet is doubtful with a hamstring injury and goalkeeper Matt Pickens probable despite a groin strain.  However, Brian Mullan, who was recently acquired from Houston, will give the Colorado midfield an additional spark, while fellow newcomer Macoumba Kandji could start up front in Cummings’ place.

On the other hand, intensity certainly shouldn’t be a problem for either team.  After a relatively low-key Rocky Mountain Cup competition in RSL’s inaugural season in 2005, the Salt Lake-Rapids rivalry has grown increasingly heated since an incident in Utah during the 2006 season.  Trades between the two sides upped the ante even more, and Real has eliminated Colorado from the playoffs in the last match of the season in the past two years.  Factor in the playoff implications, and all the makings of a tense rivalry match should be present on Saturday.

For his part, Kreis will be looking for RSL to bring more vivacity than it did last Saturday against the Chicago Fire.  He said of his players after the victory in Panama, “We really needed a couple of guys to show a bit more energy than we have the past couple of games. I always say, it’s interesting how the players who seem to show the most energy and passion for the game are getting rewarded … so that’s good.”

And with that kind of effort, Real will be looking to check another item off of its list.

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Does DC United finally have it together?

Posted on 24 September 2010 by Steve Long

As the profoundly disappointing 2010 season has dragged on, DC United has never quite fully settled on a consistent roster. However, the team as a whole has matured significantly. With a mere sixth of the season remaining and too many defenders injured, United still appears to have put almost all the pieces together.

Tino Quaranta has been trying to understand it and draws real hope from the most recent performance against the LA Galaxy, “Continue to play like that and we’ll win games. It’s kind of been a theme all year, but they’re the best team in our league and I think we should have won this game tonight. Our record and our points don’t show what kind of team we are.”

Recovery began with the realization that United was inflexibly focused on central attack. Curt Onalfo emphasized wing play and saw some success. However, with the absence of Bryan Namoff and a constant series of injuries to defenders, he was forced to restrain his wide attackers to support those behind them.

Against the stronger United teams of old opponents were often forced into a counterattacking mode.
They would absorb United’s pressure and strike on the counter. If other teams are so superior to United this year, one might expect them to fight for midfield control. After all, a weakened defense gives opponents both options.

Yet, they win off the counter more often than not. Quaranta is correct in his assessment, “We’ve been creating a lot of chances. If you look around the league in that position, in the [wide] positions, I feel like this team is one of the best teams in those positions.”

Throughout the season, United has steadily improved in maintaining its overall shape while gradually improving in off the ball supporting runs, first on defense, and only very recently on attack. That can be laid to too intense a desire to carry the team to victory with individual effort.

The team has no pure speed player to keep an opponent off balance, but does have enough strong attackers to create and finish chances. Of late, Pablo Hernandez has gradually adjusted to the physicality of MLS play and has begun to interact better with his teammates.

With his arrival, the central attack has gradually improved as Danny Allsopp has begun to work a more effective partnership up front. Quaranta has been able to see players closer than Andy Najar as viable passing options.

Until recently, players would drive at and take on multiple defenders while teammates watched. In the last three games, against Columbus, Toronto, and LA, the attack has finally achieved effective support with good offensive runs and quicker recognition by of opportunity by those with the ball and those in support.

Hernandez had shared a tendency with Najar to hold the ball a bit too long. In both cases, teammates were partially to blame. The single most significant element that DC United’s coaches have instilled is the need for constant movement off the ball to support these two particular players when they get the ball.

The same lack of effective supporting movement has combined with his own age degraded skills to render Jaime Moreno no longer the game changer that he once was. Time and again, DC United players have emphasized that they play for one another. In fact, they have, but almost always in focusing on defense.

With the emergence of more active offensive interaction, the elements are now in place, just in time for some new actors to join in the play. Both Carlos Varela and Junior Carreiro give Coach Ben Olsen still more midfield support. Junior has been with the side long enough to have bought into the doctrine and Varela is experienced enough to figure it out quickly.

After strong performances in close losses against two of the league’s leaders, DC now gets a shot at a struggling Houston Dynamo squad whose fans must be as baffled United’s. The game is at 7:30 at RFK.

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Independence advances on Rodriguez’ 120th minute tally

Posted on 20 September 2010 by lbarker

It wasn’t Golden Goal, but Amy Rodriguez’ game winner on Saturday afternoon came so late into overtime, it might as well have been. The Philadelphia Independence striker broke a 0-0 deadlock between the Independence and the Washington Freedom at 119 minutes and 37 seconds, sending the game’s only goal past Freedom ‘keeper Ashlyn Harris with less than a minute remaining in overtime.

The Independence had ended the regular season on a four game losing streak, letting second place and a bye into the Semi-Final slip away over the final weeks of the season. Good form had kept the Indys near the top of the table all season long, and even without results through the final matches, the Philly side was able to hold on to third place and the right to host a playoff game. The Washington Freedom had snuck into the playoffs as the four seed, thanks to a few late game heroics of their own – an 88th minute tally from Abby Wambach in their last match of the regular season secured the final postseason berth for Washington. The Freedom traveled to John A. Farrell Stadium in West Chester, PA as the only WPS team to appear in the playoffs in both 2009 and 2010. One hundred and twenty minutes later, they’d leave as the only WPS team to lose a playoff game in both 2009 and 2010. With the win the expansion Independence become the first-ever WPS team to win a home playoff game.

With the victory, the third place Independence will travel to Boston to take on the second place Breakers on Thursday night in the Super Semi-Final. For the Washington Freedom, the loss marks their second straight first round exit from the WPS playoffs – the Freedom lost 2-1 to eventual champions Sky Blue FC in the first round in 2009.

The Independence had the advantage early, with the Freedom trying to settle in to the narrow, turf field that the Indys call home. In the seventh minute Philadelphia’s Lianne Sanderson played a ball through to Holmfridur Magnusdottir. Rookie Freedom ‘keeper Ashlyn Harris came off her line to cut off the angle and was able to make a save on the Iceland International’s shot. it would be the first of many for Harris, who was peppered with 24 shots, nine of them on goal, from the home team (the Freedom on the other hand, managed just six shots, with a grand total of zero on goal through 120 minutes).

Harris, who became the Freedom’s number one ‘keeper late in the season after Erin McLeod went down a knee injury, was again forced to come up big for the Freedom in the 26th minute. The rookie ‘keeper was one-on-one with Sanderson and dove to block the Independence striker’s attempt. “I think Ashlyn was the MVP of this whole game,” said Freedom striker Abby Wambach. “I don’t feel like one player really stood out for me as much as she did. For a goalkeeper, you ask her to make one or two saves a game to keep you into it, but Ashlyn did far more than that.”

As the half wore on the Freedom, playing with 5 in the midfield and US International Wambach as the lone striker, began to control possession through the midfield, but were continually stymied by the Independence back line. Nikki Krzysik and Allison Falk were a particular source of frustration for Wambach, limiting the All-Star striker’s chances. “If they played like that all season we’d be playing at home for the final. They were dynamite tonight,” said Independence Head Coach Paul Riley. “Val did a great job in net, and I think Falky and particularly Nikki Krzysik I thought were very, very good. You got a rookie in right back, she came in again for Mittsy today and I thought she did tremendous in right back and the Icelandic– Frida’s a crazy-woman.”

The home side had one final opportunity as time ticked down on the first frame. In the 38th minute Sanderson played the ball across to Amy Rodriguez, but her shot sailed over the bar and both teams headed to the locker rooms deadlocked at zero.

The Freedom made one change to start the second half – bringing on forward Lene Mykjaland in place of defender Rebecca Moros – with hopes of sparking something offensively. Unfortunately for the DC side, it was the Independence who got the first good chance of the half, coming in the 51st minute. After a scramble in the Freedom box, the ball was sent back to Jen Buczkowski, who fired a hard shot from 25 yards out that sailed just over the crossbar.

Three minutes later, the Freedom defense broke down again, and again both teams scrambled to gain possession in front of the Freedom goal. French International Sonia Bompastor got the Freedom out of trouble, clearing the ball off the line to keep things level. The Independence kept the pressure on and in the 56th minute Tina DiMartino found Amy Rodriguez who took a shot that Harris stopped point-blank. Seconds later Rodriguez appeared to have netted the go-ahead goal, but her tally was called back after referee Jose Carlos Rivero signaled that she’d handled the ball.

In the 59th minute, the Freedom took their turn on the attack. The Independence turned over the ball near midfield and Sarah Huffman dribbled up the sideline before crossing the ball towards an onrushing Wambach. Wambach slid into Huffman’s cross, but was met by her defender before she was able to get a clean shot off. The Independence countered a few minutes later. In the 62nd Rodriguez ran onto a ball played over the Freedom back line, but was unable to control it, sending her shot over the crossbar. The back and forth continued, with Wambach and Mykjaland stringing together a series of passes inside the Independence box before Philly ‘keeper Val Henderson came out to challenge Wambach, forcing her 65th minute shot wide.

The final ten minutes saw three golden “how did that not go in!?” opportunities for the Independence. First in the 80th minute Lori Lindsey rocketed a hard shot that had ‘upper 90’ written all over it. Harris made a spectacular leaping one-handed save to keep Lindsey’s chance out of the back of the net and then made an equally impressive kick-save on Rodriguez, who had gained the ball on the rebound and fired on goal. Two minutes later Danesha Adams took a shot on goal that had Harris beat, but Bompastor was again there to clear the ball off the line. The third of the golden opportunities came in the 88th minute when Lindsey was again stopped by Harris. Rodriguez once again collected the rebound and rang her shot off the post – that rebound went towards goal, but Anita Asante got a foot to it before the ball was able to cross the line. “We had so many chances in that game. I can’t even tell you. I felt like I had a curse on me. And we kept pressing. Each halftime and timeout we kinda went over to the sidelines and Paul kept telling me ‘keep going. I don’t care if you miss ten in a row, just keep shooting, keep shooting,'” said Rodriguez.

Minutes later the whistle sounded to end the first 90 minutes, but because it was a playoff game a winner had to be decided – and so to overtime it went.

The pace through each of the two 15 minute overtime periods was considerably slower and both teams struggled to find quality chances. In the 96th minute Mykjaland dribbled in on goal but got tangled up with Krzysik, allowing Henderson to come out for the ball. In the 110th minute Rodriguez took a shot that rolled across the goal, but Harris was able to recover and make the stop.

The match, which was already the first overtime game in WPS history, looked destined to also be the first decided by penalty kicks. Inside the final minute of overtime the Freedom’s Nikki Marshall turned the ball over, starting a sequence that would be the game’s last. Marshall stumbled over the ball and it was collected by DiMartino who played the ball through the Freedom defense to Rodriguez. A-Rod had been on a hot streak through the middle of the season, at one point nearly catching FC Gold Pride’s Marta for the WPS Golden Boot, but had been absent from the score sheet as of late – and for 119 minutes it looked like that trend was going to continue. But in the 120th minute Rodriguez collected DiMartino’s pass, took a touch, and fired a near post shot past Harris. Less than a minute later her go-ahead goal became the game winner, sending the Independence through the to Semi-Final. “Great ball in behind the back line and I remember feeling like the defender was in front of me and last minute I kinda swooped in front of her and I was able to get a touch on the ball and saw the ‘keeper and decided to shoot near post,” said Rodriguez, describing her goal. “And I was so happy because the entire game I felt like I was continually shooting and nothing was going my way, nothing was going in. And also to see the clock, the 120th minute, knowing there’s no time left, it was perfect for us. We were really excited.” Paul Riley never lost confidence in his star striker. “I told her before overtime, I said ‘you’re not coming out. I’m not taking you off and you’re gonna miss. The best strikers in the world miss chance after chance after chance after chance. You gotta keep going, you’re gonna get another couple, just stick with it.’ Thank god she mis-kicked the last one ’cause she was going far post and it went near post. I think that probably summed up her day. Great strikers keep at it and she did a great job,” said Riley when asked about Rodriguez’ performance.

The Freedom meanwhile, will now join the Atlanta Beat, Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC in the offseason. “They gave it everything they had and they did their best and that’s all you can ask for. Sometimes you get bounces in this game, sometimes you don’t. Certainly it’s a cruel game at times,” remarked Freedom Head Coach Jim Gabarra. Abby Wambach acknowledged that the loss was frustrating, but overall was proud of her team. “I kept telling everyone ‘please, just get me the ball inside the box and I will score.’ It just couldn’t– one thing would happen. The surface– I just really feel the surface played so much into it. Credit to Philadelphia who kept with it, I think outplayed us in the second half and both of the overtimes,” said Wambach. “I think that maybe the better team won today. We did play our hearts out, we tried a different system in the second half. I think a broader perspective, in the bigger picture, from day one, we’ve become a better team. So in the long run I’m pretty proud of my players,” said Wambach. “Sad to not be in it, but proud of us for being able to last throughout an entire game, overtime, and trying to win there at the end. But A-Rod thought differently.”

Washington and Philadelphia are two clubs that could not be more different – the Freedom, with a history dating back to the WUSA days, were a team made of a solid core of returning players from 2009 mixed in with a few new additions. The Independence on the other hand, a brand new expansion side constructed mostly with WPS’s spare-parts. A place for a fresh start for those who had struggled elsewhere; were underused, under-appreciated and ultimately let go or left unprotected by their former clubs; displaced by teams folding. On Saturday in West Chester it was Paul Riley’s band of second-chancers coming out on top. “We’re one of those teams like Sky Blue were last year. Nobody anticipated us being here. I’m sure Boston doesn’t want to play us, I’m sure they’d rather play Washington,” said Riley after the match. Amy Rodriguez added, “I think tonight changed everything. I think tonight we really saw how we can keep continuing to fight and how we can battle and all the way to the 120th minute. And that gives us confidence.”

FUN FACTS:
Independence Coach Paul Riley was selected as the WPS Coach of the Year, beating out FC Gold Pride’s Albertin Montoya, Boston’s Tony DiCicco and Washington’s Jim Gabarra for the honor… Just two players in the WPS playoffs had a chance to become two-time champions, Philly’s Jen Buczkowski and Washington’s Anita Asante, who both spent 2009 with Sky Blue FC. With the Freedom eliminated, Buczkowski becomes the only player with the chance to win a second title…Washington Freedom and former US National Team goalkeeper Briana Scurry announced her retirement from professional soccer last week. Scurry was placed on the season-ending injury list earlier in the year due to concussion related issues, but had said that injury was not the reason for her retirement. The veteran ‘keeper was recognized at halftime and briefly addressed the crowd…Riley said that his decision to sub in Heather Mitts late in the second overtime was a strategic move in case the match went to penalty kicks. Mitts had missed the last few games due to injury… With the win philadelphia becomes the first home team to win a WPS playoff game. In 2009 Sky Blue FC won all three games on the road… Lori Lindsey and Joanna Lohman, who wasn’t rostered for the match, spent 2009 with the Freedom. Lindsey was picked up by the Independence after being left unprotected by DC in the expansion draft and Lohman signed as a free agent…Amy Rodriguez and Heather Mitts will face their former team on Thursday – both spent 2009 with the Breakers. Rodriguez, who was the number one draft pick in 2009, struggled in Boston, scoring just one goal. After the season she was traded to Philly in exchange for two draft picks (which Boston used on Lauren Cheney and Alyssa Naeher). Mitts signed with the Independence as a free agent… US National Team Coach Pia Sundhage was in attendance and watched the game from the press box. The USWNT starts camp tomorrow in Atlanta ahead of two friendlies with China…Philadelphia Union Forward Sebastian LeToux was on hand for the coin toss.

MATCH FACTS:
Philadelphia Independence (11-10-4) vs. Washington Freedom (8-10-7)
Sunday, September 19, 2010 — John A. Farrell Stadium
FINAL – (ET)

SCORING SUMMARY:
Team 1 2 ET F
PHI: 0 0 1 1
WSH: 0 0 0 0

PHI: Amy Rodriguez 1 (Tina DiMartino) 120′

PHILADELPHIA INDEPENDENCE — Estelle Johnson, Nikki Krzysik, Allison Falk, Holmfridur Magnusdottir (Heather Mitts, 116′), Caroline Seger (Kelly Henderson, 108′), Lori Lindsey, Jen Buczkowski, Tina DiMartino, Amy Rodriguez, Lianne Sanderson (Danesha Adams, 78′), Val Henderson

Substitutes Not Used: Sara Larsson, Sarah Senty, Lyndsey Patterson, Robyn Jones

WASHINGTON FREEDOM — Ashlyn Harris, Cat Whitehill, Nikki Marshall, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rebecca Moros (Lene Mykjaland, 46′), Sonia Bompastor, Allie Long, Brittany Bock (Homare Sawa, 65′), Anita Asante, Abby Wambach, Sarah Huffman (Brittany Klein, 111′)

Substitutes Not Used: Christie Welsh, Beverly Goebel, Kristi Eveland, Meagan McCray

TEAM STATS:
PHI WSH

Shots 24 6
Shots on Goal 9 0
Fouls 12 12
Offsides 3 4
Corner Kicks 7 2
Saves 0 6

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY:
PHI: Holmfridur Magnusdottir (Caution) 55’

Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Referee Assistants: Matthew Kreitzer, Colin Arblaster
4th Official: Daniel Fitzgerald
Attendance: 2, 378

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RSL put out the Fire en route to MLS record

Posted on 18 September 2010 by Patrick McShane

Real Salt Lake made MLS history Saturday afternoon as they defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0 to set the longest home undefeated streak in league history at 23 matches. Fire defender Wilman Conde put in a catastrophic performance on the afternoon, earning an ejection right before half due to two yellow cards including the penalty that eventually led to the match winner from Álvaro Saborío. With the victory RSL continues to pressure the LA Galaxy and Columbus Crew for the Supporters’ Shield, as they are now tied with LA at 47 points and own a superior goal differential prior to the Galaxy’s match with DC United Saturday night.

With Chicago playing to keep their slim playoff hopes alive and RSL looking to break the undefeated home record, the match played as one would anticipate with both teams playing hard, physical soccer. Chicago forward Collins John was particularly formidable against the RSL backline, while midseason addition Freddie Ljungberg battled RSL captain and midfield leader Kyle Beckerman throughout the first half. There were a number of anxious moments due to this style of play, as a number of players appeared to pick up some knocks thanks to some tough challenges, including RSL’s Will Johnson and Saborío as well as Bratislave Ristic and Logan Pause for the Fire. Unfortunately, it was also this style of play that led to the Fire’s downfall, as Conde continued to hammer at RSL’s forwards and attackers at every opportunity – eventually leading to two cautions in rapid succession and his eventual ejection.

Despite the ejection and numerous knocked up players, Chicago defender C.J. Brown didn’t really see the match as being overly physical. “As far as the physical play goes, that’s just the game. I don’t think it was any worse than any other game that I have been in. There some plays here and there that some players got in on, but that’s mild compared to when it starts in the playoffs. It’s part of the game.”

As RSL near the end of the season, their third consecutive playoff birth and prepare to defend their MLS crown, it is critical that they find ways to win matches while still resting key players due to their busy CONCACAF Champions League schedule. Due to Chicago playing the entire second half down a man, RSL was able to control the match with little effort and sub out Ned Grabavoy and Saborío by the 64th minute as both players are nursing minor injuries. These substitutions allowed RSL to not only rest players, but also give important playing time to a variety of young players that they will be relying on over the next couple of weeks.

Chicago, on the other hand, appeared content to exit Rio Tinto Stadium quietly, with the exception of second half substitute Patrick Nyarko, who tormented RSL’s defense for the entire second half. His energy and skill completely changed the dynamic of Chicago’s attack and makes one wonder why he wasn’t involved from the opening whistle. With the loss, Chicago now find themselves farther behind in the MLS playoff race with only seven games remaining. That said, Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos still holds out hope that the team can still make the post season. “It’s definitely difficult now, but we still have seven matches left to play and that’s 21 points available,” notes de los Cobos. “We need to fight. We are losing points because we are not concentrating all the time… We have really good moments in all of our matches, but we are not taking advantage of this.”

RSL will maintain their busy schedule over the next week, continuing CONCACAF Champions League play Wednesday against Arabe Unido in Panama before meeting Rocky Mountain Cup rivals the Colorado Rapids at home next Saturday. Despite the chaotic schedule and the various injuries the team is currently facing, coach Jason Kreis still maintains that this RSL team can continue it’s hot form and again challenge for the MLS Cup. “[Last preseason] I really felt like this is the group I envisioned for a long time, playing the type of soccer they’re playing. This is the team I think we’ve been trying to build for a long time, and this is the team that should challenge for championships for quite a while.”

REAL SALT LAKE (13-4-8, pts.) v. CHICAGO FIRE (6-9-8, 26 pts.)
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2010 – RIO TINTO STADIUM – SANDY, UT

Scoring Summary:
RSL- Álvaro Saborío 9 (penalty kick) 47+

Misconduct Summary:
CHI — Wilman Conde (caution; Reckless Foul) 30
RSL — Kyle Beckerman (caution; Reckless Tackle) 33
CHI — Wilman Conde (caution; Tactical Foul) 46+
CHI — Wilman Conde (ejection; Second Caution) 46+

Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy (Nelson Gonzalez 64), Kyle Beckerman, Andy Williams, Will Johnson, Robbie Findley (Paulo Araujo Jr. 76), Alvaro Saborío (Pablo Campos 63).

TOTAL SHOTS: 17 (Kyle Beckerman 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Kyle Beckerman 2); FOULS: 11 (Pablo Campos, Chris Wingert 2); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 5 (Andy Williams 4); SAVES: 0

Chicago Fire — Sean Johnson, Dasan Robinson, C.J. Brown, Wilman Conde, Gonzalo Segares, Bratislav Ristic, Freddie Ljungberg (Calen Carr 60), Logan Pause, Marco Pappa (Mike Banner 85), Collins John (Patrick Nyarko 46), Nery Castillo.

TOTAL SHOTS: 5 (5 players with 1); SHOTS ON GOAL: 0; FOULS: 12 (Bratislav Ristic 3); OFFSIDES: 2 (Nery Castillo, Collins John 1); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Nery Castillo 2); SAVES: 4 (Sean Johnson 4)

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee’s Assistants: Adam Garner, James Conlee
4th Official: Tyler Ploeger
Attendance: 14,449 / Weather: Clear and 85 degrees

All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial

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A rejuvenated Galaxy set to meet their polar opposite

Posted on 18 September 2010 by Breton Bonnette

Two teams headed in opposite directions will meet at the Home Depot Center.

The Los Angeles Galaxy head into Saturday’s match looking to build off a big win last week against the Columbus Crew and reestablish itself atop the top of MLS while DC United appears to be counting down week by week until the end of the season.

The Galaxy snapped out of a two-month long funk last Saturday with a 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew. In a matchup of MLS’ conference leaders that had Supporters Shield implications written all over it, the Galaxy let the Crew (and the rest of the league) know that it will not relinquish the top spot. LA got strikes from Edson Buddle, Dema Kovalenko and Jovan Kirovski as LA remained in front of Columbus and Real Salt Lake in the race for the Supporters Shield.

The Galaxy’s win last Saturday not only recharged the team’s mojo, but also marked the return of David Beckham to Los Angeles’ active roster. Beckham who spent the last seven months recovering from a Achilles tear, came on as a substitute for Juninho in the 70th minute, attempted a shot and picked up a yellow card four minutes in. Look for Beckham’s minutes to be continued to be monitored as the season goes along. Los Angeles also returned two more midfielders, Juninho and Kovalenko, to the fold last Saturday. Kovalenko had been out since April with a hamstring injury while Juninho missed the Galaxy’s last two matches for personal reasons.

While the Galaxy look reignite its quest for the Supporters Shield, to say that the season couldn’t end soon enough for DC United would be an understatement. The once proud franchise is currently mired in perhaps the worst season in franchise history. DC United is currently 5-16-3 and its 18 points leave them in last place in the MLS standings. Curt Onalfo, who took over as head coach in the offseason, was made the casualty for the team’s poor season, as he was fired on August 4 after limping to a 3-12-3 record at the time. Former DCU great Ben Olsen is currently serving as head coach on an interim basis.

Andy Najar has been the lone bright spot for DC United. The Honduran midfielder has been a steady and consistent performer for the Black and Red this season, and DCU heads into Saturday’s match with Los Angeles on a bit of a high, as then defeated Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field last Saturday. Julius James scored in the 81st minute and United made sure the goal held up.

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