MLS Had Itself Quite an Entertaining Wednesday

There was a highlight-filled, eight-goal thriller in San Jose, another goal for EJ and a 35-yard golazo from Fredy Montero in Seattle, and a solid bounce-back in New England.

First, the San Jose–DC United carnival of soccer fun, which went to the Quakes 5-3, and included Dwayne De Rosario’s curling one-timer, his spectacular bicycle kick that was saved—even more spectacularly—by Jon Busch, his devastating late assist to Hamdi Salihi, and Daniel Woolard’s diving header.

That was just from the losing team. The winners got two goals apiece from Big Bird, aka Steven Lenhart, and league scoring leader Chris Wondolowski; some slick work from speedy winger Marvin Chavez, and a sweet passing sequence in the DC box to set up Wondo’s first goal.

Enjoy:

In Seattle, the Sounders blanked a second-choice Los Angeles side 2-0 behind Fredy Montero’s magical 48th-minute strike.

Take a look:

In Foxboro, the up-and-down Revolution rediscovered their goal-scoring touch to rally from a 1-0 deficit and defeat Colorado 2-1 behind a pair of fine goals from Saer Sene and first-time starter Fernando Cardenas.

Highlights:

Not a bad night. The league will try to top it when this round of play resumes on Friday night, with Chivas USA taking on Chicago. Week 9 continues through the weekend, with seven games on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Advertisements

MLS Roundup: Beckham Leaning Toward Staying; Pareja to Colorado?

Now that the Paris St. Germain deal is officially off, the path is clear for David Beckham to rejoin the MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy, right?

You would think so, but a new MLS deal has yet to be announced. While saying he has every intention of getting it done, AEG President Tim Lieweke sounded some cautionary notes in an interview with the LA Times yesterday:

“The stories were all over the front page of every newspaper in Europe that he was going to Paris; I told everyone I would not pay a lot of attention to that. And now that the stories are that he is going to the Galaxy, I would repeat the same advice: Premature.”

Lieweke added that the situation is “heading in the direction” of a new deal for the 36-year-old Englishman, but emphasized that the contract is not done. Yahoo Sports reported that LA had offered a one-year $6.5 million deal that allows Beckham time off for the 2012 London Olympics. But Lieweke told the Times there was more to the deal than those elements:

“We have the added complication that David has the right to purchase a franchise in this league. There are a lot of issues we are going through. We are committed to David and he has always felt strongly about the Galaxy in LA, and it does not surprise me that his family would prefer to stay in LA. But we’re not done yet.”

It’s interesting to us to hear people talk about Beckham “leveraging” his LA situation with the PSG offer (and, reportedly, others).

Is he really concerned about squeezing another million out of AEG? With a net worth of around $220 million (up to $271 million, if you count his wife’s income), and the league (and club) accommodating his request for time off for the Olympics, and enabling him to purchase a franchise down the road, does he really care about the salary figure? He already turned down almost twice his 2011 salary from PSG.

We’re not experts on these issues, but we’d guess it’s more a question of dotting legal ‘i’s’ and crossing contractual ‘t’s’ than negotiating dollar amounts. Or we’d hope so, anyway.

•••

The Denver Post is reporting that the Colorado Rapids’ have finally settled on a replacement for ex-coach Gary Smith, who departed on acrimonious terms in November, just one year after winning the 2010 MLS Cup. Their new man: FC Dallas assistant and Academy Director Oscar Pareja.

Pareja, a former Colombian international who played eight seasons in MLS with New England and Dallas, beat out a short list of candidates including Denis Hamlett, Tom Soehn, and Richie Williams.

Neither FC Dallas nor Colorado would comment on the report, but Rapids President Tim Hinchey said the club would have an announcement this week.

There has also been widespread speculation that outgoing U.S. U-17 coach Wilmer Cabrera, also a former Colombian international, would join Pareja as an assistant coach in Colorado.

 

CCL: Toronto Advances; Colorado, LA, Up Next

Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki was in the house at Pizza Hut Park last night, tweeting earlier in the day that he wanted to see “Brek Shea before he goes to the Bundesliga.” But it was Toronto FC’s Joao Plata, not Shea, who shined brightest in the pivotal CONCACAF Champions League clash between the Hoops and the Reds.

The diminutive Ecuadorian set up Danny Koevermans for the game’s first goal in the 28th minute, then added strikes of his own in the 69th and 81st minutes to ice the match and salvage TFC’s season, sending them to the CCL quarterfinals with a 3-0 win after the club had been eliminated from MLS playoff contention on Oct 1.

Here are the highlights:

FC Dallas—which opened the CCL group-stage by becoming the first MLS club ever to win in Mexico, downing Pumas 1-0 in Mexico City—needed only a draw last night to advance to the quarters. They got some promising forays from Nowitzki’s boy Shea, as well as from Jackson, and Honduran speedster Marvin Chavez, but it was Toronto’s, and Plata’s, night.

TFC joins MLS side Seattle Sounders FC in the CCL quarterfinals, which begin next March.

The Colorado Rapids face Santos Laguna in Mexico tonight (8:00 pm ET, Fox Soccer) with a chance of advancing, and the Los Angeles Galaxy take on Motagua in Honduras on Thursday (10:00 pm ET, Fox Soccer). Wins for both U.S. clubs would put four MLS sides in the CCL quarterfinals.

The Rapids are sending a mixture of reserves and starters to Santos Laguna, a club that routed Colorado 4-1 in their previous CCL meeting.

Midfielders Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith, and Brian Mullan will miss the match, along with defender Tyrone Marshall and first-choice keeper Matt Pickens. Mastroeni (concussion) and Smith (calf) are injured; the other three are being rested for the Rapids’ MLS season finale against Vancouver on Saturday.

Los Angeles’s opponent, Motagua, is already eliminated from the competition, having lost all five of their group-stage games. The Galaxy are sending both David Beckham and Landon Donovan down to Honduras for the game (Robbie Keane is out with a groin strain)—though Donovan (quadriceps) said it will be a gametime decision for him as to whether to play or not.

MLS Roundup: Dallas Clinches Playoffs, Vancouver Dents DC, Keane Update

FC Dallas locked down a berth in the 2011 MLS Cup playoffs last night with a convincing 2-1 win at Chicago’s Toyota Park.

The Hoops dominated the opening 45 minutes, gettting a goal from Jackson just before halftime and one from Daniel Cruz just after the break.

Sebastian Grazzini pulled one back for Chicago with a brilliant effort in the 86th minute, but it was too little too late for the home team, which was down to 10 men at that point after Pavel Pardo had been shown a straight red in the 79th.

The Fire now stand six points shy of the playoffs with two games to play, and will be eliminated from the postseason if New York wins or ties at Kansas City on Saturday afternoon. In other words, they whiffed in—as Chris Russo would say—a big spot last night, at home against a team that entered the game on a four-game losing streak.

FCD’s goals here:

In Vancouver, the Whitecaps won their second straight game at their new digs, clipping the wings of DC United’s playoff hopes with a 2-1 triumph at BC Place.

We’ve said before that Vancouver might be the best last-place team in MLS history—only now they’re no longer in the cellar. Last night’s win gave the Caps 28 points for the season, one more than New England.

In any event, they are, despite their 6-16-10 record, a dangerous and entertaining side—an ideal spoiler for teams with playoff hopes, as DC discovered. They’re fired up to defend their new home turf, and they have the talent to do it—even without playmaker Davide Chiumiento, who was left out of the 18 last night due to an attitude issue, apparently.

No matter: the Caps scored 40 seconds into the game, when Camilo got on the end of a fine cross by Jordan Harvey (who seems to be enjoying the move from left back to left midfield) and turned in his 12th goal of the season.

Vancouver proceeded to dominate the first half, knocking the ball around crisply, and then, just seconds after the break, the Caps produced an almost exact replica of their opener, with Alain Rochat finding Long Tan for a header to make it 2-0. It was Tan’s first career MLS goal and it was also the first goal by a Chinese-born player in MLS history.

United defender Brandon McDonald made it 2-1 with a 58th-minute header, and DC had a penalty shout in the 76th, when a shot ricocheted off Caps midfielder Jeb Brovsky’s arm, but the pleas were waved off and Vancouver held on to win.

Here is Long Tan’s history-making header:

United—which played last night without Dwayne De Rosario, who suited up for Canada in Toronto on Tuesday—is five points off the playoff pace with three games remaining, all at home.

• Apparently, there’s discord in Denver, where Colorado Rapids coach Gary Smith is citing a “relationship issue” that could prevent him from continuing to work with Rapids’ technical director and former U.S. international Paul Bravo. (Denver Post, via MLSSoccer’s Kick Off.)

“We need to be able to come to terms with what both of us are at the club, or we need to move on,” Smith said. “One of us does, anyway.”

Not the best way to head into tomorrow night’s Rocky Mountain Cup game against Real Salt Lake, where a victory would clinch a playoff spot for the defending champs. (RSL is already in the postseason.)

• Galaxy striker Robbie Keane’s injury is worse than first reported, and Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trappatoni is not happy that the player went the full 90 against Andorra last Friday instead of reporting the injury and coming off. The coach said Keane “made it worse” by playing a full game with the injury.

No word yet from Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena on the prospect of competing in the playoffs without his top striker.

CCL Roundup: LA Hits Dramatic Late Winner, Colorado Rolls, Dallas Stumbles (But Remains Very Much Alive)

Galaxy midfielder Juninho volleyed in a flick-on from Chad Barrett off a Landon Donovan corner kick in stoppage time last night to give Los Angeles a thrilling 2-1 win over Morelia in CONCACAF Champions League action at the Home Depot Center.

In El Salvador, the Colorado Rapids fielded a reserves-heavy squad against Isidro Metapan yet came away with a 3-1 win, while in Panama City, FC Dallas floundered to a 5-3 loss on a waterlogged pitch against Tauro FC.

• The Galaxy are now tied on nine points with Morelia—which would have advanced to the quarterfinals with a draw—and Costa Rican side Alajuelense, which hosts last-place Motagua of Honduras tonight.

Mike Magee opened the scoring for LA, slotting home a pass from overlapping defender Todd Dunivant. See highlights below:

Los Angeles wraps up the group stage at Motagua on Oct 20.

• Colorado got goals from rookie Eddie Ababio (in his professional debut) and veteran strikers Quincy Amarikwa and Omar Cummings to move into second place in Group B with seven points. The Rapids will need to beat group leaders Santos Laguna, on the road, on Oct 19 to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.

• Despite two goals from academy product Ruben Luna, FC Dallas produced the worst performance of the three MLS teams in the CCL last night— yet the Hoops still have the clearest path to the quarterfinals. They host Toronto FC in their Group C finale on Oct 18 and can advance with a win or a tie. A win would put them directly into the quarters, while a tie and a loss or tie by Tauro FC against Pumas would do the same.

Here are the highlights from last night’s goalfest, which also featured two red cards for Dallas and one for Tauro:

How Many MLS Teams Can We Get In the CCL Quarterfinals?

After last night’s action, we’ve got one in and four still alive. The league is not likely to place five clubs in the eight-team knockout stage, but three is a genuine possibility. Let’s take a look.

Seattle Sounders FC got two goals from the normally defensive-minded Osvaldo Alonso to tie Comunicaciones 2-2 in Guatemala City last night and clinch a spot in the CCL quarters.

The 25-year-old Cuban midfielder twice pulled his side level, hitting a bouncing volley off a goalmouth scramble just before halftime to make it 1-1, and punching in another in similar circumstances with one minute to play for the crucial final scoreline.

Highlights and postgame comments here:

The Sounders are in first place in Group D with a 3-1-1 record and can finish no worse than second place, regardless of what happens in their group-stage finale against Monterrey (3-2-0) next month.

The result is another highlight in what’s shaping up to be an excellent season for the Pacific Northwest side. The Sounders are headed to the MLS playoffs and have the second-best record in the league (15-6-9); they’ve reached the final of the US Open Cup—where they’ll be looking for their third straight title on Oct 4—and they’re in the CCL knockout stage.

Not bad for a club in just its third year of existence.

Toronto FC hosted UNAM Pumas last night, less than two weeks after the Mexican side had thrashed them 4-0, and just three days after MLS club Chivas USA blanked the Reds 3-0. To make matters worse, Toronto was missing three players, including Torsten Frings, due to suspension, and could not afford a loss if it was to keep its hopes of advancing alive.

It was close, and the Reds could twice thank the posts for keeping them in it, but Toronto hung on for a 1-1 tie against a reserve-heavy Pumas side.

Peri Marosevic took a nice layoff from Danny Koevermans to put Toronto up 1-0 in the 36th minute, and Marco Palacios tied it up for the visitors six minutes after the break.

Behold Pumas’s Diego De Buen rattling the upright from 30 yards in the highlights below:

Pumas now leads Group C with a 2-1-2 record and eight points while Toronto (2-2-1) is tied with FC Dallas for second with seven points.

Dallas plays at Panamanian side Tauro FC tonight (8:00 ET, Fox Soccer Channel) with a chance to reclaim the top spot. The Hoops have just one goal in their last six games and have struggled to three straight MLS losses. But they did hit the woodwork three times in their most recent game, a 1-0 defeat to Houston on Saturday, and they’ve welcomed back winger Marvin Chavez from injury. Tonight would be a great time to bust out of their slump.

• Much like FC Dallas, Los Angeles jumped out to a fast start in CCL play but has faltered of late, dropping consecutive road games to Morelia (Mex) and Alajuelense (CR) to slip to third place in Group A. The Galaxy faces Morelia at the Home Depot Center tonight (10:00, FSC), and pretty much have to win to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive.

They’ll also be looking to avenge a controversial 2-1 loss to the Mexican side two weeks ago, when LA had a Robbie Keane goal incorrectly disallowed in the waning moments.

The Colorado Rapids are 1-2-1 in Group B and sending a mostly second-choice team to El Salvador for tonight’s matchup against Isidro Metapan (12:30 a.m., FSC, delay).

Metapan was blitzed 6-0 by Mexican side Santos Laguna in its last CCL game, but can clinch a spot in the quarters if it beats Colorado and Santos ties or beats Real Espana in Honduras.

So which of the remaining four MLS clubs will advance? (See current standings here.)

FC Dallas may have the clearest route. If the Hoops can defeat winless Tauro tonight, then they’d head into their final game, on Oct 18 against Toronto, needing only a draw to advance.

Los Angeles needs to beat Morelia at home tonight, a result that, assuming Alajuelense knocks off 0-0-4 Motagua tomorrow, would leave LA and Morelia tied for second with nine points and Alajuelense in first with 12.

The Galaxy faces last-place Motagua in Honduras in its group-stage finale, while Morelia hosts Alajuelense.

If LA wins out, and Morelia beats Alajuelense, the group would wind up with all three teams on 12 points, in which case the first tiebreaker is head-to-head competition between the three. The second tiebreaker is head-to-head goal difference, and the third is head-to-head away goals.

As for Toronto and Colorado, we’d say Dallas is too big an obstacle for the Reds in Group C, and the Rapids, who seem to have placed less of a priority on the CCL than the others, are the biggest longshot of the five MLS teams in the competition.

CCL: Colorado Starts Makeshift Defense, Pays Price in 4-1 Thumping by Santos Laguna

Playing at home, with a chance to strengthen their position atop Group B of the CONCACAF Champions League, the Colorado Rapids rested first-choice goalkeeper Matt Pickens and defenders Tyrone Marshall and Kosuke Kimura for their match with Mexico’s Santos Laguna.

It was a calculated risk by the defending MLS champs, but as it turned out, their math was off. Way off.

The Rapids went down by two goals after just 27 minutes and never recovered, going on to lose 4-1.

Here are the highlights:

The loss drops Colorado (1-1-1) from first to third in the group with three games to play. The Rapids face Real Espana (Honduras) at home next Wednesday, then finish the CCL group stage with games on the road at Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) and Santos Laguna.