Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday MLS: Timbers rule Cascadia, NYC asserts itself in first

Portland Timbers 3-1 Seattle Sounders
The first match between these two bitter northwest rivals was loud and intense early on. The Timbers looked to be doing better with the ball in the opening quarter hour. They saw a (weak) penalty shout and Lucas Melano missing an absolute sitter as their early chances. Seattle countered nicely and Jordan Morris mysteriously missed a point blank shot in the 17th. Portland's dominance was rewarded in the 44th minute when Melano did something right for the first time in the match. He won a 50-50 ball along the touchline in midfield, worked a give and go with Diego Valeri, then picked out Valeri again for the low shot inside the far post and the Timbers had a half time lead.

Seattle's second half mission was to make a little more of their possession advantage and to slow down the quick and dangerous Portland counterattack. They wasted little time in creating chances for themselves. Jake Gleeson had to make a couple nice saves within the first three minutes of the restart. It was Diego Valeri making the noise, though. The Timbers' maestro somehow looped a shot over Stefan Frei, off the far post, and into the net in the 50th minute. It was an impossibly goal, even for Valeri's standards.

A series of corners in the 59th minute would produce the Sounders' first goal.  Their tenth of the afternoon finally beat Gleeson thanks to a rocket header from Chad Marshall. Portland would extinguish that flame all of five minutes later. In the 64th minute Melano spearheaded a counter attack with a box to box run with the ball before picking out Fanendo Adi for the easy finish. That more or less ended it for Seattle. Portland was able to use their drive and the general apathy from the Sounders to tidily sew this match up into three points in this massive rivalry.

The win puts the Timbers over the red line into sixth place and leaves the Sounders in the Western basement, nine points back of a postseason spot.

Montreal Impact 1-3 New York City FC
New York City might actually be a good team. They went into Montreal and took it to one of their fellow Eastern favorites. David Villa opened the scoring in the 35th minute with a nifty move past the Hassoun Camara at right back and taking a well placed shot into the far corner. Rookie of the year candidate Jack Harrison doubled the lead seconds before the half time whistle with a stunning move to take down Ambroise Oyongo and sniping a shot past a helpless Evan Bush.

Montreal gathered a little bit of life in the 55th minute. Harry Shipp with a long range shot that Josh Saunders would really love to have back. The goal didn't provide the morale boost that the Impact were hoping for. Instead, they failed to really get much going and eventually conceded an insurance goal to Frank Lampard. The former Chelsea star was just in the right place at the right time to knock the ball home and seal three points for the still first place NYCFC. Montreal is lagging behind in fourth, but still in the race for the top spot in the East.

Philadelphia Union 2-2 New York Red Bulls
A nationally televised game agaisnt one of the proven powers in the Eastern Conference was enough to bring a large crowd to Philadelphia for the first time in recent memory. That capacity crowd was a little disappointed at half time, though. The New York Red Bulls asserted their authority early on in the match. Sacha Kljestan was the harbinger of that disappointment. His first half brace included a 27th minute goal after a careless turnover by Philly in their own end and a deflected free kick just before the break.

The Union would storm back in the second half. A pair of goals in as many minutes leveled the score for a fantastic final finish. First, a penalty allowed C.J. Sapong to capitalize from the spot in the 67th. Chris Pontius would equalize in the 68th to get the crowd really back into the match. The momentum seemed to take a hit in the 72nd when Ilsinho was sent off for violent conduct in the 72nd, but ten men Union carried on and kept the pressure on their superior numbered foes. The pressure lead to chances, but no goals and the sides shared an exciting point.

That keeps the Union three points back of New York City atop the East, but they do have a game in hand. The Red Bulls are two points back in third.

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