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 Five

Posted by: Jon Marthaler under Soccer Updated: April 10, 2014 - 10:36 AM

Every week, local Major League Soccer expert Wes Burdine (@MnNiceFC) keeps us updated on the happenings in MLS. When he's not here, you can find him on the du Nord Futbol Show podcast. Wes?


1. Portland Timbers 4, Seattle Sounders 4

This match-up is like the gift that keeps on giving. It has noise, it has venom, and this time it had goals. Lots of them. Saturday’s edition of the Cascadia rivalry started early, with a third minute goal from Kenny Cooper - and from then on, mayhem ensued.

Seattle’s celebrations only lasted five minutes before Diego Chara rifled in a shot from over 20 yards out. 1-1. Only five minutes after the equalizer, Diego Valeri had the ball and his back to box at the edge of the 6 yard box, when he turned and scored off the crossbar and in. 2-1. Then came the boring part, because it took a whole 10 minutes for Clint Dempsey to find himself in space to equalize yet again for the Sounders. 2-2.

In the second half, Chara broke the brief truce by launching in a second goal from distance in the second half to put the Timbers up yet again. 3-2. Minutes later, a poor pass from Cooper was taken up by Max Urruti, who curled his shot beautifully into the corner of the net. 4-2. Game over, someone fire Sigi Schmid. That is until the 85th minute when Clint Dempsey bundled  the ball into the next. 4-3, game on? Yes, game on, because Deandre Yedlin was taken down in the box by Ben Zemanski. Clint Dempsey stepped up to take the penalty and equalize once more, and complete his hat trick in the process.

Short Version: Best game you’ll watch for a long time.
Highlights: The entire game. Seriously.

2. Portland Timbers 4, Seattle Sounders 4, continued

Both teams have struggled so far this season, but there are miles to go before teams start to stumble drunkenly into the play-offs. The Timbers, for example, started with three points from four games last season when they went on to only narrowly miss out on the Supporters’ Shield. They have three points from five games now. I wouldn’t count them out yet.

The Sounders are a bit more difficult to figure out. This was an amazing comeback for them against their arch-rivals. In addition, they looked much better on the attack than in recent weeks, and finally getting Clint Dempsey scoring is going to help quite a bit. However, they remain so wildly inconsistent, and nothing head coach Sigi Schmid has done has evened them out. They could continue to lurch wildly about.

3. Houston Dynamo 1, FC Dallas 4.

A game completely dismantled by a red card. Until the 60th minute, this was a hard-fought rivalry with a goal from each side. But then, David Horst made a late tackle that the referee thought was far more dangerous than it was, andhe red card changed the game completely. Dallas scored from the free kick which followed, and within ten minutes it was 1-4 Dallas, with former Dynamo player Je-Vaughn Watson striking twice against his old team. It was an uncharacteristic collapse from the Dynamo, who you might back to survive going a man down when they’re at home.

Short Version: A red card and a collapse—rivalry week.
Highlights: It’s a shame to make this the highlight, but Horst’s tackle that produced a red card was the pivotal point of the game.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1, Colorado Rapids 2.

This was another game that completely shifted with a red card. However, where you could say that Houston fell apart when their team went down, in this case Vancouver were single-handedly dismantled.

Most of this match was hard-fought but relatively dull, with Clint Irwin, the Rapids’ Radiohead-loving goalkeeper, doing well to keep the Whitecaps at bay. Finally, though, Darren Mattocks found a way to put one of his 38 shots into the net.

The play that produced his goal was almost textbook for how to play direct. If you watch, the ball is loose in midfield and it gets headed forward to Mattocks, who heads it on to his target partner, Kenny Miller. As Mattocks makes the run forward, Miller holds the ball long enough to then put it into Mattocks’s path and then the Jamaican forward is off to the races.

If Vancouver’s goal was beautiful for its textbook qualities, though, Colorado produced the sort of beautiful goals that cannot be found in a book. Vancouver found themselves down a man because their on-loan midfielder, Matias Laba, who was on a yellow card, rather idiotically put his hands on the ball. Two minutes after the red card, Jose Mari, a new Rapids signing during the off-season, found himself 25 yards from goal with no significant angle to score. But he shot a ball that had a bit of the Angel Summoner to it. I have no idea what sort of sorcery makes a ball act in that way, but I can only hope Mari continues to use it for good and not evil. Two minutes later Mari got a simple pass at the top of the box, which he far-too-easily side-footed into the net.

Short Version: Who the heck is Jose Mari?
Highlights: Spend the rest of your day watching the curve on Jose Mari’s first goal. Then watch his second.

What to Watch This Weekend

Unbelievably (or believably, depending on your feelings toward MLS), there are no nationally televised, English-language games on this weekend. If you don’t have MLS Live (it’s not that expensive, by the way), you can just continue on your merry way.

Two games stand out as particularly juicy:

Toronto FC v. Colorado Rapids. Saturday, 3PM, MLS Live.
Michael Bradley versus Dillon Powers. There’s a reason this isn’t on television: it’s pornography, pure and simple. Take your laptop into the basement, put on some headphones and watch this game. You’ll emerge to your 6-year-old son’s birthday party with a look of shame, but it will be worth it.

FC Dallas v. Seattle Sounders, Saturday 7:30pm, MLS Live.
First off, instead of watching this you should be watching Minnesota United FC play their first game of the season against San Antonio (http://nasllive.com/). But this game will be interesting, because I’m still so unsure of what to think of either of these teams.

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