MLS themes mirrored storylines from Champions League final
When MLS announced Chelsea as the opponent for the MLS All-Star Game a little more than a month ago, the Blues were in the midst of being written off ahead of their UEFA Champions League semifinal clash with FC Barcelona. Sure, Chelsea has a history with MLS (2006 All-Star Game), still had the glamour name, the high payroll and some headlining players, but it was certainly not a team that was likely to enter the summer coming off the high of any tangible success. Nobody could have imagined that after the announcement Chelsea would evolve into the European club champions before making their way to PPL Park on July 25.
Chelsea, fresh off a Champions League/FA Cup double, will indeed be bringing that championship clout to America this summer though, and they will be facing off against the Seattle Sounders, Paris-St. Germain and AC Milan in the United States along with the MLS All-Stars. Marketing for each of those matches became a tad bit easier of an undertaking following Saturday's result at Allianz Arena.
Sene, the New England Revolution striker and a former Bayern Munich reserve, drew a first-half penalty on Houston Dynamo star Brad Davis. Undeterred by what transpired for his former teammates, Sene fought off the Revolution's usual penalty-kick taker, captain Shalrie Joseph, to take the spot kick. Sene proceeded to bury his penalty by Tally Hall with full confidence and doubled his luck in the second half, scoring a goal off a brilliant run down the left after forcing Geoff Cameron to lose the ball at the midfield line. With six goals on the season, the expressive, inventive and creative Sene is looking like the leading man the Revolution have lacked up front for some time, and the much-maligned Revolution front office deserves credit for landing a player of Sene's caliber.
Sene's magic could only conjure up a point for the Revolution, though, who succumbed a late equalizer to the Dynamo's Luiz Camargo and settled for a 2-2 draw, which in the end was probably a deserved result between two clubs that engaged in an even, physical battle all game.
De Rosario needed 55 seconds to burn one his former sides, Toronto FC, scoring the fourth-fastest goal in D.C. United history off a stellar free kick from Branko Boskovic to ratchet up the degree of difficulty for Toronto's quest for its first MLS point. De Rosario did it again right before halftime, scoring the eventual game-winner in the 3-1 result off a nifty combination between Josh Wolff and Chris Korb (are there any players not contributing for D.C. these days, by the way?). For those keeping track, that's now five De Rosario goals against Toronto FC since he became a member of D.C. United less than a year ago, and 13 against former teams -- San Jose, Houston, New York, Toronto -- in his career.
With Toronto establishing a new low by falling to an MLS record-worst 0-9-0 to begin the season, it would be quite symbolic, and almost appropriate, that De Rosario's actions have a hand in jettisoning out the current regime, the same one that escorted him out of his hometown a little more than a year ago. With things continuing to unfold as they are, it can't be long before those major changes become a reality, no matter if Toronto prevails in the second leg of this week's Canadian championship final.
No, the Cascadia Cup opener between the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps was no Champions League final, but it had the same characteristics and some parallels that made the Bayern Munich-Chelsea match so enthralling.
Fredy Montero played the Didier Drogba role of hero, doing the honors with his beautiful 90th-minute strike to pull the Sounders level after a riveting 2-2 battle at BC Place. While the Whitecaps will point to Montero's moment of brilliance as the reason they ultimately did not secure all three points at home, the club had ample chances to put the Sounders away early. Rookie Darren Mattocks, making his first MLS start, had three golden chances to score, but he missed every one in spectacular fashion before coming off for hitman-turned-super sub Eric Hassli just after the hour mark. Omar Salgado, getting another start out on the wing, had himself a decent day overall, but he also missed an open net after powering by Jeff Parke during a first half in which it looked like the Sounders were arriving as late as most viewers, who still had extra time and a penalty shootout in Munich on which to focus.
Seattle, operating with the attacking foursome of Montero, Eddie Johnson, Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez for the first time together all season, turned things around after halftime, though, counterpunching Vancouver, playing with emotion and turning the matchup into a thrilling contest. With even more Cascadia matches this season because of the unbalanced schedule, Saturday's game provided a nice glimpse into what the heated three-way rivalry has to offer.
The New York Red Bulls continue to be unfazed by key absences and are on perhaps the most unlikely five-game winning streak the league has ever seen after their 2-1 triumph in Montreal. Despite being down the injured quintet of Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Wilman Conde, Teemu Tainio and Jan Gunnar Solli and then going down a man with Victor Palsson getting sent off, the Red Bulls showed their mettle by edging an improving Impact side on the road. The club came up a short-handed winner through Dane Richards and got yet another inspired performance in goal by rookie Ryan Meara to continue its improbable run in the face of extreme adversity.
Just like Montreal could not take advantage of New York's absences (and the man advantage), neither FC Dallas nor the Philadelphia Union could capitalize on either team's personnel woes in their matchup. Suspensions ruled out Dallas' Brek Shea and Zach Loyd and Philadelphia's Freddy Adu, while the Union were without concussed goalkeeper Zac MacMath as well. Granted, Shea and Loyd are two big components of Dallas' lineup, but the hosts had to be disappointed not to take a full three-point haul off the Union considering how much disarray Philadelphia is in after the trade of captain Danny Califf and lack of playmakers on the field. What emerged instead was a slugfest between two desperate 2011 playoff sides who don't have much going for them these days, and it showed, with both teams lacking the killer instinct despite their opponents' personnel weaknesses.