MLS Week 7 Rewind: RSL, Union Red-Carded, Pontius Gets Hat Trick

Juan Carlos Salas@juancsalasContributor IIIApril 23, 2012

MLS Week 7 Rewind: RSL, Union Red-Carded, Pontius Gets Hat Trick

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    Whatever it was that you were expecting from this weekend's Major League Soccer action was probably blown out of the water by Sunday evening.

    We saw possibly everything imaginable occur during Week 7 of the 2012 campaign.

    There were several red cards given out there between Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union's matches.

    New York Red Bulls' defense was split open by D.C. United, and there were late heroics between the LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids.

    Let's not forget Toronto FC's loss—apparently some things don't change.

    It was the good, the bad and the ugly for MLS teams, so here's a breakdown trying to make sense of the mess of Week 7.  

Five Red Cards

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    There were five red cards handed out in two matches Saturday evening. 

    Two of those red cards were given to Real Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave against the San Jose Earthquakes.

    In the 29th minute, Espindola dove into a tackle with both feet, exposing his studs to catch San Jose's Sam Cronin. Referee Elias Bazakos didn't think twice and immediately went to his back pocket to pull out the red card. 

    Forty minutes later, in the 69th minute, Olave was caught one-on-one against Steven Lenhart. The two were in a tug match, but Lenhart fell to the ground first. Bazakos blew his whistle for the foul, and the mandatory red card followed as Olave was the last defender.

    The remaining three red cards were given to the Philadelphia Union during the last 15 minutes of its match against Chivas USA.

    Keon Daniel came in with a late and reckless challenge on Ryan Smith. Referee Juan Guzman thought it was worthy enough of a red card and sent Daniel packing early.

    Ten minutes later, midfielder Gabriel Farfan slid into James Riley. The foul not only led to Farfan being red-carded, but also created a scuffle on the field and an ejection of Philadelphia head coach Peter Nowak.  

    Philadelphia was already leading Chivas, 1-0, and the Rojiblancos couldn't take advantage playing two men up. 

    Meanwhile, the Earthquakes didn't take the lead until stoppage time, when Simon Dawkins scored the game-winner in the 92nd minute. Chris Wondolowski sealed it for San Jose a minute later for the final 3-1 win. 

Philadelphia Head Coach Peter Nowak Ejected

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    Continuing from the multiple-red-cardd incident, Peter Nowak being ejected from the game was probably the most embarrassing moment of the entire weekend.

    Farfan's tackle may have occurred right in front of the Philadelphia bench, but that shouldn't have given Nowak the right to rush the field and get in front of players' faces.

    If you look closely at the video, Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser reacts in similar fashion, but he stops next to the assistant referee. Nowak, on the other hand, is already on the field even before the referee shows Farfan the red card.

    I understand passion. I love seeing passion in players and coaches. But there is a fine line between passion and stupidity, and Nowak crossed that line on Saturday. 

    Broadcaster Allen Hopkins made a good point, saying that MLS has been cracking down on unnoticed or unpunished incidents. And surely the league's disciplinary committee will look at the footage of this match in order to apply further sanctions. 

    MLS announced that Nowak will be the head coach of the MLS All-Stars against Chelsea at the MLS All-Star Game. However, I'm not quite sure if it's for the league's best interest to have him as the All-Star coach.

    According to the league, Nowak has already been suspended for one match, but I wouldn't be surprised nor empathetic if Nowak eventually gets relieved from his coaching duties for the All-Star Game. 

Chris Pontius Decimates Red Bulls' Defense

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    With all the nasty soccer that was seen Saturday evening, it was a completely different kind of dirty that was on display when D.C United defeated the New York Red Bulls, 4-1, on Sunday.

    Chris Pontius, United's forward -turned-midfielder-turned-forward-again, dazzled the fans at RFK Stadium with his three-goal performance and avenged last year's 4-0 home loss to New York.

    Eight minutes into the match, Pontius stripped the ball from Thierry Henry in the midfield and blasted the ball from about 20 yards out to give D.C. the 1-0 lead. 

    In the 32nd minute, he again found the back of the net after Maicon Santos' shot from the edge of the six-yard box, after Santos had dodged several tackles along the end line, was deflected and the ball landed on front of the feet of Pontius.

    The hat trick was wrapped up with spectacular fashion as the Southern California native dribbled the ball down the midfield, through several tackles, and slid it past New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara. 

    Pontius came into MLS as a forward from UC Santa Barbara but was shifted as a wide midfielder. He suffered a season-ending injury last year, and he hadn't been able to regain his form in the midfield. 

    With the lack of productivity at D.C. United, head coach Ben Olsen decided to use Pontius up top. The move has payed dividends as Pontius has scored four goals this season, which has been a welcomed surprise to Olsen.

    “He still doesn’t know how to play forward though," said Olsen to after the match. "And that’s a scary thing. He’s still new at the position, and some of his movements can get a lot better. But three goals aren’t too bad.” 

Sporting KC Defeats Itself

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    The streak of perfection for Sporting Kansas City came to end this past weekend when it traveled to take on the Portland Timbers

    However, Sporting KC's loss didn't directly come at the hands of Portland, but rather off the head of its own defender.

    Chance Myers tried to clear Kris Boyd's cross and inadvertently headed the ball into the back of his own net, past the hands of goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. 

    It was the only goal of the match, as the Timbers won 1-0.

    For Portland, it was a welcomed three points, as the Timbers were coming into the match with a four-game losing streak.

    As for Kansas City, maybe the loss will be a blessing in disguise as the pressure to remain perfect is lifted off Sporting KC's shoulders.

    Everyone knew that club wasn't going to stay perfect through the entire season, but no one would have guessed that the first team to defeat Sporting KC would be Sporting KC itself. 

Disappointing Toronto Remains Pointless

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    Toronto FC is in shambles, plain and simple.

    The team lost once again, this time against visiting Chicago Fire with a 3-2 score. 

    The team traded shots in an exciting first half, which started after Fire forward Dominic Oduro took advantage of a bad defensive giveaway to put Chicago, 1-0, within the first 25 seconds of play.

    Toronto's Reggie Lambe evened the score in the 36th minute and gave TFC its first lead of the season four minutes later.

    However, the 2-1 lead lasted less than one minute after Gonzalo Segares leveled the score at 2-2 before the end of the half. 

    The second half only saw one goal, Patrick Nyarko's 58th minute game-winner to give Chicago the 3-2 win.

    Toronto is now six games into the 2012 campaign with zero wins, zero draws and zero points.

    It's anybody guess what Toronto head coach Aron Winter will need to do to turn fix this shipwreck, or how much time he may have left as TFC's head coach altogether.

Saunders' Late-Game Heroics

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    Speaking of fixing shipwrecks, the LA Galaxy look like they have patched things up with a second straight victory, this time a 2-1 road win over the Colorado Rapids.

    Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders was the man of the match after he helped preserve the lead and eventual victory, stopping Omar Cumming's penalty kick in stoppage time. 

    In the 90th minute, defender David Junior Lopez was whistled for a questionable foul on Colorado's Andre Akpan inside the 18-yard box.

    Upon replay it looked like there was very minimal contact. But referee Ramon Hernandez, who was standing about 25-30 yards behind the play, thought otherwise and pointed at the penalty spot.

    Cummings stepped up to take the penalty kick, and the force from his short run wasn't enough as Saunders guessed correctly and battered the ball away.

    Earlier in the match, Galaxy's Mike Magee forced a Colorado own goal before Landon Donovan doubled LA's lead 2-0. Cummings cut the lead in half for Colorado, but the drama only intensified in the final minute of play.