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MLS Week 2 round-up: LA Galaxy bounce back

One of the reasons that MLS is such a compelling league is that there are fresh ideas to ponder every single week. Week 2 of MLS action was no different. Sreesha Vaman is Total Football's man with his finger on the pulse in the USA - here are several questions that struck the MLS fans this weekend, and how the teams on the pitch answered them.

Q: How many points can a lively, enthusiastic crowd of 60,000 generate for an expansion MLS side?

A: At least one.

Montreal Impact 1:1 Chicago Fire

A sea of blue sold out Montreal’s Olympic Stadium to see Montreal Impact make its MLS home debut against Chicago Fire, creating a festive, energetic atmosphere that seemed at first to intimidate the home side more than the visitors.

Making his debut for his hometown team, Montreal native Patrice Bernier looked lost trying to contend with Chicago’s Patrick Nyarko, who also gave right back Jeb Brovsky all sorts of trouble throughout the 90 minutes.

However, Montreal righted the ship in the second half, controlling much of the possession and engaging the crowd. A clinical header by captain Davy Arnaud from a Sanna Nyassi cross gave Montreal the lead in the 56th minute.

Nyarko would have the last laugh, however, threading a lovely ball to Sebastian Grazzini, who set up Dominic Oduro’s clever flick into the net in the 71st minute.

Montreal pressed for all three points on offer, but couldn’t crack Chicago’s defense. Justin Braun sent the home squad’s best opportunity from 20 yards out, but it was deadened before softly reaching Chicago keeper Paolo Tornaghi. 

Q: Can L.A. Galaxy and Seattle Sounders revert to form in the league after devastating mid-week losses?

A: Absolutely.

Los Angeles Galaxy 3:1 D.C. United

After a heart-breaking loss to Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League mid-week, Galaxy needed to rebound quickly in league play and had the perfect foil in struggling D.C. United.

Galaxy controlled much of the possession in the first half. Robbie Keane, who shined throughout the match, undressed three United defenders in the 14th minute, only to be stopped by a handball that was missed by the referee, fortunately for United.

Keane got his revenge just before half-time, redirecting a pass from Todd Dunivant into the net. The Irishman nearly got his second, missing a cross from Mike Magee.

He would atone for that error in the 69th minute by driving a shot from 18 yards off his left foot into the far post past United keeper Joe Willis.

Marcelo Sarvas gave Galaxy a commanding lead in the 85th minute, clinically finishing a David Beckham cross into the near post.

DeLeon answered for United in the 86th, providing a small consolation prize.

Seattle Sounders 3:1 Toronto F.C.

Seattle, looking to bounce back from a 6-1 thrashing in the Champions League to Santos Laguna, started third-year man David Estrada in place of the injured Eddie Johnson.

The move paid immediate dividends. Estrada picked up his first career hat-trick. His chemistry with midfielder Alvaro Fernandez was on display early on, with Estrada bullying three defenders to finally punch in Fernandez’ cross in the 17th minute.

Estrada nearly got his second after being activated by Fredy Montero in the 18th minute, but Toronto defender Torsten Frings’ last-ditch effort gave keeper Milos Kocic an opportunity to make a save.

Frings suffered a hamstring injury on the play, and needed to be replaced by Aaron Maund in the 25th minute. The substitution gave Estrada acres of space.

Fernandez activated Estrada clear on goal for the second time in the 51st minute, and this time the UCLA alum made no mistake scoring his second.

After a surprise strike by Toronto’s Ryan Johnson in the 62nd, Estrada put the game out of reach with minutes later, placing the end of yet-another Fernandez delivery into the net. 

Q: Can you generate offense despite playing with just 10 men?

A: Yes, if Omar Cummings is in your squad.

Philadelphia Union 1:2 Colorado Rapids

Colorado defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz had a screamer of a match. He was routinely out-paced by Philadelphia striker Lionard Pajoy, and struggled with turnovers and loose tackling throughout the match.

It was really not surprising for anyone, then, when Larentowicz picked up his second yellow in the 62nd minute, with Colorado clinging to a 1-0 lead.

Philadelphia controlled most of the possession in the first half, with Pajoy working well with partner Danny Mwanga to generate offense. Mwanga just missed a Sheanon Williams cross in the 30th minute, and then saw his effort from a Keon Daniel cross sharply stopped by Colorado keeper Matt Pickens.

But Cummings, who was a menace despite getting limited service from his teammates, broke through in the 56th minute, sending a cross through Union keeper Zach MacMath - literally - to Jaime Castrillon, and the Columbian international gave Colorado the lead.

Larentowicz’ second-yellow didn’t stop Cummings, who minutes after the sending-off set up rookie Tony Cascio, who snuck in behind defender Chris Albright and struck a shot under MacMath into the net, doubling the lead.

Philadelphia continued to press. In the 67th minute, substitute Roger Torres served up a cross that Pajoy cashed in. But Union could not find an equalizer, ceding all three points on offer to the visitors.

Sporting Kansas City 3:0 New England Revolution

New England, whose squad lacks the presence of an Omar Cummings, were unable to cope with defender Stephen McCarthy’s straight red card in the 14th minute en route to a thrashing by Sporting K.C.

The deafening sell-out crowd at Livestrong Park in Kansas City saw the home side dominate both halves of the match, with Graham Zusi and Kei Kamara running roughshod over the Revs defense.

Revs keeper Matt Reims did well to stop Zusi’s first strike, set up nicely by Kamara, but was helpless on the rebound, giving SKC the only goal needed in the 28th minute.

Reis paid a price for leaving a juicy rebound again in the 39th minute, with Kamara putting back his own rebound into the net, doubling the lead.

Last season’s rookie of the year, C.J. Sapong, trebled the lead by connecting on a cross from Seth Sinovic early in the second half in what was ultimately an easy one for Kansas City.

Q: Is it a good idea to play a home game in a baseball stadium?

A: Not really

San Jose Earthquakes 0:1 Houston Dynamo

A listless atmosphere in AT&T Park, normally home to baseball’s San Francisco Giants, saw San Jose struggle to generate energy on the pitch. Chris Wondolowski redirected a cross into the side of the net in the first half.

The man called “Wondo” had another strong effort in the second half cleared by Houston keeper Tally Hall, who kept his second straight clean sheet.

Houston benefited from a torrid performance by San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch, who made a shambles of what should have been an easy save in the sixth minute, taking a penalty in the process that Brad Davis converted for all of the offense Houston needed on the day.

The rest of the weekend’s MLS action

Chivas USA 0:1 Vancouver Whitecaps

The inclement weather in Los Angeles stymied both squads, though Chivas controlled most of the possession.

Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon played through an early knee injury to make several fine stops in the first half, including a strike by rookie Casey Townsend that he sent over the bar in the 32nd.

Cannon ceded the net to backup Brad Knighton in the 41st, who was sharp immediately with a smart save on Laurent Courtois.

Chivas continued to dominate possession in the second half, not giving any space to Vancouver scoring ace Sebastien le Toux, but struggled to generate quality chances.

Vancouver cashed in on one of its rare offensive forays. Former Reading F.C. defender Jay DeMerit was left unmarked on a Davide Chiumento corner in the 68th, and deposited the cross into the net for the only goal of the match.

Real Salt Lake 2:0 New York Red Bulls

New York continued its atrocious start of the season with a disappointing performance in Salt Lake. Red Bulls, in a defensive 3-5-2 formation, succeeded in slowing the pace of the game but failed to contain RSL stars Fabian Espindola and Luis Gil.

Espindola’s low strike underneath Red Bulls keeper Ryan Meara in the 39th was all the offense Salt Lake would need.

New York’s comeback efforts in the second half were again punctuated by the appearance of substitute Kenny Cooper. Cooper’s chemistry with Thierry Henry was visible from the outset of the second half.

Unfortunately for Red Bulls, Gil put the match away in the 58th minute, depositing a rebound off an Espindola shot into the net. Cooper and Henry continued to generate chances till time, but to no avail.

F.C. Dallas 1:1 Portland Timbers

Portland will be happy with getting a point on the road against one of MLS’s top teams.

Dallas got the early goal they were looking for, when Dallas academy product Bryan Leyva found Panamanian international Blas Perez in the 22nd minute.

Portland started to swing back momentum at the end of the first half and into the second. Dallas defender Ugo Ihemelu over-committed to the ball, leaving Timbers striker Darlington Nagbe clear to goal. The Liberian made no mistake, placing the ball into the net in the 51st minute to ultimately secure a point for the visitors.

By Sreesha Vaman

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