Chris N (follow on Twitter: @ChrisTSC)
Tue 1 September 2009

Football Americana Week 24: leaders stumble

Week 24 threw up a few little surprises in Major League Soccer, including defeat for both Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew, another win for New York Red Bulls and something vaguely resembling consistency from Real Salt Lake.

The week's action began in Salt Lake last Wednesday, where RSL thumped Chivas USA 4-0. Pablo Campos headed in Fabian Espindola's cross to put RSL ahead and give them a half time lead. Espindola turned scorer for the second, attacking the Chivas box and picking out the far corner brilliantly. In the last ten minutes, Robbie Findley twice turned Carey Talley inside out and twice found the back of the net to turn this one into a rout.

It finished goalless between Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC at Qwest Field on Saturday. Both teams had some remarkable chances to win it, Toronto in particular suffering from terrible finishing on a night which doubtless saw Dwayne DeRosario frustrated at the inability of his colleagues to be clinical with the opportunities he created for them. Sounders midfielder Freddie Ljungberg let his temper get the better of him and got a yellow card during an altercation in the second half - he was lucky he didn't turn it into red immediately.

Saturday's visitors to Gillette were San Jose Earthquakes and their hosts New England Revolution picked up yet another win in their hunt for a playoff spot which looked unlikely a few weeks ago. Steve Ralston raced onto a Shalrie Joseph flick-on and poked the ball past Joe Cannon for the opener, before Wells Thompson bent a stunning shot into the top corner for 2-0. Ramon Sanchez headed in a stoppage time consolation for the Quakes.

DC United went to Chicago Fire and snapped a long winless streak with a 1-0 victory. With 11 minutes gone, Christian Gomez bent in a free kick from deep and Bryan Namoff glanced it into the bottom corner. The Fire created some chances to equalise but nothing clear cut, and United held out pretty comfortably despite a late "discussion" between goalkeeper Josh Wicks and defender Marc Burch.

Real Salt Lake played their second match of the week at CommunityAmerica Ballpark where they needed just one goal to defeat the struggling Kansas City Wizards. Pablo Campos scored again, winning it for RSL with a superbly worked team goal in the 18th minute, though the Wizards defence was static throughout the move. The Wizards should have tied the game in the first half but suffered from woeful finishing. Just before the break, RSL's Ned Grabavoy was sent off for a very late studs-up challenge. With the exception of more bad Wizards finishing, the second half was nothing like as eventful.

Saturday was derby day in Carson, where LA Galaxy faced Chivas USA at HDC. One goal was enough for the Galaxy, but it took until the 80th minute to arrive. An attacking Galaxy throw-in went loose on the edge of the box and David Beckham found the net via the turf and the post to notch his first MLS goal of the season. Chivas striker Maykel Galindo had a terrible evening, putting in a display of poor finishing that would teach Ade Akinbiyi a thing or two and getting a red card late on. In the last few minutes Beckham and Landon Donovan almost combined to create a goal that would've been good enough to sweep away any residual unrest.

The weekend's big surprises came in Sunday's matches. First, Houston Dynamo fell to a deserved 1-0 defeat at the hands of Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Julien Baudet headed a second half corner past Pat Onstad to secure three points for the Rapids. Brad Davis was sent off for Houston late on.

And in Jersey, New York Red Bulls surprised everybody by picking up a second consecutive win, this one against in-form Columbus Crew. Dane Richards scored the only goal of the game, crossing the yellow halfway line and the yellow 18-yard line at pace before finishing his blistering break with a shot over the yellow goal-line and into the net. Columbus Crew's five-game winning streak came to an end.

Week 24 is over and the playoff race is really heating up. Columbus and Chicago are the top two in the East, but New England and DC United lead the hunt to catch them. In the West, Houston and LA are being targeted by Seattle, Colorado, Real Salt Lake and Chivas. Currently occupying the four wild card slots are Seattle, Colorado, RSL and New England.

Full results and standings here.
For more great football writing by Chris Nee, visit TwoFootedTackle.com...

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