MLS Goal of the Week Nominees: Kicking off the Season In Style

The first week of the 2013 MLS season is in the books, and it was a lively round indeed.

There was a shocker in Seattle, a wild one in Portland, and a slow-motion trainwreck the emerging saga of Chivas USA in Southern California.

The nine games yielded 24 goals, many of which were terrific, including the following five:

The week was filthy rich with great goals; there were also fine strikes from Mike Magee and Sebastien Le Toux. But of the five nominees, we have to go with Davy Arnaud’s excellent finish, teed up by Felipe’s superb scoop over the top. Finishing a close second for us was Diego Valeri‘s slick slalom and finish against New York, followed, again, very closely, by Vancouver’s beautiful team goal.

Keep an eye on Whitecaps midfielder Daigo Kobayashi, the man who laid that ball off for Gershon Khoffie to finish. Kobayashi’s teammate Jun Marques Davidson said the Japanese import (who’s only 30) would be the most technical player in the league when he joined in preseason. After seeing him for one game, we see what Davidson means: Kobayashi is superclean on the ball. He—and Vancouver—are going to be fun to watch.

MLS Playoffs: Rimando, Gspurning Out of Their Heads, Najar Loses His

Seattle and Real Salt Lake have played each other four times this season, and only one goal separates them.

That’s because only one goal has been scored in those four games (in RSL’s 1-0 win in May). Goalkeepers Nick Rimando and Michael Gspurning ensured that on Friday night in Seattle, making nine saves between them, including several of the outstanding variety, in a 0-0 draw.

The game was in keeping with the season series, as attempts on goal finished even at 11-11, shots on target were 5-4 in Seattle’s favor, and possession was an indistinguishable 50.2% to 49.8% for Seattle.

Incredible goalkeeping highlights here:

The decisive second leg of this Western Conference semifinal kicks off on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

On Saturday night in the nation’s capital, D.C. United played New York to a 1-1 draw in an Eastern Conference semifinal first-leg game that featured an unprecedented (in MLS playoffs) two own goals, a saved penalty, and a moment of madness from United’s 19-year-old wingback Andy Najar.

The rising Honduran star turned a yellow card into a red one by throwing the ball (and hitting) referee Jair Marrufo after being whistled for a professional foul in the 71st minute. He’ll miss the return leg on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

See it all here:

The forecast for Wednesday’s game in Harrison, N.J., is calling for high winds and rain. Not exactly what the area needs right now.

Herediano 1, Real Salt Lake 0: Murphy’s Law In Full Effect for RSL

Real Salt Lake opened group play in the CONCACAF Champions League last night with an away game against Costa Rican side Herediano.

It did not go according to coach Jason Kreis‘s plan.

After giving up a 14th-minute goal to Elias Aguilar, the visitors missed several chances of their own, had one center back sent off in the 58th minute, and lost their other center back to injury just two minutes later.

The highlights:

Did Nat Borchers’ red card (at the 1:16 mark of the clip) look deserved to you? His studs were down, he didn’t come over the ball, and he appeared to make only glancing contact. A straight red for that was a bit harsh, we’d say

Down a man, and with a makeshift backline for the final half hour, RSL could not rally and must now make up the points in their remaining three group-stage games.

They return to CCL action on August 21, when they host Panamanian club Tauro.

MLS Goal of the Week Nominees: Barklage Leads A Crowded Field

Below are your Week 16 MLS Goal of the Week candidates, and they make up a shiny, sparkling group, from Patrick Ianni’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic impression to Marco Pappa’s I-can-actually-use-my-right-foot screamer.

But we say the award has to go to New York’s Brandon Barklage, for the degree of difficulty of the shot (nine times out of 10 the player flubs that, or sends it way over the bar), the importance of the goal (it put New York in front just before halftime, pacing an eventual 3-2 win) and the context (it came against the team that cut him loose last winter, and it was his second goal of the game).

Take a look:

The winner will be announced on Thursday.

Donovan, LA, Exploit Real Salt Lake Gaffes for Comeback Win

LA Galaxy attacker Landon Donovan scored two goals and set up a third to rally his team from a 2-0 deficit to a 3-2 win over first-place Real Salt Lake in Utah last night.

This way to the highlights:

Those were some glaring mental errors by the home team, but still, a fine performance by LD—and a statement game from the Galaxy. They look to be shaking off their slow start and poised for a second-half surge up the table.

Also: Beckham sporting the “Sherwood Forest” facial hair.

A Dislocated Elbow Is Every Bit as Uncomfortable as it Sounds, Carlos Rodriguez Will Attest

FC Dallas tied Real Salt Lake 1-1 in Frisco, Texas, last night, but the main postgame talking point was this freak injury to Hoops winger Carlos Rodriguez:

We’ve witnessed one of those in person, and had a reaction pretty much identical to that of Javier Morales in the above clip.

Dallas went ahead 1-0 just before halftime, when RSL defender Tony Beltran was whistled for a dubious handball in the box and Brek Shea buried the spot kick. Real Salt Lake’s euphoniously named rookie Emiliano Bonfigli equalized in the 72nd minute, settling a chip from Will Johnson and firing the ball past FCD’s backup ’keeper Chris Seitz.

Complete highlights here:

The tie leaves FC Dallas with a 3-3-2 record heading into Saturday’s game at Los Angeles, while Real Salt Lake—winless in their last three and winless alltime in the state of Texas (it’s true)—stand at 5-3-1. They host 0-6-0 Toronto on Saturday.

You Seem Like A Regular Joe, Does this Look Like A Foul to You?

Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave was shown a straight red for the following play against San Jose striker Steven Lenhart (at the 55-second mark):

Leaving aside the homerism of the local broadcast team (we watched it originally on the San Jose feed, where there was little to no questioning of the call), we do think the ref got this one wrong.

It’s just two big, fast guys in pursuit of the ball, and the contact—apart from Lenhart’s shorts-grab—is shoulder-to-shoulder. Okay, Olave is slightly behind, and puts his shoulder into the back of Lenhart’s shoulder, but still, there’s not much from Olave that’s out of the range of normal jostling-for-possession on the play.

Indeed, Lenhart bounces right back up and shoots on goal—not necessarily the action of a man who believes he’s been denied an obvious goalscoring chance by the last defender back. That, of course, is the language of the rulebook that dictates a red card be shown to said defender. Which is exactly what happened: Olave was sent off; and it was RSL’s second red of the night, reducing them to nine men and opening the door for San Jose to score twice in stoppage time and win the game 3-1.

It’s a tough call to make in real time, chasing the play (the linesman was playing catch-up, too), and the officiating crew got it wrong. Seems to us that Lenhart drew this foul and card, Dennis Rodman–style.

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.