MLS week 25 round-up

I may soon be writing a regular Major League Soccer round-up for the newly-relaunched Footy Matters site. As a possible taste of things to come, and to keep you all up to date with goings-on in one of the quickest-developing leagues in the world, here is a summary of the 25th round of matches across the pond.

All games were played on Saturday, unless stated otherwise.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Philadelphia Union (Wednesday)

After a break from MLS action in week 24, San Jose returned to winning ways against Philadelphia, but they had their goalkeeper Jon Busch to thank for the result.

Busch, playing only his sixth game of the season, made important saves, first from Fred’s long-range piledriver and then from Shea Salinas’ deflected effort in the last minute of stoppage time.

At the other end, Union ‘keeper Brad Knighton was in similarly-impressive form. He kept out Geovanni’s curling free-kick but was powerless to stop Chris Wondolowski heading in a cross from substitute Arturo Alvarez for his ninth goal of the season.

But Knighton’s heroics counted for nothing in the end, as the Union front-line – for all their efforts – could not find a way past Busch.

FC Dallas 2-2 New York Red Bulls (Thursday)

A late own goal from Jair Benitez spared New York’s blushes at Pizza Hut Park on Thursday, as Hans Backe’s team made heavy weather of the 10 men of FC Dallas.

Mehdi Ballouchy

The hosts took an early lead through Milton Rodriguez but found themselves a man down after a reckless challenge from Brek Shea on Chris Allbright saw the winger shown a straight red.

While Mehdi Ballouchy – making his debut – levelled things up, Dallas regained their lead through the impressive Eric Alexander. Rookie midfielder Alexander, who set up the opener, cleared a Dane Richards shot off the line, and also hit a post with a left-foot curler, got the goal he deserved for his efforts over the 90 minutes.

But just when the game looked to be beyond New York, Joel Lindpere sent in a low cross and Benitez – under pressure from substitute Juan Pablo Angel – could only head past Dario Sala, a replacement for the injured Kevin Hartman in goal.

Real Salt Lake 1-0 Chicago Fire

Real Salt Lake continue to keep pace with LA Galaxy atop the Western Conference table, but they made hard work of seeing off 10-man Chicago Fire.

The only goal of the game came from the penalty spot, with Alvaro Saborio converting after Wilman Conde picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Ned Grabavoy.

But despite enjoying plenty of possession, the hosts failed to build on their lead. They were restricted to long-shots from Kyle Beckerman, which were dealt with comfortably by Sean Johnson in the Chicago goal.

Columbus Crew 0-4 Seattle Sounders

Blaise Nkufo finally ended his long goal drought for the Sounders, and in some style, notching a hat-trick in a crushing victory over Columbus.

Blaise Nkufo

The Swiss forward, signed from FC Twente in the summer, opened the scoring just four minutes in, before racing past a static Crew back-line to double the lead.

A Nathan Sturgis penalty made it 3-0 before the break, and Nkufo mate the most of a great Steve Zakuani run to complete his treble with 15 minutes remaining.

Columbus’ best opportunity fell to Guillermo Barros Schelotto, but the Argentine saw his effort saved acrobatically by Kasey Keller.

Houston Dynamo 1-2 FC Toronto

Dead-ball expert Dwayne De Rosario breathed new life into Toronto’s play-off push with a late double to see off a spirited Dynamo outfit.

Houston took the lead when Brian Ching headed in an inch-perfect Brad Davis free-kick, but were lucky to still be ahead at half-time as Chad Barrett’s header flicked off the crossbar with Pat Onstad beaten.

Toronto’s pressure eventually told when De Rosario fired home his first of the game to equalise on the hour mark, a bullet of a free-kick which gave the veteran Onstad no chance.

And with the clock ticking down the Canadian international De Rosario found a way past his compatriot once more, securing a perfect start for new Toronto coach Nick Dasovic

Colorado Rapids 3-0 New England Revolution

There is no stopping Omar Cummings at the moment. Fresh from scoring the MLS goal of the week against New York, the Jamaican international was quick off the mark to open the scoring as Columbus brushed aside a New England side in freefall.

Omar Cummings

After Cummings tucked home Jamie Smith’s through-ball, Conor Casey set his sights with a 20-yard right-footed piledriver which smacked off Matt Reis’ post.

And Casey then showed he is just as good with his left, netting the Rapids’ second before half-time, and former Revs midfielder Wells Thompson completed the rout late on.

New England will need to avert their current slide if only to restore some pride, and they had Reis to thank for preventing further embarrassment.

LA Galaxy 2- 1 DC United

Galaxy needed a very late show from talisman Landon Donovan to avoid a shock defeat against a resurgent DC United.

Pablo Hernandez had already fired one warning shot before Andy Najar opened the scoring from 12 yards, and Los Angeles were huffing and puffing with nothing to show for their efforts.

That was, until a defensive mix-up allowed Donovan to round Troy Perkins and slide home an equaliser.

The goal took the stuffing out of basement side DC, and more suspect defending saw Edson Buddle’s deep cross find its way to the deadly Donovan, whose looping header cruelly dropped just under the crossbar.

Chivas USA 0-2 Kansas City Wizards

Late goals from Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury kept Kansas City’s play-off hopes alive, but left Chivas’ hanging by a thread.

Kei Kamara

Chivas thought they had the lead early on, but Ben Zemanski’s effort was chalked out for a push on Jimmy Conrad.

The game looked to be heading for a stalemate, but Sierra Leone forward Kamara had other ideas. He latched on to his own flick on to volley brilliantly past Michael Umana and break the deadlock.

And with the hosts pushing for an equaliser, rookie forward Bunbury broke clear and fired high into the corner of Umana’s net to seal the victory.

Player of the week: Jon Busch (San Jose Earthquakes)

Helped his team to a vital three points with several top-class saves, remaining calm behind a shaky defence.

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