Montreal survive three first-half goals; Fire's unbeaten run hits nine; 10-man RSL struggle to salvage late draw; late Keane penalties save LA, but New York fall on the road
There were plenty of goals as a full midweek holiday program got underway on Wednesday night, with 11 scored in the first two games alone. And there were 4th of July fireworks to round off the midweek games on Thursday too - as two late Robbie Keane penalties turned the Galaxy's game against Columbus around.
There was no delay in getting the scoring started on Wednesday either. Just 23 seconds had elapsed in Toronto when the hosts fell behind to a Romero goal for the Montreal Impact. At that point, seasoned Toronto FC watchers may have been expecting an unusual variation in their team's penchant for late collapses – only for a truly unlikely sequence of events to unfold. First, Toronto hit three in the next 23 and a half minutes, via three players who had never scored in MLS: Jeremy Brockie, Steven Caldwell and Darren O'Dea. Normal service of a sort was resumed in the second half, though, as an Impact team who have become adept at shuffling their aging squad (even if the strain has become a little more apparent recently) did so again to great effect. Two goals in as many minutes in the middle of the second half turned the game around, and while either team could have won it in the final minutes, in the end this was yet another game that fell through Toronto's fingers – just not in the fashion we've become used to.
The Chicago Fire have ridden their Open Cup form and the acquisition of Mike Magee to a revival in form but it was a slightly unexpected player who was their inspiration in coming from behind to beat the San Jose Earthquakes. Dilly Duka has been rather unconvincing so far this season, but after Alan Gordon had picked up where he left off in that wild stoppage-time win over the Galaxy last weekend, by scoring a 14th-minute opener for the Quakes, Duka first pulled one back with a shot that bounced off the turf and over the keeper, then set up Patrick Nyarko to put the Fire ahead. There was still work to do after San Jose leveled again in the second half, but this Chicago side is growing in confidence with each game after a dreadful start to the season, and Duka was joined by Chris Rolfe in the "rapidly improving" column – the latter getting an 84th-minute winner to take Chicago's unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions.
Another team hoping to create a run of their own – indeed a team-record run – were the Vancouver Whitecaps, who took the field in Kansas City looking for a fourth MLS win in a row. An unexpected rainstorm had slicked the surface and cooled the stadium for what had been expected to be a slow and humidity-sapped game. In the event it was a tight one, with Sporting Kansas City's slightly ponderous form in front of goal continuing. They took the lead through a Aurélien Collin turn and shot in the box, but surrendered it just before half-time after a soft foul on the edge of the Sporting box set up Camilo to tie things up with a beautiful right-footed free-kick. Sporting pushed in the second half without looking like scoring while the Whitecaps missed out on a fourth win, but remain in positive form going into the weekend's games. They'll need to be – Seattle Sounders await, with Vancouver still looking for their first Cascadia Cup win since entering MLS.
Seattle go into that one in winning form, though their win over DC United on Wednesday night was anything but routine, as they never looked wholly convincing against one of the league's strugglers. Obafemi Martins gave them a first-half lead but Seattle could not add to it and rather labored against a hardworking DC team, for whom Chris Pontius was beginning to look something like his old self – at one point testing Michael Gspurning with a long-range shot. In the end a strong Martins run held off the covering James Riley to poke the ball past Joe Willis in second-half stoppage time and Seattle had another home win as they try to gain some traction in the Western Conference.
The Sounders are up to the edge of the playoff spots with at least two games in hand on the sides above them – four in the case of the Supporters Shield race leaders, Real Salt Lake. RSL came into their game against the Philadelphia Union hard hit by Gold Cup call-ups and it showed. There was the usual spirit we've come to expect of them of late in their charge to the top of the standings, and flashes of invention from Joao Plata, Sebastian Velasquez and Luis Gil, but after Philadelphia had taken the lead on a perfectly executed counter, then scored another opportunistic goal through Conor Casey just seconds after RSL had hauled themselves level, deep into the second half, it looked like Salt Lake's run was about to come to an end. With men committed forward to compensate for going down to 10 men after a Lovel Palmer red card on the hour, RSL should have been punished in stoppage time when Sébastien Le Toux was clean through on goal with only Josh Saunders to beat. The Union player hesitated though, Saunders recovered, and with merely seconds remaining, Ray Gaddis inexplicably handled in the box to give the hosts a lifeline. Javier Morales crashed his penalty in off the post and Wednesday night's action had ended as dramatically as it started.
Chivas USA have had another week of changes with roster cuts and additions and the eye-catching acquisition of Carlos Bocanegra — though the return of Eric Avila was just as welcomed in some circles. They took on Dallas on Thursday night and continued their recent trend of being tough to break down without yet quite suggesting where the goals are going to consistently come from. For their part Dallas continued their slow slide of the past month or so — where dramatic late goals have rather masked their deficiencies and where there've been more tied games than wins. Even their formidable home form is beginning to creak and this rather dull 0-0 did nothing to suggest a turnaround is imminent for either side.
New York Red Bulls looked to have turned a corner with a routine dispatching of Houston last weekend, but ran into a buoyant Colorado Rapids team fresh from a dramatic defeat of Montreal and regaining confidence after a brief dip of their own. A big Fourth of July crowd had turned out for a game day the Red Bulls traditionally struggle on and this one was no different as the two teams served up an untidy game where both sides had half chances, but where the Rapids proved the sharper in front of goal to run out 2-0 winners - Deshorn Brown applying the killer goal from close range on 68 minutes, after Nathan Sturgis had opened the scoring on a mad scramble in the New York box just after half time. It was, claimed New York boss Mike Petke, a "you-know-what show". They have ten days to regroup before facing Montreal.
It looked like one of those nights for the LA Galaxy attack against Columbus Crew as Zardes and Keane were continually thwarted — and when Anor looped a header over Cudicini off a Higuain free kick in the 77th minute it looked like the Galaxy were headed for yet another late goal defeat.
But there was a twist still to come as Robbie Keane scored an 85th penalty to pull LA level, and then having hit the bar with the home side pressing, he drew another penalty off some rather soft contact with the luckless Anor in injury time. He scored that one too and despite the Galaxy still finding time to scare their fans with some defensive miscues in the seconds that remained they held on to ease some of the shock of last weekend's collapse against San Jose. They're at home again on Sunday, where they'll face Dallas knowing a win would put them within a point of the once runaway Western leaders.