New England Soccer Today

Across the Pitch

Hurricane Irene may have forced three east coast matchups, including New England Revolution at Philadelphia Union and the weekend’s marquee matchup between the star-filled Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls, to be postponed, but it couldn’t prevent the weekend from producing some of the season’s most exciting results.

A blow-out in Seattle, a stunning comeback in Kansas City, a resilient victory from a shorthanded Real Salt Lake, and upset wins from struggling Vancouver and Chicago highlighted what a thrilling weekend of MLS action. To top it all off, the Columbus Crew’s Jeff Cunningham became the league’s new all-time leading scorer.

The weekend started with a promising matchup between the Eastern Conference-leading Crew (11-8-7, 40 points) and the surging Seattle Sounders (13-5-9, 48 points), who sit second in the overall MLS standings. The Sounders, with their raucous home support, were always the favorite, but few would’ve expected the blowout that resulted. Led by Washington native Lamar Neagle, who tallied his first career hat trick, the Sounders trounced the Crew 6-2. Argentine Mauro Rosales also impressed with a goal and two assists – his eighth and ninth of the season.

On the Crew side there wasn’t much to celebrate, but Cunningham, battling a right knee injury, converted a 59th minute penalty kick to become the league’s all-time leading goal scorer with 134 goals. The Crew already trailed 4-0 at that point.

The Crew have two weeks off to regroup before facing hapless Toronto FC (4-12-12, 24 points) on September 10th. Seattle will take on FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Tuesday, before returning to their pursuit of the first place Los Angeles Galaxy (14-3-9, 51 points) with a home game against Real Salt Lake on September 10th.

Salt Lake (11-7-6, 39 points) is coming off an impressive win of their own, albeit under different circumstances. Real traveled to Los Angeles, looking to end a two game losing streak against an inconsistent Chivas USA (7-10-10, 31 points). The visitors got off to a dream start with an 11th minute goal through Alvaro Saborio, his seventh of the season, but things quickly got complicated when center back Nat Borchers was sent off for dragging down Nick LaBrocca on an obvious goal scoring opportunity just outside the box.

Salt Lake’s defense, led by an impressive performance from center back Jamison Olave and with some key saves from goalkeeper Nick Rimando, held on for the shutout and an important three points. Salt Lake return home to face the Philadelphia Union (8-6-10, 34 points) on Saturday, September 3rd, before traveling to Seattle the following weekend, while Chivas USA remain home and face D.C. United (7-7-10, 31 points) on September 10th.

While Philadelphia and D.C. United both saw their matches postponed due to Hurricane Irene, one Eastern Conference team that did manage to get a home game in was Sporting Kansas City (9-8-9, 36 points). Sporting looked set to cruise to victory against FC Dallas (13-7-7, 46 points) after Omar Bravo’s seventh goal of the season gave the team a 2-0 lead in the 68th minute (Kei Kamara scored his eighth of the season for Sporting in the 22nd minute). But things quickly changed with Daniel Hernandez pulling one back in the 70th minute and Maicon Santos scoring the equalizer in the 89th minute to set the stage for Bobby Warshaw’s dramatic game winner in stoppage time – which also happened to be his first MLS goal. 21-year-old Brek Shea helped lead the charge for Dallas assisting on both the game-tying and game-winning goals.

Sporting, who lost for just the second time in 18 games, continue their race to the playoffs at home against the league-leading Galaxy on Monday, September 5th. Dallas, who ended a three game winless streak, face Seattle in the Open Cup, before returning to league action against the New England Revolution (4-11-11, 23 points) on September 10th.

Dallas’ spot in third in the overall standings was further cemented this weekend thanks to the Colorado Rapids (10-7-11, 41 points) shocking loss in Chicago on Saturday. The struggling Fire (4-7-15, 27 points) took a 2-0 first half lead thanks to a goal from center back Cory Gibbs and Dominic Oduro’s ninth goal of the season and held on with relative ease in the second half for just their fourth victory of the season.

The Rapids look to change their poor road form when they travel to face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Friday, September 9th. Chicago face the Richmond Kickers of the USL Pro Division in Tuesday’s other U.S. Open Cup semifinal before traveling to face the San Jose Earthquakes on September 10th.

The Earthquakes (5-10-11, 26 points), meanwhile, avoided embarrassment with a late 87th minute Chris Wonolowski equalizer, his ninth goal of the season, that canceled out Toronto FC’s 33rd minute lead through Eric Avila. But the home fans in Toronto (4-12-12, 24 points) will feel they should’ve had a victory after diminutive Ecuadorean Joao Plata beat the ‘Quakes offside trap to score in the 75th minute, before incorrectly being ruled offside.

San Jose returns home to face Chicago on September 10th while Toronto also continues to look to right their poor season with a trip to Columbus on the same date.

Toronto’s Canadian rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps (4-13-9, 21 points) pulled off a rare victory at home against the Houston Dynamo (8-8-11, 35 points). Shea Salinas’ first goal of the season in the 86th minute proved the winner in the ‘Caps 1-0 victory that was highlighted by missed golden chances from both teams team.

Vancouver, looking for back-to-back victories for the first time, returns to action at the underwhelming New York Red Bulls (6-6-14, 32 points) on September 10th. The Dynamo travel to Kansas City on the same date, looking to keep hold of their precarious playoff position.

MLS Player of the Week: Lamar Neagle (Seattle)

Easy choice this week as Neagle put in a fantastic performance and came away with his first career hat trick.

Honorable Mentions: Brek Shea (Dallas), Jamison Olave (Salt Lake), Mauro Rosales (Seattle)

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