Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.

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Awkward First Touch: MLS Week Four

Posted by: Jon Marthaler under Soccer Updated: April 3, 2014 - 8:50 AM

Local broadcaster Wes Burdine (@MnNiceFC) stops by to review last week in the MLS, and look forward to the week ahead. Can he cure your springtime depression? Why not stick around and find out?


1. Seattle Sounders 1, Columbus Crew 2

This season’s Sounders have a conundrum. Their best moments on Saturday came when they pressured the Crew into coughing up the ball, and then pounced with a counter-attack - but when you’re the team with the most imposing home-field advantage int he league, you can’t really sit back and play as a counter-attacking squad.

The Sounders struck first with Franken(Kenny)Cooper scoring on a counter attack. The Crew had a chance to even the score, but hit the post - and the rebound, falling to Bernardo Anor with no keeper in the net, was headed wide. I have a feeling Anor has spent the past few days making header movements involuntarily as he relives that moment.

The game turned when Sounders center back Djimi Traore fouled Dominic Oduro in the box, earning himself a red card and giving the Crew a penalty, which was converted by Frederico Higuaín. From there, the Sounders coped well and denied the Crew a chance to get the winner for almost all of the second half. But in the fourth minnute of stoppage time, the Crew caught the Sounders unaware with a short corner and Justin Meram put a beautiful shot into the back of the net. Heartbreaking stuff for the latte-sippers.

Short Version: The Sounders fell apart at home yet again.
Highlights: Justin Meram’s ball is wonderfully curled into the back of the net from distance.

1. Colorado Rapids 2, Sporting Kansas City 3

The first half was a pretty tepid affair, the second half had a red card and five goals, but unfortunately, this game might be most notable for the referee’s role. The Rapids earned two penalties this match, which makes five for Colorado in three matches. It also means that newcomer Vicente Sanchez has four goals in three matches. The first penalty was a little questionable; the second, no question, and the same goes for the sending off of Marvell Wynne. With five minutes left in the match, Wynne made a needless tackle on Zusi to earn a yellow card and leave his teammates in the lurch.

And of course, since this was the theme this week, Sporting took full advantage when Dom Dwyer hammered a ball into the upper corner.

Short Version: If you don’t want the ref to be a big part of the game, don’t give him an excuse.
Highlights: Dwyer’s goal is a thing of wonder

3. Real Salt Lake 3, Toronto FC 0

Real Salt Lake took a little bit of air out of the over-inflated expectations of America’s Team™, Toronto FC, with a comprehensive drubbing. What’s more interesting: Toronto’s same old defensive problems, or the fact that RSL look really solid despite losing Future World Cup-winning coach Jason Kreis?

Let’s start with Toronto. They have never had a good defense, ever. I’m saving my Rob Ford jokes for later in the season, but their defense remains remarkably unstable. Putting Fire Marshal Michael Bradley in the midfield will help with those problems, but a brand new engine won’t fix the fact that your car is up on blocks… or some sort of other automotive analogy.

Real Salt Lake look almost exactly how they looked last season, and so why is it that crazy people like me think they should suffer just because their architect is working as a greeter at the Greater Manchester Area Wal-Mart? I don’t know, but even without Joao Plata, who picked up a hamstring injury, players like Luis Gil continue to quietly impress. They’re not drawing the Jermain Defoe attention, but they’re getting things done.

4. Rivalries!

Portland Timbers v. Seattle Sounders. Saturday, 2 PM CST, NBC Sports.

It’s not the most storied MLS rivalry, but its supporters make it the most exciting rivalry in the league. Last season, it was about proving who was the best. This season, it’s about proving who can pick themselves up from a slow start. Clint Dempsey will return to the Sounders lineup after sitting out two games for getting too, um, close to Mark Bloom.

Houston Dynamo v. FC Dallas. Saturday, 7 PM CST, MLS Live

This should be a much better rivalry, but supporters culture in Texas is a bit too riddled with clichés to be honest. That doesn’t take away from the fact that both of these teams are doing well out of the gates, and this will be a good test of Oscar Pareja’s impressive Dallas team.

5. Other Match-Ups to Watch

Columbus Crew v. Toronto FC. Saturday, 5 PM CST, MLS Live.

Greg Berhalter’s new Crewcelona squad versus America’s Team™.

Sporting Kansas City v. Real Salt Lake, Saturday, 7:30 PM CST, MLS Live

Energy! Pressing! US Men's National Team players with interesting hair! Plus, a rematch of the 2013 MLS Cup (and this time the temperature will hopefully be above freezing).

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