Archive | October, 2012

Galaxy ends Regular Season with win over Sounders

Posted on 29 October 2012 by iyeo

Not much was riding on the regular season finale between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders at the Home Depot Center on Sunday evening.

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The Sounders did have a chance to overtake Real Salt Lake for second place in the Western Conference standings with a win over the Galaxy, but LA prevented Seattle from doing so at their expense, and Mike Magee supplied the blow with a volley late in the second half, and the Galaxy concluded an up-and-down regular season with a 1-0 win over the Sounders.

“Tonight was a real good game, very competitive game (between) two good teams,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “To come out on top is terrific.”

Magee, a starter throughout the regular season started game on the bench, but entered in place of Edson Buddle in the 75th minute, but it took until the 83rd minute to display the clutch-ness that he displayed in last year’s MLS playoffs. It started when he sent a ball for Robbie Keane, who held onto the ball for a short time before touching it back to Magee, who then one-timed a ball at the top of the penalty area that beat Sounders keeper Michael Gspurning far post to put Los Angeles in the lead.

“If I do that again on Thursday, I’ll be a lot more happy,” Magee said.

Seattle came close to grabbing the equalizer in stoppage time when a cross was played into the box towards Steve Zakuani, Zakuani headed the ball towards Fredy Montero, but the ball hit the striker’s hand as he went to the ground, even though he managed to get a chance on goal, which was easily sent back by Saunders. The handball call against Montero though did cancel out Brad Evans’ equalizer on the rebound.

Before then, the two teams had plenty of chances to find the back net. Both teams had nine attempts on goal in the first half. Seattle had the first best chance of the match when Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders handled a ball outside the penalty box, giving the Sounders a free kick just outside the box. Marc Burch sent his set piece off the wall, but got a second chance on goal, but was deflected out. Then in the 25th minute, Left Back Marc Burch crossed a ball for Eddie Johnson, but Saunders managed to parry away Johnson’s diving header. Seven minutes later, Burch was on the overlap run again, this time after receiving a ball from Fredy Montero. The left back crossed into the penalty area, this one back to Montero, but his header bounced off the left post. The Galaxy also had some chances themselves in the first half, such a through ball by David Beckham to Sean Franklin, who then whipped a short cross towards Robbie Keane, but was cut off by Jeff Parke. Beckham had a chance himself in the 22nd minute as he chased down a loose ball and launched a one-timer on goal, but sailed wide right. LA had one more good look in the 41st minute when Landon Donovan led a break on goal and switched a ball towards a sprinting Robbie Keane, but the striker’s chip shot hit the side netting.

“It was a good performance tonight, and I think the biggest thing we came take from it was the shutout,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said.

Both teams continued to get chances in the second half. Robbie Keane had a couple attempts in the opening minutes, but a chip shot a minute into the half just missed to the far post while another chipper hit the crossbar. Seattle had a few looks on goal, such as a ball sent into the box by Brad Evans to Fredy Montero in the 59th minute. Montero was open between Saunders and Center Back Tommy Meyer and touched a ball towards goal, but and alert Saunders quickly parried away the shot. Saunders came up big again in the 68th minute when Montero played a ball for Mauro Rosales in the penalty area, the midfielder then turned Center Back Omar Gonzalez, but saw his shot attempt sent back by Saunders.

“Josh was ridiculous tonight,” Magee said. “That’s how we need Josh and that’s the Josh we know.”

The win concludes a season for the Galaxy that saw the reigning MLS Cup champions deal with numerous injuries while stumbling off to 3-8-2 start. Even as LA eventually weathered the storm to a fourth place finish in the Western Conference, the injury bug was still a concern for LA, as the Galaxy welcomed Beckham and Donovan back into the lineup after the two had missed last Sunday’s game against San Jose, Donovan with a banged up knee and Beckham and injured ankle. Galaxy Center Back AJ DeLaGarza will probably miss Thursday’s game with a Left Knee Sprain.

While the Galaxy were getting players back from injury, the Sounders may have lost a key cog in its attack, as striker Eddie Johnson, who had formed a formidable partnership with Fredy Montero throughout the season, pulled up lame with what appeared to be a left hamstring injury and was eventually subbed out for Sammy Ochoa.

The Galaxy begin defense of its MLS Cup title on Thursday, as they host the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Western Conference play-in game, with the winner advancing to the conference semifinals against the Supporters’ Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes. Seattle meanwhile begins its playoff run on Friday night by hosting the first leg of its semifinal series against Real Salt Lake.

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Unusual strategy, unusual goals give DC United a 3-2 win

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Steve Long

When Dwayne De Rosario went down with a sprained MCL six weeks ago, DC United looked ready to repeat their flop of a year ago when Chris Pontius went out with a broken leg. Instead the team has earned 16 of a possible 18 points and leapt into second place in the MLS East.

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Coach Ben Olsen had only just adopted the empty bucket approach of placing two holding midfielders behind a withdrawn forward and an advanced one in order to reduce the stress on De Rosario and now had to figure out how to make it work in his absence.

The concept proved to be successful because of a fundamental advantage it conferred. The basically defensive lineup carries an unusual sting. If you couple it with Olsen’s emphasis on having wide defenders overlap as wing players slide inside, you find that an opponent must adjust to an internal rotation which replicates the broader overall rotation of modern “total soccer”.

The strategy creates deliberate eddy currents within the overall rotation and presents a controlled but confusing attack to the defense. Over the past month, I have quizzed Josh Wolff on three key elements of this approach. The first two above lead to the success, so far, of the final element, bringing in super subs late in the game to take advantage of tired defenses.

Wolff explains it as he has several times before, “It clearly is most effective. I think all of our subs who have come in the last 5 or 6 games have had a big impact. The idea is to bring them in to change the game.”

He points out, “There’s a physical capacity in these games from start to finish that’s hard to keep pace with and we have a group of guys that we feel can do it and we have a group of guys that can come in when the game slows.”

His observation shows why Olsen is pleased with Lionard Pajoy who wears opponents out with his work rate despite a finishing rate of which Olsen says, “It’s lacking. He’ll (Pajoy) tell you that. But the positives, the running he does for us. He causes fits.

“The final product hasn’t been there the last couple of weeks, but he still gives us another dimension up there with his work rate. For sure we would like him to be a little more clinical, but when you don’t have a good day, when your touch is off, it is important to do all of the other stuff. So, at the end, he didn’t finish, but he did a lot of good for our team.

Pajoy’s primary task is to prepare the way for Hamdi Salihi and Branko Boskovic to use their skills. He’s similar to the picadors whose job it is to tire and frustrate the bull before the matador comes on to work him and finish him off.

It has worked so far, but may not be so effective against superior teams in a playoff environment. Asked if United might change against stronger competition, Wolff replied, “I don’t think we’re changing much at this point. We’ll just have to wait to see what personnel we have available, what team we’re playing against, what the matchups look like in the middle….It’s kind of what the staff feels is necessary to get results.”

Olsen singled out his wide defenders for praise, “Andy (Najar) and (Chris) Korb both, I thought, had great games. The center backs were pretty solid, but I thought in particular, Andy’s movement, his ability to 1 v 1 and get out of situations. And Korb was great all night long, especially defensively.

“ Korb was big. He got around the corners quite a few times. That’s a big deal. And he is growing into that position.” Korb agreed that, “It helps me, because I like doing it but it helps the team because it’s a good way to play out of the back…It gives us another option, another guy in the attack.

“You look at the best teams in the world and all their outside backs get forward…..We’ve had some rough spots where it doesn’t look great, but we’re trying to do the right thing, and the more we play together the more we gel as a group.”

From the other side, Najar’s running mate on the right wing, Nick DeLeon, enjoys the switch, “He’s a special player when it goes to 1 v 1 and that’s the great thing about having him back there. I have no problem dropping back and letting him do his thing and he’s the same way. We interchange and that’s what makes us so dangerous.”

He admitted that the interchange, as it does for Korb, helps him to be a better player, “It definitely does, but at the beginning of the game it’s more forward-back, forward-back, but second half I was losing my energy a bit and that’s when you sit, hold your line and defend as a team. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of work mentally.”

His acknowledgment of his own physical and mental fatigue highlights the weakness in the empty bucket arrangement. For all the advantages it presents, it still leaves the wings with a huge task which falls on Chris Pontius as well as DeLeon.

Opposing teams seem to have chosen to allow Korb more movement, perhaps because they prioritize covering Pontius more and perhaps because they see Korb’s forays as less threatening than those of Najar.

The next test for Olsen’s system comes when DC United travels to Chicago on Saturday (4:00 PM on NBCSN) to end the regular season hoping for a win to secure either the first or second seed in the East.

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Seattle Sounders Burn FC Dallas

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Kyle Alm

Moments before Sounders and FC Dallas kicked off in Seattle the importance of the match was made clear by the results of two other matches. Portland’s 1-0 victory in Vancouver meant that the Cascadia Cup would spend the 2013 season in Portland, and it also meant that FC Dallas still had a mathematical chance at the 5th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The 2-2 draw between San Jose and Los Angeles meant that Sounders could lock up the 3rd playoff seed with a win against FC Dallas or in their final match in LA against Galaxy.

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The rain also started moments before kick-off and the pace of the match was quite lively. Dallas have not looked the same since they were runners up for the MLS Cup in 2010. David Ferreira’s return from injury after nearly a season & a half certainly has had an impact on their team’s performance in 2011 & 2012. Brek Shea had a slow start before straining his abdominal muscles at the end of September in what appears to be a season ending injury. Despite these setback FC Dallas still found themselves in contention for a playoff spot with two matches left to play and looked to stay in the hunt with a win over Sounders.

Both sides were keenly aware of what was at stake and were both aggressive early. FC Dallas opened with an attempt from distance by Andrew Jacobson in the first minute of play that was close, but not on target. Sounders first scoring chance would not come until the 17th minute when Eddie Johnson’s shot went high and wide off of the Marc Burch cross.

Both teams settled in and took a couple shots at each other trading fouls and free kicks until Fredy Montero opened up the Dallas back line and forced Hernan Pertuz into committing a foul in the box. The Dallas defender was clearly beaten by Montero’s touch and was pulled down with both hands in the box. Referee Badomero Toledo pointed to the penalty spot immediately but did not card Pertuz.

It would be Brad Evans who would step the spot for the kick against Kevin Hartman. Evans was able to send Hartman the other way and finished in the bottom right corner for the Sounders first goal of the match.

FC Dallas showed their resilience and quality in the 39th minute, 9 minutes after the Sounders penalty, on a free kick taken by Fabian Castillo and finished by Blas Perez. Perez was practically on top of the post after the initial ball was deflected square from the far post off of Eddie Johnson’s shoulder. Unlucky break for the US National Team player who has been on a run of good form for his club and his country.

The action did not let up as both sides looked to break the deadlock before the halftime whistle blew, taking opportunistic shots and committing a handful of fouls before the the final whistle blew. There would be no goal before the half and no changes made by either side at halftime.

The Sounders took the lead on Brad Evans’ second goal of the night when Fredy Montero found Christian Tiffert on the left side of the box, the German threaded a square ball that Evans received around the penalty spot, struck the first time, and sent the Sounder stalwart rolling over from the momentum of his run when he struck the ball. Kevin Hartman was let down by his defenders on that play and had little chance at making the save.

As good as Ferreira and Castillo were, Kevin Hartman’s effort was irreplaceable. Hartman’s goalkeeping statistics have suffered from key teammates being missing, but there was no doubt that Hartman still has his ability to make saves. 71st minute Alonso beat Perutz’s slide tackle on the left wing and his curling shot tested Kevin Hartman to his fullest stretch. Two minutes later Montero took a shot from the top of the circle that took a slight deflection and the shot went wide. Hartman appeared to reach the post on his dive on what looked to be a precarious situation for the Dallas keeper.

The Dallas defense again allowed a dangerous scoring opportunity in the 78th minute when they were caught ball watching as Mauro Rosales played Montero through and made a goal scoring run that was picked out by Montero. Hartman had no chance at making that save and made protests for offsides. Rosales would be shown to be behind the ball when Montero assisted on the goal and Montero timed his initial run perfectly.

The match would end 3-1 on Sounders Fan Appreciation Night. After an unfavorable result with playoff implications against Real Salt Lake, losing the Cascadia Cup to the Timbers, Sounders kept their playoff destiny in their hands. A win against Galaxy, with some exception permutations, should be enough to lock up the #2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

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Chivas USA falls in Regular Season Home Finale

Posted on 21 October 2012 by iyeo

Same old story for Chivas USA.

Playing its final home game of the 2012 season, the same mistakes that had plagued Chivas USA for about two months came back to haunt Chivas USA once again, namely its allowing its opponent to get in front early while missing an array of chances. The Colorado Rapids were the latest team to benefit from Chivas’ misfortunes, as two first half goals were all they needed to coast to a 2-0 win over Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center.

“Really not much to say,” Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser. “We did some things well, (but) we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities, made some pretty critical mistakes, and the story plays out like we’ve seen before.”

Colorado got on the board after a series of sequences. Jeff Larentowicz crossed a ball into the penalty area, the ball went to Chivas keeper Tim Melia, though he spilled the ball back into play but the Chivas backline eventually cleared the ball out of the box. The Rapids threat wasn’t over however, as Larentowicz sent another left-footed cross into the box, the ball was headed by Jaime Castrillon to an unmarked Martin Rivero, who shot the ball past Kennedy into the back net. Rivero had a chance at a second goal when he sent a long range volley towards goal, but he just missed to the right post. Colorado added another goal in the 43rd minute when a Chivas turnover enabled Omar Cummings for break for goal from the right flank. Cumming then crossed a ball to an unmarked Kamani Hill and the striker’s header beat Melia far post.

“We feel like we’re unlucky sometimes,” Chivas USA striker Juan Agudelo said. “We start of games real well, we feel like we’re on top of the other team, but then all of a sudden, just one little mistake and everyone gets depressed.”

Chivas USA had several chances themselves to get on the board throughout the first half, with the best one coming in the 42nd minute when Jorge Villafana crossed from the left into the penalty area for a charging Alejandro Moreno, but defender Tyson Wahl beat Moreno to the ball and thus headed it away. Nick LaBrocca had a chance himself for Chivas in the box just before halftime, but his one-timer was easily saved. Chivas USA continued to be aggressive at the start of the second half, and almost got the equalizer in the 50th minute when Pete Vagenas sent a ball for Moreno into the penalty area, Moreno then whipped a cross towards the six for Agudelo, who came in unmarked, but the striker instead pulled his header wide right.

“It was a disjointed effort,” Fraser said. “At times, it was promising, we created some really good chances, but if you don’t score your chances, then you certainly put yourselves behind the eight ball.”

With its season set to end next week, head coach Robin Fraser made one change for Saturday’s match, and it came in goal, as Dan Kennedy gave way to Tim Melia. Melia, who had spent the last two seasons with Real Salt Lake as well as a loan to USL side Charleston Battery faced 13 shots and made four saves on the night.

“I felt fine, just not happy with the result,” Melia said. “You never want to start off on a two-nil defeat, but I felt comfortable.”

Chivas USA finishes its season next weekend on the road at FC Dallas while Colorado finishes the season at home against the Houston Dynamo.

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RSL Cements Second Place in Seattle

Posted on 18 October 2012 by Kyle Alm

Real Salt Lake came to Seattle three points ahead of Sounders in the Western Conference standings. Sounders, with a game in hand, were looking to usurp their rivals with a win and draw even in the standings.

© Jane Gershovich & American Soccer News

A day removed from a return stint with the US Men’s National Team, Eddie Johnson found himself on a private charter with Nick Rimando & Kyle Beckerman on the way to Seattle. Eddie Johnson played 90 minutes in both World Cup Qualifying matches and was quite productive offensively, scoring 2 goals against Antigua Barbados & getting an assist against Guatemala. Rimando and Beckerman did not see time on the pitch for the US and although it was unlikely that Johnson would play, it was a much appreciated gesture between these two rival sides.

Zach Scott would pick up a seemingly inocuous yellow card in the 10th minute for a foul on Fabian Espindola. Scott, filling in at center back for Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, has a bit of a reputation as a rough defender, getting a caution is not out of the ordinary for him. Scott would only remain on the pitch for another 20 minutes. Javier Morales was fouled by the Sounder stalwart and promptly sent off by Ricardo Salazar for his second caution.

Sounders had started a duo of Fredy Montero & Sammy Ochoa at forward, Eddie Johnson was not available after his stint with the US Men’s National Team. Ochoa was the player who made way for an additional defender after Scott had been sent off. Sounders already had a makeshift lineup to start the match; Zach Scott was an outside back playing in, Brad Evans was filling in for Scott on the outside, Marc Burch & Jeff Parke were the only defenders in their usual positions. Andy Rose dropped into the center back role until the substition for Ochoa was made. Michael Seamon would finish the match at outside back.

At the end of the first half Montero hit a shot that looked like it hit the outstretched arm of Tony Beltran. Replays would later show that Beltran had his arm next to the body and that Salazar had gotten the call correct. RSL head coach Jason Kreis had this to say about appeals for a penalty, “what lead to that play was Montero pushing on Olave, I don’t think Seattle is the only one that can make complaints about the calls tonight.”

It is certainly a truism that a team with 10 men is likely to lose to an 11 man team and on an extended timeline keeping possession and creating scoring chances will lead to goals in a probabilistic view. In reality it is still not easy to break a team down defensively. On paper you can see that RSL did dominate possession and scoring chances and had chances late to take all three points in Seattle were it not for the herculean efforts of Michael Gspurning. Two of those saves coming in impressive fashion in stoppage time.

For RSL getting a point on the road in Seattle is no smalll feat, especially considering the place in the table. However in the end they recognize that it was a match they had the upper hand throughout and still failed to win.

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Chivas USA comes back to draw FC Dallas

Posted on 08 October 2012 by iyeo

A lot of things had not been going the way of Chivas USA the last two months.

Chivas had not won a game since July 28, when it defeated the Portland Timbers 1-0 on the road and had not gotten at least a point out of a match since it had rallied from a three-goal deficit to tie the New England Revolution back on August 29. Even more alarmingly, Chivas had not scored a goal since September 8 against Seattle and most of the games it had lost, it had hardly shown any fight, losing by four goals in five of the nine matches it lost during its dreaded spell.

Sunday’s match against FC Dallas threated to be more of the same, as Chivas spotted Dallas an early first half goal, but this time, Chivas finally presented the fight that had been mostly lacking the last two months, peppering Dallas with a barrage of chances, which finally resulted in a goal, which resulted in an eventual 1-1 draw with FC Dallas at the Home Depot Center.

“This is one of those games where you come away feeling very pleased and proud of the effort that the team put up,” Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser said.

The draw is an overdue welcome to Chivas, who shuffled the lineup prior to the match, moving holding midfielder Shalrie Joseph to Center Back alongside Bobby Burling. The result however is more damaging to FC Dallas, who are now four points back of the Vancouver Whitecaps for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with two matches left to play.

“I think we’re lucky to get a point,” FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said. “We just didn’t have it today,”
FC Dallas jumped out to the lead in the eighth minute when Jair Benitez played a long ball to David Ferreira on the left of the field. Ferreira made his way into the penalty area and launched a left-footed blast that was initially denied by keeper Dan Kennedy, but continued forward to striker Blas Perez, who finished the point blank attempt. Chivas had a golden opportunity to equalize in the 17th minute, when Jorge Villafana served a ball into the box, but Kevin Hartman left his line to send the ball back. The ball however went to Miller Bolanos, who immediately shot at the empty net, but Center Back Hernan Pertuz cleared the ball at the goal line.

Chivas turned up the pressure in the second half, getting countless chances at an equalizer, but they either narrowly missed or were somehow turned back by the efforts of Hartman. Chivas finally pushed one past Hartman in the 69th minute, when Nick LaBrocca played a ball to Miller Bolanos, who then crossed it into the box, Hartman stretched to deflect the ball, but ended up deflecting it to Villafana, who finished the golden chance to give Chivas that long-awaited goal. Energized by the goal, Chivas kept the pressure on Dallas’ end of the field, and had a chance at a potential winning goal in the 89th minute when Juan Agudelo sprinted from the right side across midfield and into the FC Dallas box. Midfielder Pete Vegenas was with him, but Agudelo, apparently fearing that Vagenas might be in an offside position, kept the ball himself, but the end result was a shot attempt that was easily saved by Hartman.

“Is there some relief? It’s nice to finally score a goal,” Fraser said. “It’s nice to finally play well at home. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the second one and really make it a good day for us.”

Both teams will end their respective regular seasons against one another on October 28. Before then Chivas will host the Colorado Rapids in its regular season home finale on October 20 while Dallas travels to Seattle to face the Sounders on October 21st.

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Sounders Own (Goal) Timbers

Posted on 08 October 2012 by Kyle Alm

Seattle and Portland had the honor of closing the MLS weekend in Seattle in front of ESPN’s cameras and 66,000 fans. It doesn’t matter if Portland’s season is effectively over, they lead the Cascadia Cup coming into tonight’s match and a win against Seattle will always cover up few of this season’s shortcomings. Sounders would be faced with the possibility of slipping to 4th in the Western Conference and facing Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, & LA Galaxy to finish the MLS, not to mention a CONCACAF Champions League match.

The recently retired Roger Levesque was awarded a Golden Scarf from the Seattle Sounders. Levesque as a player was a constant thorn in the side of the Portland Timbers from when the Sounders played in the USL. His goal against Portland in the 2009 US Open Cup is still the fastest at 48 seconds, forever immortalized in TIFO. Levesque was given a microphone and announced the Sounders lineup to the delight of the 66,452 fans minus 1,500 of the Timbers Army.

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There was a furious start to the match, both sides were up, and there were a few physical challenges between players. One challenge by Lovel Palmer, sent Christian Tiffert sprawling into the sponsor boards. Tiffert had something to say when he got up and referee Jair Marrufo had something to say back to the German, probably along the lines of “my job”, and awarded a free kick for a foul in the 10th minute. 2 minutes later Jhon Kennedy Hurtado & Bright Dike hit heads on an aerial challenge that left both players bloodied and sent to the sideline for bandaging to stop their bleeding. Both players would return to the match.

In the 25th minute Timbers gave up an own goal on a Adam Johansson cross that was played by Osvaldo Alonso and cleverly dummied by Christian Tiffert at the top right of the penalty box. Mamadou Danso scored on his own net when he stretched out to prevent the ball from getting to Montero.

Eddie Johnson added a second goal three minutes later where he found himself all alone at the top of the Timbers box, Brad Evans delivered a ball that was more than adequate to the Sounders’ leading scorer from the left wing. Sounders showed good creativity with their off the ball runs, the Timbers defense was clearly befuddled at that moment.

Portland had opportunities and saw a roughly equal time with the ball in Seattle in the first half, both sides took eight shots each, Portland had 4 on target compared to Seattle’s 2, and Seattle had a slight edge in possession 52.5% to 47.5%.

Former Sounder Mike Fucito was subbed on for Sal Zizzo to start the second half; Sounders made no changes at the half.

Montero was credited for the Sounders third goal of the match at the 62nd minute, although it was initially credited as an own-goal to Jack Jewsbury who was sliding to challenge the Colombian striker who had collected his own rebound on a shot in the 6 yard box.

Timbers brought on Eric Brunner for Mamadou Danso in the 68th minute and Eric Alexander for Darlington Nagbe in the 78th,

It would be revealed after the match that Leo Gonzalez had pulled his hamstring, and that was why he was subbed the 77th minute for Marc Burch.

There was not much left to do for the Sounders.  They didn’t exactly bunker down, but they did not try to pressure the Timbers defense as they had before the third goal was scored. Possession in the second half against Portland was in the Timbers favor 57.3% to 42.7%. Mauro Rosales and Christian Tiffert were subbed off in the 87th and 88th minute for Andy Rose and David Estrada.

Seattle further solidified their playoff standing with the 3-0 win, moving back ahead of the LA Galaxy with a game in hand and regular season finale in LA awaiting them. The Cascadia Cup is still in play for Timbers.  An outright win in Vancouver on October 21st, and they can claim the Cascadia Cup as their own.

“My imagination, this is what heaven is like, packed stadium, beat Portland 3-0.” Coach Sigi Schmid mused at his press conference, Sounders fans probably agree. If Schmid is correct, hell is probably like the Timbers Army bus ride back to Portland.

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Espindola Brace rallies Real Salt Lake past Galaxy

Posted on 07 October 2012 by iyeo

With playoff positioning, save the top spot, still yet to be determined in the tightknit Western Conference, Real Salt Lake got a big boost from one of its big time players on Saturday evening.

Fabian Espindola came through right when RSL needed him; scoring two goals to rescue RSL from a one-goal deficit and Real Salt Lake rode those goals as well as a stubborn defensive effort to a crucial 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.

“A lot of players made big plays in our box tonight,” Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis said. “A lot of our guys were in the exact right spots to deal with their service and that was hugely important.”

The three points gives RSL some much-needed breathing room heading into the international break, as they are now five points clear of LA for second place in the Western Conference standings. As for the Galaxy, they are just one point ahead of Seattle for the third spot in the conference pending the outcome of the Sounders’ match against Portland on Sunday evening.

“We were sloppy with our defending in our penalty area and not real sharp with our attacking play in the other penalty area,”

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “We just weren’t sharp enough for 90 minutes.”
The Galaxy dictated possession for the first 20 minutes, getting an array of chances on goal. The first LA chance came three minutes in, as Landon Donovan sprung Keane on the right side, Keane then fed a ball back to Donovan in the penalty area, but Donovan had his shot denied by right back Tony Beltran and keeper Nick Rimando collected the ball. Three minutes later, Juninho hit the crossbar on one of his patented long-range volleys and a Donovan cross into the box for Mike Magee was cut off. LA finally achieved the breakthrough in the 17th minute, as Juninho crossed a ball to Keane and the striker’s one-time volley beat Rimando far post to give the Galaxy the early lead.

However, RSL soon took over, getting the equalizer in the 25th minute. It started when Javier Morales played a ball towards strikers Espindola and Alvaro Saborio. Espindola’s dummy enabled the ball to get to Saborio, who then knocked a ball off center back Omar Gonzalez, then played it to a sprinting Espindola in the box and he quickly shot a ball past keeper Josh Saunders to tie the game. Espindola put RSL ahead in the 28th minute when he leaped high to head in Javier Morales’ cross past Saunders at the far post.

“Fabian another fantastic night,” Kreis said. “He was terrific with what he did with the ball, scored two great goals, but also defensively, put himself in some really great positions to help our team.”

Los Angeles was already shorthanded for the match, having to go without Center Back AJ DeLaGarza due to a knee injury and Left Back Todd Dunivant due to an undisclosed injury. The injury bug got worse late in the second half when Donovan pulled up lame on his left knee while sending a ball into the penalty area. Donovan was eventually subbed out in the 85th minute for Jose Villareal. The injury not only comes at a bad time for the Galaxy, but also for the U.S. National Team, with CONCOACAF World Cup qualifying matches at Antigua and Barbuda on Friday, followed by a home match against Guatemala at Kansas City’s Livestrong Sporting Park on October 16th.

When asked if his injury could prevent him from participating for the national team, Donovan simply said “TBD” (To Be Determined), though Donovan preferred to focus on Saturday’s loss rather than his status for the U.S. qualifiers.

“I think we’re just disappointed in the game in general,” Donovan said. “We’re not really worried about that part right now.”

Following the international break, both the Galaxy and Real Salt Lake will return for more massive Western Conference showdowns. LA travels to San Jose to face the league-leading Earthquakes on October 21st, while Real Salt Lake faces Seattle on October 17th.

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