MLS week 5: Red Bulls on the rise

April 26, 2010, 10:53 AM

By: Scott French

Only Chivas USA has been able to stop the rejuvenated New York Red Bulls, in an atrocious encounter two weeks ago. The New Jersey-based club, surprise MLS Cup finalists two years ago and Major League Soccer's worst side in 2009, is otherwise humming along under first-year Swedish coach Hans Backe.

A penalty kick was decisive again as the Red Bulls improved to 3-0-0 at their new Red Bull Arena, by all accounts the most spectacular soccer-specific venue in America, and four wins in five matches has given them the kind of lead in the Eastern Conference the Galaxy had in the West before Saturday's scoreless draw at Kansas City.

Juan Pablo Angel

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

For the second week in a row, Juan Pablo Angel converted a late penalty kick to lift New York to a victory.

The West is much tougher division than the East, with at least four quality sides and maybe more, if Colorado is for real and FC Dallas can live up to expectations. The East looks like Columbus and everybody else, although New York is shaking those assumptions.

Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel again netted the winner with a second-half penalty kick, delivering a 2-1 victory Saturday over expansion Philadelphia. His last-minute spot kick beat FC Dallas, 2-1, last week at Red Bull Arena.

Columbus has played just three matches and hasn't lost -- they beat Real Salt Lake in the battle of the past two MLS Cup champs on Guillermo Barros Schelotto's penalty -- and the smart money is with the Crew.

But the Red Bulls have a real chance to do something in the next month or so. After a U.S. Open Cup qualifier Tuesday against Philly, they play at woeful D.C. United, then visit a San Jose side that's good one week, not so good the next, then they're home for four of five before the World Cup break.

It all could go wrong: Three of those home games are against Seattle, Columbus and Houston, and the other against Chivas USA, which sure impressed in Saturday's win over San Jose at Home Depot Center.

Elsewhere in MLS:

First strikes: Four players scored their first career goals Saturday. Bosnian-born, Chicago-raised, UIC-educated Baggio Husidic, as hometown as any Fire player can be, scored in first-half stoppage of a 2-0 triumph over visiting Houston, Chicago's first win over the Dynamo at Toyota Park. The game featured 10 yellow cards and two reds, one to the Fire's Krzysztof Krol for head-butting Luis Angel Landin.

Baggio Husidic

David Banks/Getty Images

Baggio Husidic of the Chicago Fire scored his first career MLS goal Saturday.

Why is Husidic called Baggio? As a child, he was entranced with the Italian striker, endlessly repeating his name. It stuck.

Other first strikes were scored by Salou Ibrahim in New York's win, by Marko Perovic in New England's 2-1 loss to visiting Colorado, and by Steven Beitashour to pull San Jose within a goal of Chivas USA deep in stoppage.

Play it again, Sam: Moroccan-born Mehdi Ballouchy, who played in Raja Casablanca's youth system before moving to the Bay Area when he was 16, has long been admired for his skill but less so for what he accomplishes with it. The former Santa Clara University All-American rarely approached his potential in his first four MLS campaigns, but he seems to be maturing, and that's one of the reasons the Colorado Rapids are off to a 3-1-1 start.

Ballouchy scored one sizzling goal in Saturday's victory at New England, a 30-yard blast on the run that skipped past Revolution goalkeeper Preston Burpo en route to the net's lower-left corner, and he almost had another, better one.

Omar Cummings, hemmed in by three defenders high in the Revs' box, dished a beauty of a chip to Ballouchy, whose looping bicycle kick struck the top of the left post and caromed off Burpo, who made a fine save on Conor Casey's rebound.

From the spot: Jeff Cunningham, who won MLS's Golden Boot with 17 goals last season, has scored three this season for FC Dallas, all on penalty kicks. He netted two Thursday as the Hoops rallied to tie visiting Seattle, 2-2.

The Sounders, who had a chance to pull within a point of the Galaxy last week, got fine goals by Steve Zakuani and on a free kick by Fredy Montero, and Terry Vaughn's penalty call deep into stoppage, enabling Cunningham to tie the score, was a most perplexing call.

There sure have been a lot of PKs this season. The eight players trailing Galaxy forward Edson Buddle in the Golden Boot chase, all with at least three goals, have found the net from the spot a combined 12 times. They've scored 27 goals in all.

All three of Casey's goals for Colorado have come on penalties, two of Angel's three for New York are PKs, as are three of Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne De Rosario's five goals.

Houston wing-playmaker Brad Davis has scored twice this season. Both on PKs. Three minutes apart in a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake.

Player of the week: You can make an argument for Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who made several big saves to keep K.C. scoreless, and for Chivas USA wing-defender Mariano Trujillo, the Goats' best player in an important and impressive victory.

But the vote here goes to De Rosario, who took advantage of two Seattle miscues to score one goal and set up the other in a 2-0 victory Sunday. De Ro, who grew up near Toronto and joined his hometown club after leading Houston to two MLS Cup titles, took command in the second half to secure a needed victory for former Chivas coach Preki.

Past week's scores (home teams listed first):

FC Dallas 2 (Cunningham pen. 27, pen. 94+), Seattle 2 (Zakuani 39, Montero 55)

Kansas City 0, Galaxy 0
Chivas USA 3 (Kljestan 25, Braun 54, Chijindu 87), San Jose 2 (Wondolowski pen. 41, Beitashour 93+)
New York 2 (Ibrahim 50, Angel pen. 67), Philadelphia 1 (Le Toux 59)
New England 1 (Perovic 18), Colorado 2 (Ballouchy 14, Mastroeni 73)
Columbus 1 (Schelotto pen. 38), Real Salt Lake 0
Chicago 2 (Husidic 48+, Lowry 67), Houston 0

Toronto FC 2 (De Rosario 58, White 76), Seattle 0


Western Conference: Galaxy 13 points, Colorado 10, Seattle 8, Houston 7, San Jose 6, Chivas USA 6, Real Salt Lake 4, FC Dallas 3

Eastern Conference: New York 12, Kansas City 7, Columbus 7, Chicago 7, New England 6, Toronto FC 6, Philadelphia 3, D.C. United 0

This week's games

Philadelphia at Galaxy, 7:30 p.m.
Chivas USA at Chicago, 5:30 p.m.
New York at D.C. United, 1 p.m.
FC Dallas at New England, 4:30 p.m.
Kansas City at Houston, 5:30 p.m.
Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m.
Colorado at San Jose, 7 p.m.
Columbus at Seattle, 7:30 p.m.

Leading goal scorers

1. Edson Buddle (Los Angeles), 7
2. Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC), 5 (3 PKs)
3. Sebastian Le Toux (Philadelphia), 4
4. Juan Pablo Angel (New York), 3 (2 PKs)
5. Conor Casey (Colorado), 3 (3 PKs)
6. Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), 3 (3 PKs)
7. Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), 3
7. Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus), 3 (1 PK)
7. Zach Schilawski (New England), 3
10. Omar Cummings (Colorado), 2
Brad Davis (Houston), 2 (2 PK)
Kei Kamara (Kansas City), 2
Kenny Mansally (New England), 2
Brian McBride (Chicago), 2 (1 PK)
Fredy Montero (Seattle), 2
Ike Opara (San Jose), 2
Marco Pappa (Chicago), 2
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose), 2 (1 PK)
Steve Zakuani (Seattle), 2


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