Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Switzerland 1-1 USA: Altidore's mouth costs USA the win

Overall, this was a much better performance from the USMNT than we saw last week in Denmark. The defense was more stable, the midfield turned the ball over less, and luck didn't seem to be much of a factor. All this was true until Jozy Altidore experienced a bit of oral diarrhea towards the referee.

The first half looked rather familiar. The USA spent much of the time defending, but Switzerland never exactly threatened to score. Counters were the way the Stars and Stripes attacked, and they were rewarded eventually.

The USA goal came just before the halftime whistle when Brek Shea took a glorious free kick and deposited it into the top corner of the Swiss goal. It was the first free kick goal for the USMNT in almost two years.

In the 67th minute, Altidore committed an obvious foul at the far touchline. He was about to be shown a yellow when he looked straight at the ref and delivered the magic words, earning a straight red in the process.

Once the USA was down to ten men, the Swiss finally looked like scoring. And while they only scored once, they were unlucky to have not scored another. The chance they should have buried came as the clock struck 76 minutes. Xherdan Shaqiri took a short corner, something the Swiss oddly specialize in, which led to a cross across the face of goal. Pajtim Kasami was the recipient of the pass less than three yards from the goal. Fortunately, the header popped off the top of his noggin and well over the crossbar.

Switzerland scored three minutes later on another short corner. This time a low cross found the feet of Valentin Shocker to level the score.

The threat didn't exactly end there, but there also weren't any chances that really should have gone in. The USA defense was still on its heels, however, and it all stemmed from only having ten men on the pitch.

Jurgen Klinsmann lined his forces up in his familiar 4-1-2-1-2 midfield diamond formation. The back four of Brek Shea, John Brooks, Michael Orozoco, and Timmy Chandler was unchanged from the side that faced Denmark last week, Daniel Williams was in the holding midfield role, Alejandro Bedoya and Alfredo Morales were  central, and Michael Bradley in the attacking spot. Gyasi Zardes and Jozy Altidore were up front.

This was less of a "mad scientist" formation than Klinsmann has used recently, but it was still far from ideal. The back four was still below what you expect and I would like to see less of an offensive burden placed on Bradley, but other than that I have no complaints. The side actually played quite well, at least until Altidore ran his mouth.

As I mentioned above, the Swiss didn't look to threatening until the USA had fewer than 11 men on the pitch. Altidore's absence meant one fewer defender to guard against the Swiss and their ability to swing the ball into the box. Had Jozy stayed on, he could have been taken off for an additional defender which could have shored up that box defense and not allowed a goal to come through.

If you'd have told me the USA would draw with Switzerland before the opening kick off, I probably would have been satisfied., If Jozy hadn't been sent off for stupidity I would have been satisfied seeing this end 1-1. His sending off was entirely preventable. Jozy should know not to run his mouth at the ref, he should be able to keep himself in check, knowing that the best chance his team has to win is with everyone out there.

For that reason alone, I am not happy with the result. The team looked entirely different after the red card was shown, a red card that never should have happened.

There were positives, however. The Orozco-Brooks defense was a lot better, although the did allow too muchspace for crossing towards the end of the match. There weren't the glaring blunders in the back that led to the Nicklas Bendtner hat trick last week. The midfield was better at retaining possession, and even the forwards had a strong match before Altidore hit the showers early.

The minor outrage that fans showed towards Jurgen Klinsmann shouldn't really happen again after this one, so that's good. His tactics were a little more familiar and they worked, for the most part.

Next up for the USA is the final round of tune ups leading to the Gold Cup this summer. These won't be easy at all, however, as Germany, Netherlands, and Mexico are all high level opponents that will test this team even more than we have already seen.

Monday, March 30, 2015

It Happened in America: MLS Matchweek 4

Cold, windy, and sometimes snowy weather coupled with rosters depleted from international fixtures plagued MLS this weekend. Here's how the lower quality matches turned out.

New England Revolution 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes
New England finally scores a goal and earned their first win of the year. Kelyn Rown scored twice in the first half to give the Revs the lead on a cold, snowy day in Foxborough. Wondo buried one from the spot for San Jose, but it wasn't enough to conquer the home side in the snow.

Montreal Impact 2-2 Orlando City
Due to the combination of injuries and international call ups, Orlando was forced to dress only 15 of the usual 18 players. All the action happened in the later stages of the first half. Impact took the early lead with Ignacio Piatti converting a penalty in the 14th. Montreal's advantage was doubled by Jack McInterey 13 minutes later. The advantage wouldn't last long as Kaka and Pedro Ribiero got rolling a couple minutes after it became 2-0. First, it was Ribiero from Kaka in the 29th, then the two flipped places and Kaka equalized from Ribiero a minute later. the 2-2 scoreline would last through the second half and the honors were shared.

New York City 0-1 Sporting Kansas City
Ike Opara scored in the 12th minute for Kansas City on the increasingly cluttered pitch of Yankee Stadium. Soccer out there is still strange, and I doubt it will get any better. With no width to speak of, games at NYC featuring teams with stout, compact defenses like Kansas City will probably be kind of boring to watch.

DC United 1-0 LA Galaxy
While the entire league has suffered from playing during international breaks, LA Galaxy probably suffer the most. Their captain and best player, Robbie Keane, was out to play for Ireland in their EURO 2016 qualifier against Poland and Gyasi Zardes was called up by the USMNT for friendlies against Denmark and Switzerland. Their absence showed as Galaxy failed to get much going against their east coast rivals. Chris Pontius scored at the end of second half stoppage time to secure all three points for DC.

Columbus Crew 1-2 New York Red Bulls
A back and forth first half produced no goals, but things came alive after the break. Bradley Wright-Phillips converted a penalty to get things started. Crew managed to level with a Tony Tchani tap in, but it was Mike Grella with a classy chip in from outside the penalty are after forcing the turnover to win it for Red Bulls.

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers.
See here for all you need to know about this Portland failure.

Houston Dynamo 0-0 Colorado Rapids
A bland 0-0 Draw if there ever was one. The teams managed five shots on target between them, enough said.

FC Dallas 0-0 Seattle Sounders
I was really looking forward to this being one of the best matches of the early season, but boy was I wrong. While it was pretty bad that Houston and Colorado only managed five shots on target, these two high scoring teams failed to put anything on target. Chris Seitz and Stefan Frei could have not been there at all and the result would have been the same. I guess not having Blas Perez and Clint Dempsey in a game has that effect. For what it's worth, Seattle owned possession, although it was entirely useless.

Chicago Fire 1-0 Philadelphia Union
Harrison Shipp delivered a beautiful free kick that Adailton got his head to for Chicago's goal late in the first half. There were plenty of other chances, including one earlier on that was stopped by what looked like the arm of Union defender Ethan White. Rais M'bolhi was the main reason Chicago couldn't win by more. The Union keeper came up big in quite a few spots to at least keep his team in the match. While doing better to get forward in the second half, Philly's attack as mostly lifeless as they failed to register a shot on target.

Real Salt Lake 2-1  Toronto FC
This game left me really wondering what could have been. Both sides were missing their two best players due to international call-ups and it was a drab match for most of the 90 minutes as a result. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley were both away with the USMNT for Toronto and RSL was missing keeper Nick Rimando to the USMNT and Alvaro Saborio to Costa Rica. RSL took the lead on a wonderful back post cross from Javier Morales that Luke Mulholland headed in. The last 20 minutes had all the life in this one, though. First Toronto had a goal called back for... something in the 73rd. Jackson Goncalves completed a beautiful run through Salt Lake's defense to level in the 88th. The tie score would not last long as RSL buried the winner less than a minute later when Jordan Allen headed home his first career MLS goal.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Time to Rant About Last Night's Timbers Loss

I gave myself a night to sleep it over, but the morning after yesterday's 2-1 defeat at Vancouver still stings more than usual.

It was really only a matter of time before Portland's lack of ability to finish after dominating possession led to a loss instead of a draw, and it might as well come against one of the biggest rivals.

Despite getting down early on a wonderful free kick by Nicolas Mezquida, the Timbers dominated in possession and had plenty of the "oh so close" moments that they have been famous for in this young season. The moment didn't actually come until the 82nd minute when Fanando Adi finally was able to tap in the easy goal to level the score. The next ten eight minutes were all Portland as well, and it was a wonder they didn't score a second or third goal. At the death of the 90 minutes, the most Portland Timbers thing ever happened when Robert Earnshaw got behind the back line and slipped one past Adam Larsen Kwarasey to give the Caps all three points.

This team seems like they can do everything right except put the ball in the net. Watching this game was nothing short of an angering experience. The number of times my hands threw themselves to my face in frustration was uncountable. The decibel level of my scream was off the charts when Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers let Earnshaw slip right through them for the easy goal. This team needs to figure out why they aren't scoring goals despite doing everything else right. Adi is the only one capable of finishing, despite Rodney Wallace and Darlington Nagbe repeatedly finding chances that should really be converted. Caleb Porter even decided to start Max Urruti as a secondary striker to try and facilitate finishing and it couldn't get the job done.

I suppose the good news is that the chances are there and they will start going in eventually. You could even credit Vancouver keeper David Ousted as the savior of the match. But until they start scoring goal consistently, I am resigned to think that this team is going nowhere. If the near misses continue, I am inclined to think that this team is just not good enough and I might call for some heads to roll in the coaching department. Caleb Porter says all the right things, has the right attitude to coach this team, but there is just something missing right now.

Portland has three goals in four matches, which is pathetic for the way this team has played. Not being able to score against RSL in the opener was embarrassing with how that second half went. The goals finally came a bit against LA the next week, but faulty late game defending ruined the win. The match against Sporting KC didn't have as many frustrating near misses, but they still probably should have found at least one goal. Then it all came to a head last night in the Great White North. The fact that they didn't score until the final ten minutes, and then only scored once with the plethora of chances they had, was awful.

The next month is going to tell us a lot of what this squad is made of. On Saturday they have to face the leaders of the Western Conference in FC Dallas at home. Then Kaka and Orlando City come to town before they head cross country to play NYCFC in Yankee Stadium. The month ends with the huge rivalry match against Seattle on the road. All of these teams can, and will, score goals against Portland's sometimes sleepy defending. The Timbers will have to learn to convert these almost chances if they hope to escape April with more than the three points they already have.

Portland has the skill to make the playoffs in the West. They are doing almost everything right. Until they start scoring goals and not falling asleep at the back late in games, they aren't going to make that run we all know they are capable of.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Denmark 3-2 USA: Faulty Defense Brings Down USMNT

The USA was in the lead twice, but failed to hold each time and ended up on the wrong end of an international friendly in Denmark.

The story of the night was shady defending leading to a Nicklas Bendtner hat trick. For a USA team looking to revamp it's back four, today was a step in the wrong direction. Michael Orozco and John Brooks were the center backs in charge of keeping Christen Eriksen and Bendtner at bay. At no point did those guys look to be on the same page, especially on all three of Bendtner's tallies.
On the other side of the pitch, the USA attack was good at creating opportunities out of nothing at all, as exemplified on their first goal of the game. A particularly non-threatening long ball came in to Jozy Altidore, who was in a rather non-threatening position. Altidore collected the ball perfectly and roofed a shot inside the far post to give the USA a 1-0 lead.

The first Denmark goal came when they created a nice string of passes down near the end line that drew Brooks and Chandler towards the left side of Nick Rimando's goal. Orozco correctly drifted over to cover the Danish attack from the left, however Brooks also allowed himself to wander away, leaving Bendtner wide open for the tap in.

The USA took the lead on a superb ball in from Michael Bradley, followed by a perfect lay off from Altidore to Aron Johannsson. The Iceman buried the shot perfectly to make it 2-1 to the US.
The second Danish goal was very much the same story as the first. Denmark was spearheading an attack down the right flank, the cross came in, Timmy Chandler got a head on it, but not strongly enough and it fell to Bendtner who, again, was lost by Brooks.

To complete the hat trick, the USA back like lost track of Bendtner on a break, allowed him behind the line where he smashed the easy goal.

USA had a chance to equalize with less than a minute left in the three minutes of stoppage time. John Brooks was able to head a free kick from Brek Shea towards the goal, but it sailed wide.

There were many obstacles that the USA had to overcome right from the start here, but none of them make good excuses. Clint Dempsey injured himself in training so he was unavailable, but the attacking depth for the USA should be able to overcome his absence. For the most part they did just that. Michael Bradley, while not taking up the true number 10 like Dempsey, did well to facilitate the attack. Aron Johannsson picked up from what Bradley couldn't do by being the secondary strike option the Dempsey will sometimes play.

The problem lay with the defense alone. Orozco and Brooks are clearly not the center back pair for this team in the future. They are going to face much more prolific attacks than the Christen Eriksen/Nicklas Bendtner squad they faced today, and they will need to improve communication between them in order to succeed.

Thankfully, it is likely we won't see these two together in many competitive matches. Jermaine Jones has been playing center back at the international level since the conclusion of the World Cup, and he is out injured at the moment. Omar Gonzalez is also better than the two today as well, so come Gold Cup time, he should be in the team as well.

Of equal concern is the team's inability to finish games. They have conceded 10 goals after the 70th minute in their last 14 matches. This is not a good way to go about the end of games. Conceding a late goal almost cost them against Ghana in the World Cup. It did cost theme in the World Cup against Belgium. A team can't win consistently if there is the constant feat of conceding a tying or losing goal late in games. Today was just the latest example of it.

Today's result was disappointing, but it is far from the end for the Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT. As with every unfortunate defeat, there is a cry to fire the manager and those cries are always unfounded. It seems that people have forgotten the unexpected World Cup run this summer in Brazil and the ambitious goals for the squad that followed this summer in Brazil. People don't seem to realize the time it takes to build a national team. It can't be done in a series of friendlies that, let's face it, don't really matter in the long run.

Klinsmann's team has disappointed recently against teams they really should beat, but let's wait until they have played in some competitive matches this summer before calling for the boss's head.
At the very least, let's see how they do agaisnt Switzerland, Mexico, Netherlands, and Germany leading up to the Gold Cup. These will be large tests of where this team stands. They will probably lose two, three, or maybe even all of these friendlies. If they play like crap and get run over in all of these friendlies, then lay an egg in the Gold Cup, then we can talk about canning Kilnsmann.
For now, let's just relax and let the man do his job.

Monday, March 23, 2015

It Happened in England: Premier League Matchweek 30

It was a week of comebacks in the Premier League as no game seemed certain until the final minutes. Here's the recap of them all.

Manchester City 3-0 West Bromwich Albion
Here's a gave that was rendered pointless ava unwatchable after only two minutes due to the complete incompetence of referee Neil Swarbrick In that fateful second minute, City's Wilfried Bony was taken down by WBA's Craig Dawson when through on goal. The foul itself was soft ave probably not worth a red card, but one was shown anyway. The problem was, the card was given to the wrong man. Gareth McCauley, who had nothing to do with the play, was sent off for Dawson's actions.

This was a pathetic display of officiating if there ever was one. First off, if you're going to give a red in the second minute, make sure it's a very egregious foul. Dawson's takedown was far from that. Second, there's never and excuse for sending off the wrong player, ever. Swarbrick can logically defend his decision to brandish the card, but I'd like to see him talk his way around taking McCauley of instead of Dawson.

Swarbrick deserves discipline for this, and more than the one game of forth official duty that Mark Clattenberg was issued for our decisions earlier this season.

By the way, Manchester City steam rolled their way through ten man WBA for 88 minutes to win.

Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal
Oliver Giroud had a big first half, notching two goals to put the Gunners ahead 2-0 at halftime. Arsenal really took the foot off the gas after the second goal and were punished for it when Moussa Sissoko put one back for Newcastle just after the break. Arsenal's lack of urgency with possession almost cost them the full three points, but they managed to hold off the storming Geordies in the end.

Southampton 2-0 Burnley
This one got off to a terrible start for the Saints as goalkeeper Fraser Foreter was injured and stretchered off with a "serious knee injury" in the 14th minute. Backup Kelvin Davis was called in and promptly made a terrific save to rob Sam Vokes of a sure goal. It was the first of a few brilliant saves from Davis, who hasn't seen game action in over a year. Davis kept the sheet clean and got help from Shane Long, who scored his first goal since November to put Southampton up 1-0. Burnley captain Jason Shackell secured defeat for his team when he misdirected a cross into his own goal.

Stoke City 1-2 Crystal Palace
Stoke were the kings for much of the first half, but scrappy Crystal Palace earned another comeback victory. Mame Diouf was in the right place at the right time to collect a free kick from Charlie Adam and drive it home to put Stoke up 1-0 after 14 minutes. Palace would equalize on a questionable penalty call against Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic. Yannkick Bolasie was charging towards a 50/50 ball and the keeper arrived slightly late and did hit Bolasie a bit. The ensuing penalty was buried among a chorus of boos by Glen Murray. Right before halftime, Palace's comeback victory was complete when Murray received a long ball from keeper Julian Speroni, headed it slightly to Wlifried Zaha who slotted it inside the near post. Both teams traded blows throughout the second half, but Palace hung on for all three points.

Aston Villa 0-1 Swansea City
Just when it looks like Villa can't stop scoring, they struggle to find anything at home against Swansea. This was wasn't much to speak of until Bafetimbi Gomis scored from up close at the end of a nice Swansea break.

Tottenham 4-3 Leicester City
Harry Kane was at it again for Spurs as the home town kid netted a hat trick, the first two of which were found within 12 minutes. All of this after Hugo Lloris was carried off after only four minutes. Leicester would not go away quietly and managed to tie the game shortly after the break. It wasn't until Harry Kane converted a penalty in the 64th and Leicester's Jeffery Schlupp caught a bad deflection that fell into his own net. David Nugent made it interesting with a goal just before the 90 minutes were up, but it wasn't enough to earn anything for the Foxes.

West Ham 1-0 Sunderland
Another bland one that was destined for a draw until late. West Ham thought they had a chance from the penalty spot when Mark Noble was dragged down in the box on a free kick, however, the flag was up for offside first, thus nullifying any foul. Finally, it was Diafra Sakho giving the Hammers all three points when he received a pass from Noble and booted it into the far corner for the winner.

Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United
It was a neck of a day over at Anfield add this rivalry match turned into one to remember.
United controlled much of the first half and were rewarded when some sleepy defending allowed Juan Mata to run behind the back line and fire a low shot passed Simon Mingolet. Things got sour for Liverpool just after the break. Survey Gerrard was brought on as a halftime sub and lasted all of 32 seconds before he was shown straight red fir both a bad table and a stomp to the leg of Ander Herrera. Things damn well could have dropped to 10 vs. 10 when Phil Jones flew in recklessly on Jordan Henderson, but he escaped with a yellow. Of course, Mario Balotelli coming on as a sub didn't help things calm down.

After the chaos settled, Mata added a second in the 59th with a sexy bicycle kick to exurbs the Red Devils' lead to two. Dairy Sturridge put one back for Liverpool on a well placed shot passed the inside post, but it wasn't enough for Liverpool.

Hull City 2-3 Chelsea
It was a fun one at The Kingston Communications Stadium as Hull put up a good fight against the champions elect, although the home side was a little slow out of the gates. It took Eden Hazard and Diego Costa all of nine minutes to put Chelsea up 2-0. Ahmed Elmohamady and Abel Hernandez leveled the score before the half hour mark, however. Things slowed down after that until Loic Remy bagged all three points for Chelsea in the 77th.

QPR 1-2 Everton
QPR may have actually been better for the majority of the game, but Everton got an early goal from Seamus Coleman to put them up at the half. Eduardo Vargas leveled for QPR in the 65th, but Aaron Lennon scored his first goal for Everton on a scramble in front to secure the win and keep Liverpool's other team further from relegation.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

It Happened in America: MLS Match Week 3

Saturday was the day off scoreless draws in the good ol' USA, but there was a late winner to speak of as well. On Sunday, the goals came a little faster. Here's the full recap.

New England Revolution 0-0 Montreal Impact
Montreal may have been a little worn fire following their CONCACAF Champions League victory in midweek, but they were asked to get fired a few times earthy in the match. New England was the better side for most of the proceedings, however. Thus was especially true after Montreal's Hassoun Camara was sent off for a second yellow in the 61st. At that point, Impact were happy to load the box with defenders and play for the draw. Despite a few close calls for the Revs, that's exactly what happened.

Philadelphia Union 0-2 FC Dallas
Union's Zach Pfeffer was sent off in the 42nd and it was all downhill from there. Dallas came out of halftime and Tesho Akindeke and Ryan Hollingshead each scored in the first 15 minutes. The three points improves Dallas to nine on the young season. They are the only side to win each of their first three this year.

New York City 0-0 Colorado Rapids
Here was one of those fairly bland scoreless draws of Saturday. Colorado, while having less possession, was probably the better team here. They ripped 21 shots with seven finding the target compared to New York's nine and two. In the end, none of them mattered aced the honors were shared.

Orlando City 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
This gave was Orlando's to win for Peru much the entire match. Kaka and company we controlling the run of play, but failed to acquire anything of substance. It looked to be a 0-0 tie until Octavio Rivero headed home the winner tight at the death of six minutes of stoppage time.

Sporting Kansas City 0-0 Portland Timbers
Both teams threatened, but failed to score. Portland thought they were ahead when Fenando Adi sniffed from close range, but turns out he hacked the ball first so it didn't count. Kansas City also forced Portland's defense onto Adobe tough spots. Neither team could punch it home though. SKC is now winless in seven across all competitions and Portland's propensity for drawing matches continues.

LA Galaxy 1-1 Houston Dynamo
This draw actually had some goals and they didn't take long too slow up. Robby Keane got it started less than three minutes in sheet a beautiful 50 yard sprint with the ball. Houston answered eight minutes later when David Horst out-jumped Omar Gonzalez for a corner and headed it into the goal. From there on it was about the staunch Dynamo defense. That, combined with solid goalkeeping from Tyler Deric secured the point for Houston.

NY Red Bulls 2-0 DC United
Red Bulls dominated the first half of play and got rewarded by Bradley Wright-Phillips scoirng off a pretty long ball followed by a skillful half volley in the 25th minute. DC sort of got back into the game after halftime, but they were unable to capitalize on any sense of sustained pressure. Red Bulls put the game away for good when Lloyd Sam buried one  when Wright-Phillips grabbed a bad pass near midfield and led the break that ended in Sam's tally.

San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Chicago Fire
The Quakes open up their brand new Avaya Stadium in classy fashion. Abdul-Fatai Alashe scored the venue's first goal in the fifth minute. Ty Harden doubled the advantage with a tap in off a free kick in the 21st before Chicago pulled one back with a beautiful finish off a through ball from Harrison Shipp. The second half dulled down until the closing seconds what Chicago's heroic efforst to tie the score came up just a bit short.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Examining the Champions League Quarterfinal Draw

The draw for the quarterfinals of the Champions League was made this morning, and the theme seems to be rematches. We are treated with a rematch of last season's final, the 1987 final, and one of the more exciting ties from this year's group stage.

The first legs of each of these matches will take place on April 13 and 14. The second legs follow a week later on April 20 and 21.

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Barcelona
These two met in the group stage this season and split the honors. The home sides won each match and PSG even won their's without Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This is big because Zlatan will miss the first leg of this ordeal due to his red card suspension from the second leg against Chelsea. Barcelona, meanwhile, are kicking on all cylinders. They are the slight favorites, but this has to be the best of the quarterfinal macthups.

Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid
The Madrid derby was last season's final. Real won that one, but have failed to defeat their cross town rivals in six matches since. In their last meeting in February, Atletico came out on top with a 4-0 victory. Add that to the fact that Real are beyond sputtering at this point (they could be considered lucky to have escaped against Schalke 04 in the round of 16) and this could be a very tough fixture for Ronaldo and company.

Porto vs. Bayern Munich
At first glance, this rematch of the 1987 final seems rather one sided. Bayern Munich are the most talented team in the world and they are certainly playing like it. They cruised through their group stage against Shakhtar Donetsk with a combined 8-0 victory and they are miles ahead at the top of the Bundesliga. But Porto can be a really tricky side. They quietly disposed of defending Swiss champions FC Basel in their round of 16 match and likely won't allow the Germans to run all over them. Bayern should still win, but Porto certainly won't make it easy.

Juventus vs. Monaco
This will be the least headlined match of the round, but it still should be a doosy. Juventus dispatched the collapsing Borrussia Dortmund with ease and Monaco shocked many when they took care of Arsenal in the round of 16. For two teams that don't tend to be the center of attention, this should be a good one to watch.

For the record, I am predicting Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, and probably Juventus (I'm least confident on this one) to head through to the semis. All four matches should be close, with the possible exception of Bayern against Porto. The rest wouldn't surprise me if away goals, or even extra time plus penalties, will be needed to determine a winner.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It Happened in Europe: Champions League Round of 16 Second Legs

The Champions League round of 16 came to a close this week, here's how the last batch of matches played out.

Monaco 0-2 Arsenal (3-3 aggregate, Monaco advances on away goals)
Arsenal needed a miracle to advance and they almost got one. Olivier Giroud got the Gunners on the board ten minutes before halftime when he roofed a shot over a pair of Monaco defenders. Arsenal continued to pressure hard for the rest of the half, but to no avail. With no more than ten minutes remaining, Theo Walcott drilled a shot low off the post and the rebound came to Aaron Ramsey, who buried his shot low in the far corner. That brought the aggregate to 3-3 with Monaco ahead on away goals. Arsenal almost pulled ahead jsut a few minutes later on a free kick that both Alexis Sanchez and Giroud had a great shot at, but the ball went straight into the Monaco keeper. Arsenal threw everything they had at the French defense, but came up empty. Monaco advances to the quarterfinals.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen (1-1 aggregate, Atletico Madrid wadvances on penalties 3-2)
What a tie. Bayer got the socking 1-0 win at home to give them the slight upper hand, but gave it away when Mario Suarez scored to level things in the 27th. It remained 1-1 through the end of the 90 minutes, and after an extra 30. It came to penalties, where Atleti won 3-2 with Fernando Torres scoring the winner before Bayer's Stefan Kiebling missed to end it.

Barcelona 1-0 Manchester City (3-1 aggregate)
This one was really over before it started. Very few people thought City would be able to come back after being down 2-1 after the home leg. They put up a fight in this one, particularly as time ran down. They even had a penalty saved late in the second half that would have made it a contest at the end. In reality though, they were lucky to only lose by one today. Barcelona was robbed by Joe Hart on countless occasions. The City keeper is the only reason it wasn't at least 4-0 to the Spaniards.

Borrussia Dortmund 0-3 Juventus (1-5 aggregate)
Another one that was really over before it started. Dortmund was never really in it at all and Juve just ran away with it. It's kind if what the Barcelona-City match should have been.

So the right teams remaining in the hunt for European glory are:

Atletico Madrid
Barcelona
Bayern Munich
Juventus
Monaco
Paris Saint-Germaine
Porto
Real Madrid

The draw is on Friday and I, for one, can't wait to break it down.

Thoughts on NYCFC'S Yankee Stadium Home

When it was first announced that NYCFC would play their home matches at Yankee Stadium, I was rather skeptical about it. At first, it was all about the spectator experience. Having been in many a baseball stadium, I have never been able to picture soccer played in one. The sight lines in many of the seats could be very strange. There is a lot of wasted space since the pitch doesn't take up nearly the area of a ballfield.

A lot of spots seem like they would be really disconnected from the game. I feel like it would be kind of like watching an outdoor hockey game in a baseball stadium, something I have done before. I felt separated from the game when I am used to being up close and personal with it.

It wasn't until New York City FC had their home opener on Sunday afternoon that I thought about it from a tactical perspective. Due to strange things like a pitching mound and a dirt infield, and the odd configuration of the ballpark, the pitch is required to be very thin, and it is quite noticeable. Watch a game from almost any other stadium out there and follow it with one at Yankee Stadium and you will notice how strange it looks.

Being a supporter and season ticket holder for Detroit City FC, who play their matches on a high school football field, I am used to watching games on a thin pitch. The field at Cass Tech Stadium is narrow, so narrow, in fact, that in order to play their US Open Cup match last year against RWB Adria, they had to move to a different school with a wider field. However, I am quite certain that their pitch is still wider than the one at Yankee Stadium.

The actual measurement of the pitch's width is 70 yards, which is the minimum required for an international match,

This can affect the game tactically in many ways. Teams that rely on attacking wide and flinging crosses into the box will find life to be quite difficult. The smaller width forces more defenders into the middle, making those crosses more difficult to land. A narrow field tends to favor teams that work well through the middle in tight spaces, which, fortunately, New York City is well equipped to do. With David Villa and Mix Diskerud, they have the midfielders with the capability to thread passes in little space.

Going forward, I expect teams to play very narrow formations when the visit NYCFC. I like the idea of using a 4-1-2-1-2. A holding midfielder can keep the opposing number 10 at bay, while your own number 10 (in NYCFC's case Villa) has two striker options up front to thread his passes to. NYC lined up in a standard 4-4-2 in the opener against New England and managed to bag a pair of goals, but I think a more narrow focus might suit them well in the future.

From a television watcher's perspective, it didn't take long to adjust to the low angle camera and I grew to really like it in the end. I especially prefer it to the extremely high camera that you get at White Hart Lane. I feel a little more connected to the action than I do from the bird's eye view. Sure, you can see a lot more from an analytic view, but I do enjoy getting up close and personal with the action.

I still felt generally uncomfortable with the viewing experience. This was compounded by the return to normalcy just a few minutes later when the Portland-LA Galaxy match began.

I will adjust to watching games at Yankee Stadium as this season progresses, but I will always feel a bit off about it, The awkwardness of playing the game in a space it was not meant for will never really go away. The Yankee Stadium thing is okay to get the club started, but I am hoping that NYCFC finds themselves a soccer specific stadium quickly.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It Happened in England: Premier League Matchweek 29

The Premier League title race got even clearer than it already was this weekend. The top four picture however, is still quite muddy. Here's how the matches played out.

Crystal Palace 3-1 QPR
Palace got started early and often in this one. it was Wilfried Zaha in the 21st, then James McArthur in the 40th, and Joel Ward put the finishing touches on it in the 42nd. QPR was never really in it despite owning a slight edge in overall possession. They were rewarded with the consolation goal from Matthew Phillips just seven minutes from time.

Arsenal 3-0 West Ham
This was a fairly typical Arsenal game. They dominated possession and managed several nice passing set ups, They were doing everything well except putting the ball in the net until late on. West Ham, meanwhile, rarely had a sustained attack and often were unable to send more than two players forward at a time. Olivier Giroud scored just before halftime to give Arsenal the initial lead and Aaron Ramsey was on the business end of a wonderful passing play between himself and Giroud to add the second. Mattieu Flamini added the third just for kicks mere minutes after coming on as a sub.

Leicester City 0-0 Hull City
Both teams managed a few shots, nothing went in. Tom Huddlestone was send off for Hull for a second yellow in the 72nd, so Leicester will probably feel like they should have taken all three points.

Sunderland 0-4 Aston Villa
Tim Sherwood took over for Villa and suddenly they can score goals. It was the usual suspects this time around as Chrisitan Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor each had a pair for the Villains, who have now won three straight in all competitions.

West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Stoke City
Brown Ideye scored in the 19th minute and Hull never had an answer. Even with their 57-43 advantage in possession they were unable to out shoot their opposition.

Burnley 1-0 Manchester City
Manchester City's frustrating 2015 continues as now they fall to lowly Burnley. They had a massive edge in possession and a smaller advantage in shots, but simply couldn't get one beyond Tom Heaton. Burnley employed the tried and true tactic that teams such as Arsenal and Liverpool used to defeat City. They kept nine men behind the ball, frustrating the often organized City attack. Then they just found an opportunity in the counter. It was George Boyd with the moment in the 61st on a well struck header, After that it was the typical Manchester City story, they got down and looked defeated, rarely threatening to find the equalizer. When they did threaten, it wasn't quite at full strength as a miss or easy save was usually the result. It was the first win in eight tries for the Clarets.

Southampton 1-1 Chelsea
A solid back and forth game that really opened up in the second half as both teams aimed for all three points. Diego Costa scored early for Chelsea on an open header. You never give Diego Costa an open header. Southampton leveled when Dosan Tadic converted their first converted penalty of the year. The man of the match had to be Fraser Forster. Without the Southampton keeper and his heroic (and in some cases lucky) goaltending this one probably finishes 4-1 to the home side.

Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham
United got started inside of ten minutes with Marouane Fellaini. Michael Carrick continued the slaughter in the 19th. Wayne Rooney finished the job in the 34th, complete with a wonderful celebration mocking the "controversy" surrounding his boxing with a friend in his home. It wasn't exactly the best showing for Spurs. They were down and out far before they could even get going. They only managed five shots with one reaching the target. The win keeps United in the top four and Spurs six points out.

Everton 3-0 Newcastle
This was a win Everton needed badly. While not as clinical as Manchester United's 3-0 victory, they did hold the edge in every notable stat. James McCarthy scored in the 20th, followed by Romelu Lokaku converting a penalty early in the second half, and Ross Barkley adding the third for added effect just before the final whistle. They are now slightly more comfortable in their depressing relegation battle.

Liverpool 1-0 Swansea
A nitty gritty win for Liverpool that was earned by Jordan Henderson scoring in the 68th. Liverpool did well to pepper Luckasz Fabianski with shots, so it was only a matter of tome before one of them went in.Liverpool's top four hopes are bolstered, but they still sit a pair of points behind Manchester United.

Monday, March 16, 2015

It Happened in America: MLS Matchweek 2

There were eight exciting MLS matches this weekend. Here's how they went down.

Houston Dynamo 0-1 Orlando City
A tight game in almost every respect. it came down to an own goal off of Houston's keeper Tyler Deric. Deric was simply receiving and launching a back pass when Orlando's Pedro Ribeiro got in the way, forcing him to scramble towards the goal for the ball. In the end, his only option was to reach around the Orlando striker to try and punch it wide. He failed to do that and put it right into the net. It was a drastic mistake, but let's not discredit Ribeiro for his hard work to block the initial ball, then basically force Deric into putting the ball into his own goal.

Chicago Fire 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Chicago was able to sustain consistent pressure throughout the match, but David Ousted made sure nothing found its way into the Vancouver goal. Vancouver was stuck on the counter attack most of the game, and it was Octavio Rivero taking advantage of some shady defending to give the Whitecaps the victory.

Columbus Crew 2-0 Toronto FC
Toronto put themselves in a big hole juse before halftime when Justin Morrow was sent off for denying Columbus's Ethan Finlay an obvious goal scoring opportunity. From that moment on it was all Crew as Justin Marem headed home a Finlay cross in the 57th and Kai Kamara flicked another home four minutes later.

FC Dallas 3-1 Sporting Kansas City
Blas Perez was the man again for Dallas as he scored twice from close range. The first was the result of some nice passing on a break, the second was the result of a dubious no-call. Perez was clearly offside when the cross fell to him, yet the assistant's flag stayed down. Between Perez's tallies, Roger Espinoza had equalized at one for Kansas City. Fabian Castillo put it out of reach in the 73rd as Dallas went on to claim all three points.

Real Salt Lake 3-3 Philadelphia Union
It was a barn burner in Utah that featured Javier Morales with a gorgeous free kick goal in the 29th minute to put RSL on top 1-0. It would take Union less than ten minutes to pull ahead however when Fernando Aristeguieta took advantage of back to back defensive errors that he easily converted. RSL would comeback early in with Jamison Olave chipped home a free kick in the 55th. Olave would turn the villain three minutes later when a cross took a bad bounce off him into his own goal. RSL would level on a very, very hard penalty given against Maurice Edu. It was a 3-3 draw that both sides will feel they should have won.

Seattle Sounders 2-3 San Jose Earthquakes
Clint Dempsey scored the fastest goal in Seattle history when he headed home a rebound after all of 21 seconds. Chris Wondolowski made sure that didn't last long as he equalized in the 13th. He bagged a pair just after halftime after a poor back pass by Brad Evans that Wondo managed to poach home. Victor Bernardez received a controversial red card for a dubious challenge in the 52nd. Yes, he gave a swift kick in the calf to Michael Azira, but he was going for the ball. Foul? Yes. Yellow? Yes. Red? Not in my eyes. However, not only did ten man San Jose hold on for all three points, they managed to add a third goal when Innocent Emeghara made Evans look silly again to score his first in a San Jose kit, Obafemi Martins made it a contest in the 84th with a simple tap in, but it wasn't enough.

New York City 2-0 New England Revolution
New England dominated the first half, but failed to score after having more than ample opportunity to do so. Juan Agudelo, in particular, will wonder how he didn't bag a first half hat trick. David Villa took advantage of a great break and orchestrated a one-two with Ned Grabavoy after quite the driving run to score City's goal.  After coming out swinging in the second half, New York City was given a boost when Jose Goncalves was shown straight red for denying Kyrie Shelton a clear goal scoring opportunity. The real story of this one is how many times I facepalmed at the sight of players failing to score. There was Agudelo in the first half and David Villa all game. yes he scored once, but three other times he was in on goal and only managed to shoot right into the keeper. Patrick Mullins, mere minutes after coming on as a sub, buried a Villa pass to seal the deal for NYC.

Portland Timbers 2-2 LA Galaxy
What a match. It was another draw that Portland will feel they should have won, Fanendo Adi scored his first of the year on a fantastic break out that saw him get the ball at the top of the box where he could deliver a strike inside the far post. Galaxy found the equalizer early in the second half when Gyasi Zardes beat keeper Adam Kwarasey to the ball, thus booting it in. Then, seconds before time, Adi thought he had found the winner when Darlington Nagbe received a perfect long ball from Liam Ridgewell, turned a pretty pass across the face of goal, where Adi was was waiting to tap it in. Less than two minutes later, Galaxy earned a corner that Alan Gordon headed home perfectly to seal the draw. It was the type of match that Portland has seen all too often. However, snatching draws from the jaws of victory is not a way to go about a season.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

It Happened In Europe: Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg

It was a busy first portion of the second legs in the Round of 16. Here’s how they all turned out.

Porto 4-0 Basel (5-1 Agg.)
Basel never really stood a chance in this one. Four different players scored for the Portugeuse champions and they got started after all of 14 minutes. Possession may have been even, but it was all Porto in the shots and they forced Basel to commit 19 fouls.

Real Madrid 3-4 Schalke 04 (5-4 Agg.)
This was one crazy game. After Real Madrid escaped Germany with a 2-0 away victory, all they really had to do was coast to victory on their home turf. Schalke had other plans. They got on top in the 20th, but Crisitano Ronaldo made sure that didn’t last long by equalizing five minutes later. Klaas Jan Hunelaar put Schalke ahead again in the 40th, but Ronaldo would score again after five minutes to level the leg at 2-2, basically securing a Real victory.

The second half was equally wild. Karim Benzema gave Real their first lead seven minutes after the restart, but that eould last about as long as either of Schalke’s leads. Leroy Shane renewed their hope after only five minutes of trailing. The now score stood 3-3 in the leg and 5-3 to Real on aggregate. Schalke still needed two more to win. They only got one. In the 84th, Huntelaar bagged a second to give a faint glimmer of hope, but it wouldn’t be enough. Real fought off a furious charge from the Germans and managed to limp into the quarterfinals.

Bayern Munich 7-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (7-0 Agg.)
What’s to say? After a goalless draw in Ukraine, Bayern came home and owned 74% of possession, blasted 25 shots, 11 on target, and seven went in. Shakhtar’s Oleksandr Kucher was sent off in the third minute, the quickest sending off in Champions League history.

Chelsea 2-2 PSG (3-3 Agg. PSG through on away goals)
After the almost upset on Tuesday this one followed through and gave us what we were hoping for. England’s best team had their 1-1 draw in France, needed only a simple win at home to see themselves through. Paris St. Germain didn’t let them through so easily. It didn’t start off well for the French champions, however. Their main goal threat, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was shown straight red in the 31st minute. Not only were they down a man, but they were down their number one goal scorer.

Gary Cahill thought he put the home side through in the 81st, but David Luiz equalized five minutes later for PSG. They game was slated for extra time, when PSG’s Thiago Silva handled the ball in the box, setting up Eden Hazard for an easy penalty conversion. Things looked bleak for the French side until Silva exorcised his demons by scoring a pretty headed from barely inside the box. The goal put PSG through on the away goals tiebreaker.

Next week presents more chances for upsets and comebacks. On Tuesday, Atletico Madrid will try to come back from down 1-0 as they host Bayer Leverkusen. Arsenal also heads to Monaco to try and erase a disappointing 3-1 defeat back home. Wednesday’s action sees Manchester City fight for their lives in Barcelona after losing 2-1 at home and Borussia Dortmund also tries to overcome a 2-1 deficit at home against Italian side Juventus.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It Happened in England: FA Cup Quarterfinals

The FA Cup was down to eight sides this weekend, let's look at how they turned out.

Aston Villa 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
It's hard to believe that Villa was once having trouble scoring goals. They have now managed to score twice in three of their last five matches, including this 2-0 win. Fabian Delph got it started in the 51st and Scott Sinclair sealed the deal, prompting the Villain faithful to rush the pitch before the final whistle. Backup keeper Shea Given kept the clean sheet that helped see Aston Villa through to Wembley for the semi-finals.

Bradford City 0-0 Reading
It was a cold day in West Yorkshire and the teams certainly played like it. Only one shot made it on goal and the sides will meet again next Monday for the right to go to Wembley.

Liverpool 0-0 Blackburn Rovers
The real story of this game will be how Martin Skrtel recovers from his scary head injury suffered just a few minutes into the match. He tipped over awkwardly while going for a 50/50 header and fell hard on his head. He had to be stretchered off after laying motionless on the pitch for nearly ten minutes. As far as the match, Liverpool will wonder how they failed to notch a goal. They held a 71-29 percent possession advantage, blasted 19 shots (four on target), but had zero goals. The replay is yet to be scheduled, but expect it sometime in the next week or two.

Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal
This was probably the best match of the weekend in any competition in any country. The defending FA Cup champions Arsenal got the worst possible draw in a sea of favorable opponents. They could have played any of the lower opposition, Premier League bottom feeders West Bromwich or Aston Villa, but instead had to travel to Old Trafford, where they hadn't won in nearly nine years.

The game was about as free flowing as you will see in English football. Both teams were going for broke right from the start and Arsenal was the first to score. United's back line failed to account for the sneaky offensive abilities of left back Nacho Monreal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was making one of his usual darting runs with the ball and managed to pick out the Spanish full back, who was completely unmarked. Monreal made easy work of David De Gea to put Arsenal in front.

The lead would last all of four minutes. Angel Di Maria had an awful match (more on that in a bit), but he mad one great cross to set up Wayne Rooney for a perfect header that found the back of the net.

The open play continued throughout the second half, but neither team had many stellar chances.

The second half was when the real fireworks kicked in. Things remained wide open, although they also got physical. Six of the match's eight yellow cards came after the interval. Marouane Fellaini was booked for persistent fouling, Ashley Young for a bad challenge, and Marcos Rojo for another overzealous tackle all within five minutes.

During that spree of aggressive play, Antonio Valencia flubbed a back pass aimed at David De Gea. Former Manchester United man Danny Welbeck saw this as an opportunity. He jumped on the loose ball, slipped by the desperate De Gea, and rolled it into the wide open goal to give Arsenal a 2-1 lead.

After that, United was beyond frustrated. Unable to contain Arsenal without conceding free kicks, they attempted to throw numbers forward and overwhelm the often shaky Arsenal defense. That failed quite miserably as well, leading to more frustration. It all came to a head in the 76th minute when Angel di Maria went down just outside of the box rather easily. So easily, in fact, he was booked for diving, which is really nothing new for him. He took exception to the call, made physical contact with referee Michael Oliver, and was sent off.

Mr. Di Maria's behavior was indicative of his time at Manchester United. He has shown flashes of brilliance, only to be followed up by childish decision making. His antics today, which included multiple incidents of complaining before the fateful dive, just added to the pile. He is quickly rivaling Cristiano Ronaldo in my personal “whiniest players” rankings.

Adnan Januzaj joined this party was booked for simulation in the 87th minute for an even worse display of flopping. He had Nacho Monreal beat along the outside heading into the penalty area as he felt a slight touch on his arm. After a full two steps, Januzaj fell to the turf with his arms flailing and demanding a penalty be given. Michael Oliver rightly laughed away his protests with a yellow card.

These dives were outrageous and both Januzaj and Di Maria should be nothing short of embarrassed. In both cases, had they simply continued their runs they might have created a chance to tie the score and change the fortune of the match. Not to mention the possibility to change their reputation as floppers. Instead, they let their stupidity get in the way and each contributed in their own way to Manchester United's FA Cup demise.

United was unable to press a real threat once down to ten men. In fact, they were lucky that Arsenal made a mess of a few counterattacks that very well could have ended in back breaking goals.

It was Arsenal's first win in Old Trafford since 2006, and they advance to the second consecutive FA Cup Semi-final. They have to be considered the favorites to win it all for a second year in a row.

In the draw for the semi-final, Arsenal was rewarded for their efforts with a date against the winner of the Bradford City-Reading replay. Aston Villa and their pitch invaders head to Wembley to face the winner of Liverpool against Blackburn Rovers.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It Happened in America: MLS Matchweek 1

Here's your review of last weekend's MLS action:

LA Galaxy 2-0 Chicago Fire
Galaxy had a plethora of chances in the first half that just lacked the finishing touches. Despite being outplayed early, Chicago almost went ahead early in the second half when Robbie Rogers maybe brought down Quincy Amarikwa in the box, but referee Jair Marrufo let the men play on. Galaxy finally broke through in the 65th minute when Jose Villarreal found himself on the right side of some sloppy Chicago defense to slot in an easy tally. Robbie Keane added the second just after the 80 minute mark. In reality, the 2-0 final could have been 4-0 or more.

DC United 1-0 Montreal impact
Not the most exciting match ever. Much of it was spent watching the two teams feel each other out until Jario Arrieta received a fortuitous bounce on a long ball and slotted it past the oncoming Evan Bush. Neither attack was really all that potent, as only seven shots made it on target between the two teams.

Philladelphia Union 0-0 Colorado Rapids
A 0-0 draw that probably should have gone Philly's way. They enjoyed more than 60% of the possession and held Colorado to only two shots, both off target. Then again, Union only had 4 or 16 on target, so maybe things went the way they were supposed to.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-3 Toronto FC
Probably the most exciting match of the week. It was very free flowing nad featured many almost chances to go along with the four goals. Vancouver was beyond threatening early as Octavio Rivero flubbed a shot at a gaping goal inside the six yard box. It could go down as the worst miss of the season. Rivero would make up for his mistake by burying the first of the game in the 19th minute when he got behind Toronto's high back line and beat keeper Joe Bendik one on one. Toronto was mostly lifeless for the first half hour. but that changed when new designated player signing Sebastian Giovinco made a beautiful through pass to fellow newcomer Jozy Altidore, who buried the shot to level the score. Robbie Findley finished off a wonderful toronto counterattack in the 59th to give them the lead for good. Altidore nothced his second after Po Madou Kah brought him down in the box. The American international converted the ensuing penalty to finish the 3-1 scoreline.

Houston Dynamo 1-0 Columbus Crew
Columbus enjoyed the majority of possession, more than doubled Houston's shots, and controlled all but maybe ten minutes of the game, but Housont got one strong counter attack in that saw Giles Barnes give Dynamo the 1-0 vicotry.

FC Dallas 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes
It was a seesaw battle that Dallas managed to punch through and win two minutes into stoppage time when Blas Perez headed home the winner at the end of a scramble in front. San Jose keeper David Bingham punched away a cross, but it went right to Moises Hernandez, who floated a perfect pass to Perez for the easy header.

Portland Timbers 0-0 Real Salt Lake
A 0-0 draw that probably could have been 3-0 to the Timbers. Neither team had too many chances in the first half, but Portland poured it on after the hour mark. In the closing minutes of stoppage time, I have no idea how they didn't score twice. Nick Rimando was the only reason it stayed goalless as Portland was routinely able to swing crosses in from the outside. At the end of each one, it was either Rimano making a huge save, or Portland failing to find the target.

Orlando City 1-1 New York City
Orlando's home opener in front of 62,000 at the Citrus Bowl may be a slight disappointment, but I doubt too many will say either team deserved to win. Orlando had the better chances early on, but NYC keeper Josh Saunders was up to the task. Saunders was part of a scary moment early when he was shoved in the air after collecting a cross. He slammed his head into the post on his way down. He remained in the match despite the wound on the side of his noggin. Miz Diskerud gave NYC the lead with a pretty shot from the top of the box in the 76th minute. Just before the 84 minute mark, Orlando City's Aurelien Collin was shown straight red for a malicious challenge on David Villa. That didn't stop ten man Orlando from equalizing when Kaka took a free kick that deflected off the New York wall in into the goal just before the final whistle.

Sporting Kansas City 1-1 New York Red Bulls
Two quick goals from each side early in the second half sealed the result here. Ike Opara got things started for KC in five minutes into the second frame, but the lead was squandered quickly as New York's Lloyd Sam put one behind just four minutes later. Sporting's Matt Besler was sent off for earning a second yellow in the 70th minute and ten man Kansas City held on for the draw.

Seattle Sounders 3-0 New England Revolution

No Jermaine Jones for New England meant that they were never really in the game. Seattle was the recipient of a dubious penalty call when Clint Dempsey was doubtfully tripped Juan Agudeo. Dempsey scored the easy penalty kick and the rout was on. Obafemi Martins made it 2-0 after 40 minutes and Dempsey added a second midway through the second half.