Major League Soccer – Week 26

by Michael Orr

dallasMajor League Soccer’s Week 26 began in Texas as FC Dallas extended its unbeaten streak to sixteen games with a 2-2 draw against New England Revolution at Pizza Hut Park. The streak appeared to be over when Ilija Stolica scored the Revs’ second goal on 66 minutes, but Dallas came back to level the score on Jeff Cunningham’s injury-time equalizer. New England will feel disappointed that the referees missed what was a clear offside position by Cunningham on the late leveler, but the score stands and Dallas keeps within striking range of the Western Conference leaders.

Kansas City Wizards kept their faint playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night with a 4-3 over Houston Dynamo at Community America Ballpark. Josh Wolff’s injury-time winner saw the Wizards come all the way back from 3-1 down at the hour mark. Cam Weaver, Dominic Oduro and Adrian Serioux all scored for Houston before the 40th minute but the Dynamo, well out of the playoff picture, collapsed down the stretch. Teal Bunbury scored on the hour for the home side and a Serioux own-goal on 72 minutes leveled the score and set the stage for Wolff’s late winner.

Friday night saw the league’s marquee match-up with New York Red Bull facing Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. Thierry Henry missed the game with a niggling knee injury but it didn’t matter as Red Bull won 2-0 against top of the table LA. Dane Richards bundled in a rebound after Joel Lindpere went off the post in the 36th minute. Juan Pablo Ángel doubled the visitors’ advantage with a penalty on the hour, closing the door on the Galaxy. The failure to earn points at home leaves LA dangerously close to holders Salt Lake at the top of the table while New York improve their position in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.

On Saturday’s the league’s full slate of games commenced with a Chris Wondolowski hat-trick and San Jose Earthquakes‘ 3-2 victory away to Toronto FC at BMO Field. So underrated he’s overrated Dwayne De Rosario and Maicon Santos scored for the home side but it was not enough to come back from the treble from Wondolowski. The Earthquakes have two games in hand as compared with most of the rest of the league, a factor that could see them ultimately hurdle both Columbus and New York in the playoff table. Toronto continue to struggle and are unlikely to catch up enough to make the playoffs yet again.

Alejandro Moreno, Fred and Sébastien Le Toux scored for Philadelphia Union, seeing off Chivas USA 3-0 at PPL Park. Le Toux’s goal was his twelfth of the season, though this game did little more than confirm the lowly status of both sides this season. Neither is challenging for a playoff position and only Philadelphia have the expansion excuse to explain their performances.

Swiss international Blaise Nkufo scored in the 88th minute to give Seattle Sounders a 1-0 away victory over Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. The three points keep Seattle in the playoffs, for now, as they cling to the seventh position in the league. At the moment, Seattle are a point ahead of Colorado in the Western Conference, though the latter do have a game in hand. The loss was the tenth of the season for Chicago, a disappointing result against only average competition at home.

The second game in four days for both Kansas City Wizards and FC Dallas resulted in the further extension of Dallas’ unbeaten streak, now at seventeen games, in a 3-1 away win at Community America Ballpark. Marvin Chávez and Milton Rodríguez (pictured) scored before the quarter-hour and Dallas rolled to the away victory. Ryan Smith did pull one back in the 57th minute for the home side, but Jeff Cunningham’s goal just two minutes from time confirmed victory for the visitors and defeat for the Wizards. Dallas are now just four points shy of the top of the table.

17-year old Andy Najar scored early for DC United but it was not enough to hold off Houston Dynamo, losing 3-1 at RFK Stadium. The miserable season in the nation’s capital continues as a Devon McTavish own-goal opened Houston’s account before Geoff Cameron and Dominic Oduro scored in the final twenty minutes to close out yet another DC loss. The eighteenth loss for United is a league high, though Houston are not much closer to the post-season.

Columbus Crew retained their position atop the Eastern Conference with a come-from-behind draw away to New England Revolution, 2-2 at Gillette Stadium. Pat Phelan and Shalrie Joseph scored for the Revs, but a 2-0 home lead was not enough against the top team in the east as a Cory Gibbs own-goal just after the hour and a Guillermo Barros Schelotto free kick just ten minutes from time drew the match even. New England have the third worst record in the league while Columbus are vying for a top-four position in the playoffs.

And Nat Borchers’ injury-time equalizer split points between Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids at Rio Tinto Stadium. Colorado led from Conor Casey’s 36th minute goal and appeared to be jumping into sixth place in the league’s playoff table before Borchers stole two points in the dying moments. Salt Lake keep within two points of LA Galaxy for the top of the league while the Rapids remain stuck in eighth place, the final playoff position.

In expansion news, Vancouver Whitecaps are negotiating to bring USA international defender Jay DeMerit to British Columbia as their first designated player for the 2011 season. DeMerit is reportedly also being courted by Wolfsburg and Everton. And in Portland, the Timbers broke ground on their stadium renovation, bringing MLS’ total for the 2011 season to eleven soccer-specific grounds.

Commissioner Don Garber, in Oregon for Portland Timbers’ groundbreaking ceremony, admitted that the league will be moving to a 34-game schedule in 2011 to accomodate the league’s 17th and 18th clubs, but would not confirm a balanced schedule. In other words, though the schedule will be designed such that each club could play each other home and away, the league might prevent such balance by removing non-rivalry games and adding derbies.

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