Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
The Columbus Crew has made a nasty habit out of surrendering the opening goal, having done so in each of its last six contests. But on the plus side, Columbus has battled back to earn a draw three times during that stretch, against Seattle, Chivas USA and New York.
Hosting Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, the Crew finally did enough to come from behind and pick up the full three points.
After falling behind early on a Jamison Olave tally, Columbus used an Andres Mendoza penalty kick and a deflected strike from Josh Gardner to score twice in the final 14 minutes and defeat Salt Lake 2-1.
Although there was some controversy over Mendoza taking the penalty kick (Sebastian Miranda and Chad Marshall both appeared to unsuccessfully lobby Mendoza to let Jeff Cunningham, one goal away from the all-time MLS scoring record, take it), the end result was all that mattered to the Crew.
"It was about time we got the extra goal," coach Robert Warzycha said after the match. "Whether it was against Seattle [May 7] or Chivas [May 28] or tonight, we created enough chances to come out on top, but the ball somehow didn’t want to go in the back of the net. … In the end we pushed for a goal and we got rewarded."
Here is some more news from around the Eastern Conference:
As Chicago takes its 10-game winless streak into Livestrong Sporting Park for Kansas City's long-awaited home opener Thursday, the Fire continues to adjust to playing a more direct style under interim coach Frank Klopas as opposed to the patient build-up requested by former coach Carlos de los Cobos.
"Carlos wanted us to play straight from the back," midfielder Daniel Paladini told the Daily Herald of Chicago. "Let's see if we can build from the back. And we did well — it just wasn't as productive. If you get pinched in the ball, you're 30 yards away from your goal rather than 60 yards away from goal. It's a big difference."
One of the six United players selected to the MLS All-Star ballot Wednesday was midfielder Chris Pontius, who, after missing much of last season with a lingering hamstring injury that eventually required surgery in September, leads D.C. in minutes played and is also second on the team with four goals.
"I don't think any of us are really surprised with the way Chris is playing," coach Ben Olsen said. "Last year, you can kind of just wash that away because he was injured. He was never fast, he could never get to top speed, and then he was out after the surgery for quite a while. So it's been great to have a healthy Chris Pontius. I think he puts guys on their heels."
The abrupt departure of Spanish signing Koke has left Houston a bit short-handed up front, but the Dynamo should receive a boost Saturday against Chivas USA, as veteran striker Brian Ching expects to dress after being limited by various injuries to just 91 minutes thus far this season.
"I feel a lot better," said Ching, who is most recently recovering form plantar fasciitis, to The Houston Chronicle. "My foot feels good. The real test is going to be Thursday when I try to jump into a full training session. If I get through that, I'll feel great for Saturday."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
After scoring just two goals in its last seven games in all competitions, New England is trying to pinpoint what exactly isn't clicking on offense. In the wake of Saturday's 1-0 loss to FC Dallas, coach Steve Nicol said the struggles can be attributed to a simple lack of care with the ball.
"A lot of the problems we had were giving the ball away," Nicol said to ESPN Boston. "We either gave it away or didn't give a good pass when we were not under any pressure."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Midfielder Joel Lindpere quickly squashed rumors published in the Daily Mail that he has interest in returning to Europe during the midseason transfer window to be closer to his family and potentially join English side Leicester, telling the New York Post, "No, no, not this summer."
New York has "important games every week, so I don't see too many options that I can go from here, because I have a contract and Red Bull need me," Lindpere said.
PPL Park may only be a year old, but Union officials are already exploring the idea of expanding the 18,500-capacity stadium. In a Philadelphia Inquirer report, team chief executive officer Nick Sakiewicz said the club could start construction to increase capacity to 20,000 by 2014. Additional phases could eventually bring seating to about 30,000.
"We are being strategic and trying to be smart about how and when to expand the building," Sakiewicz said.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Thursday provides another historic night for MLS, as Kansas City will finally open Livestrong Sporting Park, a soccer-specific stadium that has been more than 15 years in the making. After the team started the season with a grueling 1-6-3 road trip, captain Davy Arnaud, who has played his entire 10-year career in Kansas City, couldn't be more excited.
"I was trying to go to sleep [Sunday] and I was just thinking about everything: the game, the fans, just thinking how long I've been here and how this day has been talked about," Arnaud said to The Kansas City Star. "I can't put into words how excited I am after all this time that I get to experience it."
Earlier this month, Toronto released youth academy players Keven Aleman, Dino Gardiner and Jonathan Lao from the club's system because they refused to sign a letter of commitment that would bind them to the team for two years. This week, Director of Player Development Paul Mariner defended the move to CBC Sports as a "policy decision."
"When you are spending per year in excess of $18,000 on an academy player like we are, then we think it's only right that the player give two years to Toronto FC, and then from there hopefully sign a professional contract," Mariner said.