Photo by Andrew Katsampes/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
When it comes to set pieces, few can contend with the Houston Dynamo.
That much has been true all season, and it was proved again Wednesday night. With Houston on the verge of defeat at the New England Revolution, midfielder Carlo Costly skied to connect with Brad Davis' corner kick and direct a shot on goal. Although Matt Reis came up with the save, defender Bobby Boswell was there to poke home the equalizer from close range and give the Dynamo a 1-1 draw.
As defender-midfielder Geoff Cameron described it, Houston was simply able to capitalize on "our size and our ability crash in the box."
"Our services are great," Cameron said. "You get tall guys like Cam Weaver, Brian Ching, myself, Bobby Boswell — we're crashing the net and we're a force to reckon with."
Said New England coach Steve Nicol: "They're a handful. They've got, what, six, seven guys of 6-3, 6-4? So it's difficult set piece-wise against them – it's really difficult."
Here are some more notes from around the Eastern Conference:
Rumors connecting midfielder Marco Pappa with FC Twente have spread rapidly in the past week, but if there is any interest from the Dutch side, it's news to the Chicago brass.
"We haven't been contacted by any team in Europe regarding Marco," interim coach Frank Klopas said to the Daily Herald of Chicago. "I think Marco's a good, talented player. It's great people are writing stuff like that, if it's rumors or not. I can tell you the league hasn’t been contacted and we haven't been contacted by any clubs to this point."
You wouldn't know it considering Columbus' recent surge in the standings, but the Crew has been missing several key contributors to injuries in recent weeks. Midfielder Dilly Duka and striker Emilio Renteria returned from their ailments Saturday in Columbus' 3-1 win over New England, and defender-midfielder Rich Balchan, recovering from an adductor strain, resumed training this week.
"It was exciting to see because we all came in at the same time doing rehab together," Balchan told MLSsoccer.com. "It was good to see them make a seamless transition back onto the field, and I hope I can do the same."
When United faces the Chicago Fire on Thursday night in the Windy City, coach Ben Olsen will have an unfamiliar luxury: nearly a full complement of players at his disposal. Goalkeeper Joe Willis (back spasms), defender Jed Zayner (knee sprain) and midfielder Branko Boskovic (torn ACL) are the only players listed on United's injury report.
"It's a lot of options," Olsen said. "I'm not afraid to make changes, even after we do well, to make sure we're putting what we think is the best 11 to get a result."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The Revolution saw a crucial win at home slip away Wednesday when Houston used a 90th-minute equalizer to grab a 1-1 draw, and coach Steve Nicol acknowledged that his side was on its heels throughout the contest while trying to cling to its one-goal lead.
"To lose the two points in the 90th minute obviously sticks in the throat," Nicol said. "But if we're honest, we were under a lot of pressure tonight and we stood up well, but we just couldn't hang on at the end."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
The Red Bulls may be mired in a horrific slump made particularly bewildering by the team's core of veteran stars, but coach Hans Backe said his squad still has what it takes to make some considerable noise come playoff time.
"Absolutely, this is a playoff team," Backe said to MLSsoccer.com "And if we reach the playoffs, I am absolutely sure we will be very dangerous."
Already a team contending for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Union became all the more dangerous last week when the club acquired U.S. national team midfielder-forward Freddy Adu. To Adu, who won an MLS Cup his rookie season with D.C. United, all the pieces for a successful run seem to be in place.
"From the little I've been here, I see so much talent on the field," Adu said to PhiladelphiaUnion.com. "I think we have the ability to be a really, really good club, and I'm proud to be part of the team."
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Kansas City has no doubt enjoyed a considerable home-field advantage since Livestrong Sporting Park opened in June. But Wednesday night's 3-1 win over Portland probably didn't feel like too much of a home game to goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, who was struck in the face by the head of an Omar Bravo bobblehead doll.
"First, I thought I walked into the post," he said to the Kansas City Star. "Then I realized I was a long way from the post. I had a crazy headache. I was like, 'Oh my God, I need to lie down for a second.' Then I saw I was bleeding."
Toronto will travel to Panama on Thursday night to face Tauro FC in Champions League play and kick off what will be a busy stretch for the Redsas they balance their international obligations with the MLS calendar.
"I think it's a great experience for young guys to go to different environments," goalkeeper Stefan Frei said to TorontoFC.ca. "There is a lot of traveling, but I think we are a pretty deep team."