MLS Week 2 Recap, Highlights

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RYAN BRISTER
Staff Writer

After an opening weekend that featured few goals, Major League Soccer’s second set of games provided all the goals you could want. 24 goals were scored over eight games, including a 3-3 draw in Salt Lake. Beyond the goals, it was a weekend where both expansion teams achieved their first MLS wins, albeit in different ways.

Portland Timbers 2-2 LA Galaxy

When’s the last time you saw a game in Portland that wasn’t manic? There is something about the sold-out crowds of Cascadia that produces entertaining, goal-filled matches. To that end, the Timbers and Galaxy shared a wild 2-2 draw in the wind and rain on Sunday night.

In setting up the opening goal, Darlington Nagbe baffled Stefan Ishizaki with a backheel to Rodney Wallace, who provided the through ball to Fanendo Adi—kept onside by Robbie Rogers. Adi still had to produce a great finish, curling his shot inside the far post. The ball traveled from one keeper past the other in 15 seconds.

LA waited until after halftime to respond with a Gyasi Zardes goal. Jose Villarreal, who scored in the Galaxy’s first game, had the assist for Zardes with a perfectly placed cross.

The game seemed poised to end at 1-1, but this is Portland, so there was chaos instead. In the 90th minute, Adi gave Portland their lead back with what seemed to be a winning goal. It was created with help from a brilliant Liam Ridgewell long ball, which found Nagbe speeding past the late sub Todd Dunivant.

While the Timbers Army was celebrating their certain victory, another LA substitute spoiled the party. Alan Gordon got his head on a corner kick and placed it in the corner of the net.

If this plot sounds familiar, it’s because Portland and LA did the same thing last year, drawing after a goal apiece in stoppage time. The Timbers have the most draws in MLS over the last two years, and they’ve picked up the pace so far in 2015.

New York City FC 2-0 New England Revolution

David Villa blended into the scenery for much of his first game in MLS. In his first home game, he stole the show in front of 43,507 fans, and led NYCFC to their first win.

First things first, he scored the opening goal in Yankee Stadium’s MLS history. In the 19th minute, Villa made a great run through the Revs’ defense, was helped by a touch from Ned Grabavoy, and finished off the post.

The remainder of the first half belonged to New England, but they couldn’t find the net. Chris Tierney’s crosses didn’t receive the runs and finishing they deserved. When New England did get shots off, all but one missed the target.

NYCFC came out with a vengeance in the second half. Gone were the chances for New England, replaced by stifling pressure from the home side. A second goal wouldn’t come just yet, but it was coming. Khiry Shelton came on in the 66th minute, and he wasted no time in forcing Jose Goncalves into a red-card challenge for denying a goal-scoring opportunity.

With ten men, New England were even more overmatched. The only surprise was that Villa himself didn’t score the second goal. Instead he provide the assist for Patrick Mullins, who had been on the field for less than a minute. The Revs probably don’t feel great about letting him go now.

The pitch, which was a story thoughout the week, didn’t look as bad as some expected, and didn’t tear up, which should be considered positives. But it’s a very narrow field, and it played slowly throughout the game.

Columbus Crew 2-0 Toronto FC

What could have been a great game in Columbus was overshadowed by the referee. Just before halftime, David Gantar blew his whistle for a very questionable foul by Toronto’s Justin Morrow. Because Morrow was the last defender, the ref was left with no choice but to send him off.

Gantar has a history with TFC. Last September, Gantar disallowed what would have been a winning goal for Toronto, and Michael Bradley said in postgame comments that “he’s just not good enough.” Bradley was fined for those comments, and spoke more diplomatically on Saturday night.

Columbus dominated the second half with the extra man. Ethan Finlay’s 57th minute cross was powered into the net by Justin Meram for the Crew’s first goal of 2014. Four minutes later, it was a Waylon Francis cross finished off by Kei Kamara to double the lead. After the goal, Kamara donned a hard hat and reenacted the Crew’s old logo with his celebration. Toronto never threatened a comeback.

Seattle Sounders 2-3 San Jose Earthquakes

Half a minute into the game, the Sounders had a 1-0 lead thanks to Clint Dempsey, and it looked like they’d coast to a second straight victory. But the Earthquakes went off script and scored the next three goals in a 3-2 road victory. It was the first win for San Jose since last August—also against Seattle.

Chris Wondolowski is good at scoring goals. The Sounders appeared to forget this fact on Saturday night. First, Wondolowski was allowed the space to chest down a Marvell Wynne cross and score the equalizer. Early in the second half, Wondo pounced on a Brad Evans error and blasted it into the roof of the net.

When Victor Bernardez picked up a red card with 40 minutes left, the Quakes could have sat back and clung to their lead. Instead, Innocent Emeghara added a third goal. Adam Jahn led him into space, and Emeghara cut back past Evans before curling his shot into the far side of the net. If you didn’t know already, it became obvious Saturday night that Evans is not a natural center back.

Obafemi Martins had a late tap in to draw the Sounders within one, but they were unable to come up with the equalizer.

Real Salt Lake 3-3 Philadelphia Union

RSL and Philly played a six-goal game defined more by mistakes than stellar attacking. Salt Lake sabotaged themselves, practically handing the Union their three goals, but the ref came to RSL’s rescue in the end.

After taking the lead on a laser beam free kick from Javier Hernandez, RSL found inventive ways to allow goals. The equalizer came when Nick Rimando had to make a diving save off of a deflected cross. Fernando Aristeguieta was there to bury the rebound, and he was there again when RSL failed to handle a routine throw-in four minutes later.

Jamison Olave was in the right place to finish a pinballing chance to level the match at 2-2. Shortly thereafter, he was in the wrong place, sliding to deflect a Cristian Maidana cross into his own net.

RSL trailed by that 3-2 scoreline for 28 minutes, until Allen Chapman called a very soft penalty against Maurice Edu. Luke Mulholland, who went to ground, admitted after the game that even he didn’t think it was a penalty. That won’t comfort the Union, who saw their win slip away with Alvaro Saborio’s penalty kick.

Houston Dynamo 0-1 Orlando City SC

Week one hero Tyler Deric turned into a villain for the Dynamo in their second game. While he was responsible for keeping the game scoreless to that point, Deric’s 74th minute mistakes (plural!) were the defining moment of the match.

After receiving a backpass from David Horst, Deric’s first touch went too far and allowed Orlando’s Pedro Ribiero to take the ball from him. Deric tugged and pulled Ribeiro back, but couldn’t do anything more than punch the ball into his own net.

Deric will deservedly take the blame for the loss, but it’s worth noting that the team in front of him produced zero shots on target over 90 minutes. That’s not good anywhere, much less at home.

For Orlando City, the 1-0 result is their first win in MLS. Again, they couldn’t get a goal without help from the opposition, but four points from two games is a very good start for an expansion side.

FC Dallas 3-1 Sporting Kansas City

Without Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City’s defense was exposed in a 3-1 loss down in Dallas. A sizable portion of the KC Cauldron made the roadtrip, but they ended the night disappointed.

Blas Perez’s clinical finishing put Dallas ahead to start the game, and later he put them ahead for good. He opened the scoring with help from a Tesho Akindele assist in the 17th minute.

Just before halftime, SKC leveled the match on a rocketed goal from Roger Espinoza. Dallas keeper Chris Seitz might wish he had a re-do on that one; it’s possible he could have gotten to the shot.

When Perez scored again to reassert Dallas’ lead, it appeared that he was offside—along with four of his teammates. The ref’s flag stayed down, and Perez buried his chance. A Dallas counter attack tore apart KC’s defense for a very legitimate third goal, finished off by Fabian Castillo.

SKC was given an apparent lifeline in the form of a 79th minute penalty kick. But Seitz made up for whatever he may have made earlier, saving Dom Dwyer’s attempt. 2015 has not started off well for Dwyer, who also missed chances in week one.

Dallas is the only team in MLS with two wins through two games. Both of those games have been at home, where they have been very tough despite lacking the big crowds of some other teams.

Chicago Fire 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

The Whitecaps took 18 shots on Saturday, and only the 18th found the back of the net. A poor clearance by Lovel Palmer fell to Steven Beitashour, who slid a pass across the box to Octavio Rivero. The Uruguayan’s finish put Vancouver ahead in 86th minute, and was his second goal in two games.

Despite their lack of goals, Chicago wasn’t entirely without threat. Vancouver began the game by wasting a few early chances, and the Fire were able to claw into the game as the first half progressed. David Ousted had to make a few big saves to keep things scoreless. But the Whitecaps regained control in the second half, and it was probably just that they ended up finding a winner.

The Fire and Revolution are the only teams in MLS who have failed to score a goal over two games. Likewise, they are the only two teams with two losses.