With the European club season drawing to a close Major League Soccer has the opportunity to occupy the attention of the North American fan more than at any other time of the year, and the good news is that this particular round of games produced some great matches with plenty of goals and incident.
It gives some idea of the value of a win in MLS when you realise that in the Eastern Conference only Philadelphia has managed to take three points in more than one of their last five games, and that they now sit atop the standings.
Their latest win came via an astonishing 6-2 win at BMO Field in Toronto; astonishing because the Union had only scored eight goals in their previous ten games but were able to tear apart a Toronto team that seems to be increasingly perplexed by coach Aron Winter’s tactics.
The other outstanding performance of the weekend came from Seattle who became the first team to win at Rio Tinto Stadium in 29 games when they beat Real Salt Lake 2-1. Their cause was helped by the sending off of Jamison Olave for preventing a goal scoring opportunity in the 58th minute and strikes by Ianni and Neagle helped the Sounders to continue to recover from their slow start to the season.
Game of the day was probably the 3-3 tie between Columbus Crew and Chivas USA in Ohio. The visitors led three times but were eventually happy to settle for a point after seeing Jorge Flores sent off for a second yellow card in the 69th minute. Chivas are another side who started slowly but are gradually moving their way up in the standings.
No doubt about who the form team is at the moment though. The LA Galaxy have won their last four games and a 1-0 win in New England confirmed their new-found resilience when a Beckham cross was met by the head of Miguel Lopez.
The Galaxy survived an amazing number of close calls at the end of the game with Landon Donovan’s late goal line clearance being the highlight, but another win leaves them with a seven point cushion at the top of the Western Conference.
For a time it looked as though the New York Red Bulls would dominate the East in the same way that LA is dominating the West, but a series of draws and losses has led to their lead being whittled away, and they only managed to pick up a point on Saturday against a Whitecaps side that hasn’t won since opening day. Eric Hassli gave Vancouver the lead from the spot but Luke Rodgers scored yet another goal in an entertaining match that left both sides wondering about what might have been.
The all Texan affair finished all square at 2-2 with Houston scoring a late equaliser against Dallas despite being down to ten men for much of the second half, and both sides will be happy that they still sit in the top three of their respective Conferences.
The game on Sunday was another that produced a flurry of goals with DC United winning 3-2 at Portland. Two penalties were at the heart of the match (both given for handball) and both were scored, but it was Josh Wolff’s goal in the 85th minute that sealed a win for a DC side that is now four games unbeaten. For the Timbers it was their first defeat at home but once again they showed the spirit that has served them well thus far.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this latest round of games was that attacking football seemed to be on the rise. Maybe teams, and more specifically coaches, are starting to realise that as few as two consecutive wins can do wonders for a teams position in the standings and are setting out to win games rather than not lose them.
It bodes well for the rest of the season and the imminent start of the Gold Cup means that even more of the beautiful game will be on our TV screens in the coming weeks. Maybe this will turn out to be the “Summer of Soccer” for North America?
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