Saturday, May 30, 2015

It Happened in America: Portland stuns Colorado late, lots of penalties elsewhere

Toronto FC 3-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Thunderstorms delayed the start of this one by a little more than 20 minutes, but Toronto didn't exactly feel upset about that delay once things got started. Sebastian Giovinco almost put Toronto ahead after a quarter hour when he juked a multitude of San Jose defenders on his way towards blasting a shot off the cross bar. Toronto did go ahead in the 22nd when Giovinco played a perfect floating cross to Justin Morrow for a diving header goal. They didn't have time to get used to being ahead. Ashtone Morgan handled the ball in the Toronto penalty area less than two minutes later to give Chris Wondolowski a penalty kick, which he scored with ease. Toronto reclaimed the lead in the 33rd minute with a low hard shot from Warren Creavalle that found the lower corner. The shot should have probably never happened, however, as Giovinco appeared to have tripped a San Jose defender to set up the goal.

The weather kicked back up in the second half leading to a sloppier quality of play. San Jose started off on the front foot in the rain, but got caught with too much pressure on the attack leading to a Sebastian Giovinco led counter attack. Giovino played a low cross from inside the box to Luke Moore to make it 3-1 in the 71st minute. At this point, the deluge could be described as a driving rainstorm that looked like no fun at all to play in, but they stuck it out. Even when ahead, Toronto had the better chances  and almost added a fourth.

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Real Salt Lake
Gershon Koffie got the Whitecaps on the board first in the 36th minute,  but Javier Morales would equalize for Salt Lake a just before halftime. Goaltending, however, was the word of the day here. Both RSL's Nick Rimando and Vancouver's David Ousted made some great saves to keep the scoring down in this one. Vancouver got the winner from Cristian Techera not on a goalkeeping error, but an awful chest down by RSL's Elias Vasquez that fell right to the Whitecaps' attacker. Vancouver goes level with the Sounders for first, but Seattle has two games in hand over their Cascadia rivals.

New York City 1-1 Houston Dynamo
A pretty free flowing game that saw both sides pepper a fair amount of shots on the opposing keepers. Houston launched 15 to New York's 13, but both sides only found one goal. Houston's came from Will Bruin in the 16th minute while New York got their's from a David Villa PK success. The penalty was awarded when Raul Rodriguez clearly handled the ball in the box. The points were rightfully shared in this equally played match.

DC United 2-1 Philadelphia Union
Early on, and for much of the first half, it looked like Philly would scratch out their third win in a row against either New York Red Bulls or DC United. Sebastian Le Toux put the Union on the board in the fifth minute. They would hold on until Chris Pontius leveld during first half stoppage time. For the majority of the second half, it looked like they would hold out for a draw. But a very close call on a hand ball in the box with five minutes left of the ninety gave Chris Rolfe a PK to score the second and deciding goal. DC Continues to extend their lead in the East, they are now five points ahead of New England, who play tomorrow against LA Galaxy.

Orlando City 2-2 Columbus Crew
Ten man Columbus almost scrapped out a result in the CItrus Bowl, where Orlando City still seems to struggle mightily. The Crew got a goal early from Toni Tchani, that came in the sixth minute. Then things went downhill for them. In the 16th minute Michael Parkhurst tried to stop a shot from going in by swinging himself in front of it on the goal line. He failed to get his chest across to the ball and it struck his arm instead, resulting in a penalty and a straight red for hand ball on the line. Kaka scored on the penalty, and Orlando were level heading into the break. Kei Kamara, who else would it be for the Crew, delivered the three points for the shorthanded away side in the 61st minute. The Crew spend the remainder of the match with everyone behind the ball trying to withstand the mostly impotent Lions attack. They couldn't hold them off forever, though. In fact, they probably want the goal back. Columbus got a little too far forward and allowed Pedro Ribiero the space to score on a low curving shot from well outside the penalty area in the 88th minute to salvage the draw.

Chicago Fire 3-0 Montreal Impact
Montreal had been on a nice little run to open their delayed MLS season. They had won two in a row before Chicago welcomed them to Toyota Park and walked all over them. The entire first half belonged to the Fire as they got two goals before halftime. Of course, having Marco Donadel sent off in the 37th minute didn't help Montreal go anywhere.As for the scoring, Harrison Shipp came first in the 13th and then Jeff Larentowocz scored on a penalty right before the halftime whistle. The second half was more Chicago domination. Kennedy Igboananike scored again in the 72nd to complete the rout. And it was a rout in favor of Chicago. They didn't allow Montreal a shot on goal for the duration of things.

Colorado Rapids 1-2 Portland Timbers
The match started out fairly passively as Colorado was patient and pretty lifeless with their opening attacks. Portland was relying on speed in transition early on and they got the goal they were looking for in the 38th minute with a nice passing play between Maxi Urruti and Gaston Fernandez. Fernandez tucked his first goal of the season inside the far post and Portland was up 1-0 at halftime. 

The Timbers had quite disciplined defending for that vast majority of the second half, but they would almost come to rue their poor finishing and inability to pick out a pass on the break. They had several chances to double their advantage with Urruti and Fanendo Adi getting forward. Neither one was able to pick out the final pass that would have led to another goal. Instead, they allowed a bomb of a goal in the final minute before second half stoppage time. Sam Cronin hammered home a perfect lay off from Luis Solignac that Adam Kawarsey had no chance at.

The match was not over though. After Adi was sort of free on a breakaway and he blasted his shot into the side netting I thought it was for sure. I was quite wrong, though. The Timbers got one more chance as the clock ticked towards the end of the three minutes of added time. In another transition attack, Ishmael Yartey managed to wrestle the ball free from the Colorado defense and barely touch it on to Jack Jewsbury who couldn't miss from just a few yards out. That was the final action as the Timbers shocked three points from Colorado.

Portland had been subtly dominating this game for most of the second half. Colorado had more possession, but they were really only threatening in short bursts near the end of the match. Portland was able to do more with possession, although they missed quite a few chances at a second goal before their buzzer beater.

It was kind of how Portland has been playing lately in matches they might not be expected to win. They have been stable at the back while relying on their attacking speed to set up effective counter attacks. The only problem is the tunnel vision of their main attacking pieces of Adi, Urutti, and Darlington Nagbe. These three players, in general, are shoot first pass later types that need to learn to look for the layoff instead of putting their heads down and barreling in on the goal. If they did, we might not have to talk about late equalizers coming from their opponents and/or last second goals to snatch points.

The win puts Portland back above the red line in sixth place with 19 points, only four points behind the first place Sounders. Colorado, on the other hand, is in the basement in the West.

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