Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Eastern Conference Weekly: Week 2

Article by William Schulz

Week two of Major League Soccer has come and gone, and it left a few surprises with us. Several “bottom dwellers” claimed victory from the “big boys”, and the Goonies still refuse to say die. Let’s grab a can of Red Bull, enjoy the first half, pour the second half of it on the floor, and dive in shall we?

The Games:

Toronto FC 2 – 1 Sporting Kansas City

234 days. That’s how long it had been since Toronto FC had won a MLS match. Toronto built on their positive showing last week to claim their first win of 2013 in front of their home fans. Robert Earnshaw was the man of the day, scoring both goals for the Reds off of a weak back pass from KC and a penalty. Toronto had to hold on as Sporting tried to mount a rally late, but weathered the storm.

Sporting fans, remember the first half of the Philadelphia game last week? Then you pretty much know how the first half of this one went down. Sporting’s league-best 2012 defense looks a shadow of its former self, despite having all the same personnel. 2012 Defender of the Year Matt Besler looked anything but proficient as he played a weak back-pass which was intercepted for a goal. The only bright spot for the Sporting faithful is DP Claudio Bieler scored again, and is looking like a great addition.

D.C. United 1 – 0 Real Salt Lake

D.C. United started their 2013 home campaign in a (somewhat uneventful) win over Real Salt Lake. United seemed to be lacking in offensive creativity, something that should be fixed next week when DeRosario comes back from suspension. The game’s lone goal came from Lionard Pajoy, who scored a diving header from a deflected save from Nick Rimando.

Chicago Fire 0 – 1 New England Revolution

Chicago limped back home from Los Angeles, hoping to clear their heads of the thrashing they received at the hands of the Galaxy. For the first half of the match, the Fire put it all behind them and looked the more dangerous side against the Revs. Dilly Duka almost put them ahead at one point. However, Chicago would lose its grip shortly after halftime. After conceding the goal, the Fire looked a little listless, and finished the game without a goal to show for it. Chicago are the only team to have played both weeks this season without scoring.

New England came to Toyota Park to start their 2013 season after a week one “bye”. The Revolution looked slightly timid in the early going, allowing Chicago to come at them and get some good shots away. Matt Reis proved up to the task, keeping the scores even going in to halftime. Shortly after the second half whistle, Kelyn Rowe entered the match and the tide began to turn New England’s way. Rowe provided the assist for Jerry Bengtson’s game-winning header.

Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 1 Columbus Crew

Before I talk about the Crew, can we just take a minute and dwell on how awesome Daigo Kobayashi’s goal was? Go ahead, watch it again. Done? Ok, let’s move on.

The Crew didn’t put in the best of first-half efforts against the Whitecaps, and were fortunate to go into the locker room only down by one. Jairo Arrieta brought Columbus level in the forty-sixth minute, but  Glauber was dispossessed in horrific fashion ten minutes later to put the Crew back behind the eight ball where they would remain until the final whistle.

Portland Timbers 1 – 2 Montreal Impact

Montreal brought their “wait and counter” from the match against Seattle down to Portland, with similar results. Hassoun Camara scored a wonderful bicycle kick to open the scoring, and Filipe doubled Montreal’s advantage just before the hour mark. Portland did put together a pretty scoring sequence with ten minutes to go, but Montreal’s defensive solidarity saw them through to claim all six points from their season-opening road trip to Cascadia.

Colorado Rapids 1 – 2 Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia was never in the driver’s seat during their visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, but the Union emerged with a victory thanks to a tightened defense. Amobi Okugo scored the opening goal from a LeToux corner kick, giving the Union the lead heading into halftime. Colorado equalized, but Philadelphia’s Jack McInerney scored the game winner on a counter attack to give the Union their first win of 2013.

San Jose Earthquakes 2 – 1 New York Red Bulls

If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn this was a replay from last season. Eric Alexander scored early to give the Red Bulls the lead after the first quarter of an hour, a score line that would hold until the game was nearly over. New York’s defense stumbled with a lead yet again as the Earthquakes scored two goals in the FINAL TEN MINUTES OF PLAY. Chris Wondolowski’s first penalty attempt was even saved before Roy Miller (who caused the penalty) was whistled for encroachment. Roy Miller probably shouldn't show his face for a while.

The Stories:

The Montreal Impact find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference standings for the first time in their MLS history, having won both of their first two games in 2013. The Impact have also matched their road victory total from 2012 in those two weeks. Both wins have come from a more defensive style of play, will they open up the offensive throttle at home?

Mike Petke’s Red Bulls failed once again to defend a lead, can they change their fortunes in front of their home fans?

Sporting Kansas City’s defense was among the best, if not the best, in the league last season. So far this season that same defense featuring the same starting players has put Sporting behind early in matches for the second straight match.

Chicago are the only team in the Eastern Conference sitting on zero points. After being crushed in Los Angeles and beaten at home, spirits probably aren’t exactly high. It won’t get any easier for the Fire either, as their next match is at Sporting Park.

The Table: (ties decided by goal difference)

1.       Montreal Impact – 6 (2-0-0)
2.       Columbus Crew – 3 (1-1-0)
3.       Sporting Kansas City – 3 (1-1-0)
4.       Philadelphia Union – 3 (1-1-0)
5.       Houston Dynamo – 3 (1-0-0)
6.       New England Revolution – 3 (1-0-0)
7.       Toronto FC – 3 (1-1-0)
8.       D.C. United – 3 (1-1-0)
9.       New York Red Bulls – 1 (0-1-1)
1.       Chicago Fire – 0 (0-2-0)

The Week Ahead:

Another week, another round of home openers. Montreal will play Toronto at Olympic Stadium, New York welcome D.C. United to Red Bull Arena, Sporting Kansas City host the Chicago Fire, and the Columbus Crew will be hoping San Jose’s late-game magic has run out.

Elsewhere, Philadelphia will take on New England and Houston will travel north to take on rival FC Dallas.

MLS Reserves Eastern Conference Player of the Week: Robert Earnshaw (Toronto FC)

Leading Toronto FC to their first league victory since last July is noteworthy. Scoring two to make it happen is just icing on the cake.

1 comment: