Sporting KC's stadium debuts; Crew's Cunningham frustrated
Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things you should know about Week 13:
Seattle and Vancouver met for the first time in an MLS match, so the night was destined to be something special. The Whitecaps, still hunting their first win for interim coach Tom Soehn, scored early but then bunkered as Seattle poured on the offense inside Qwest Field. The Sounders finally hit for one in the 81st, then another three minutes later for a 2-1 lead.
Predictably, the usual sellout crowd was nutso about it all.
This is a good point to mention that Whitecaps forward Eric Hassli might be the most interesting man in MLS. Something crazy and/or eventful is always happening around that man. He already leads the league in red cards, some feat for a forward. One of them, remember, was a second caution for removing his shirt in goal celebration, a stunt that deserves Hall of Fame status in nincompoopery.
But he's also a pretty salty striker. And his late equalizer for the Whitecaps probably even left the Sounders applauding. If you haven't seen it, do. When Seattle's Osvaldo Alonso loses possession in a bad spot, near the corner of his own penalty area, Hassli immediately puts together the plan. So he pops the ball into the air with his first touch and then, summoning all the audacity in Washington state,
Down the coast, wildness was happening inside the Home Depot Center as well, where beleaguered Toronto FC faced long odds against Los Angeles. And it was a motivated Galaxy side, too, coming off a poor night, a draw at home against D.C. United.
Toronto conceded an early goal and then lost one of its top players when David Beckham chopped down TFC midfielder Tony Tchani from behind. That's evocative subplot No. 1, for it's the second terrible tackle Beckham has gotten away with this year. At least he didn't injure D.C.'s Josh Wolff earlier this year. Get well soon, Tony Tchani.
The Galaxy seemed to find the game winner when Juan Pablo Angel struck in extra time, only his third this year. But then TFC's Alan Gordon manufactured the next great "Are you kidding me?" moment.
L.A. fans remember Gordon, unfortunately, for his litany of near misses and squandered chances when he wore the Galaxy shirt. So it was insult-to-injury type stuff when Gordon, who had scored the first Toronto goal, nailed a beauty of a 94th-minute equalizer. He won the original header on a long ball forward, then found a ball that L.A. failed to clear and volleyed it wonderfully into the upper corner.
That's why Kansas City players, coaches and fans came unhinged after a particularly galling incident late in SKC's scoreless draw with Chicago on Thursday. Sunday's highly deserved 4-1 win in Dallas takes some sting off Thursday's events, but it still deserves comment.
Michael Kennedy is a veteran MLS referee -- for whatever that means to you. He hasn't been used much this year but the referee pool is stretched right now, mostly due to Gold Cup. So Kennedy was the man in the middle, but absolutely blew it at the critical moment against Chicago -- at what should have been a massive moment for the Sporting Kansas City franchise.
Late in a 0-0 deadlock, Chicago Fire defender Bratislav Ristic completely wiped out SKC attacker Omar Bravo as he drove inside the Fire penalty area. It wasn't even close. In fact, Ristic's tackle was studs-up, as ill-advised and reckless as they come.
What a moment! Sporting Kansas City, on the debut night inside its lovely new park, a man down after goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen handled a ball outside his 18 ... and yet they are about to get the penalty kick and perhaps score the goal that every fan, player and SKC supporter will always remember on a special night.
Except that Kennedy defied all logic and waved "play on." It really was a stunningly poor decision.
"For the referee to miss the moment in an environment like this tonight, there is not a place in the world where it would have been missed like it was tonight," Vermes said. "I'm extremely upset for the organization, for the fans and our team, because they did enough to win the game tonight."
PK decisions happen every game. Referees get some right and some wrong -- but rarely is the wrong decision as egregious as that one.
That's why Nowak's men can't afford any more slips like Saturday's inside PPL Park. The Union was all over Real Salt Lake for a half, unlucky not to be ahead by more than a goal. The second half was a different story as the Union lost initiative. RSL was lucky that a foul wasn't called before Fabian Espindola's second-half equalizer, but RSL did well enough after the break to deserve the draw.
Up next for Nowak's men in June: a juicy opportunity for road points at Vancouver and winnable home games against Kansas City and Chivas USA. There's still a lot of season left, but the points gained in June count just as much as ones collected later this summer -- and the Union would do well to remember it.
"It's very frustrating," defender Jordan Harvey told MLSSoccer.com. "We had them on the ropes in the first half and we didn't put them away, and it came back to bite us in the butt."
Three months in, and Cunningham still has 132.
He could certainly still get his goals -- but it's no guarantee. He hasn't really been in coach Robert Warzycha's plan and is only playing now because of injuries around Crew Stadium.
Cunningham was in the middle of a somewhat comical scene during Columbus' midweek 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake. Warzycha had designated Cunningham as the penalty taker on the day. And wouldn't you know, a penalty was awarded! But Andres Mendoza, desperate to earn some of his Designated Player salary, wouldn't let Cunningham have the ball. Mendoza scored. Cunningham made nice in the press afterward.
On Sunday, Cunningham spent 73 undistinguished minutes on the field in the Crew's 1-0 loss at home to Chicago. Getting shut out at home by Chicago is not a recipe for further playing time for any striker.
Cunningham, 34 years old and probably at his last MLS stop, probably will get his goal. Maybe even two of them. But if you're a big Jaime Moreno fan (and there are plenty) you do have hope.
Goalkeeper: Greg Sutton (New York)
Defenders: Drew Moor (Colorado), Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), Aurelien Collin (Kansas City), Gonzalo Segares (Chicago).
Midfielders: Mauro Rosales (Seattle), Sam Cronin (San Jose), Graham Zusi (Kansas City).
Forwards: Eric Hassli (Vancouver), Alan Gordon (Toronto), Stephen Lenhart (San Jose).
Major League Soccer's facility situation, economically unsustainable and generally pretty dreary just 10 years ago, keeps marching in the right direction. It certainly did when Livestrong Sporting Park opened last week in Kansas City. So all variables considered (facility itself, surface, economics, location, transportation, etc.) here is where everyone ranks: