Nigel de Jong’s ugly tackle sparked fury- and he should have been sent off

LA Galaxy midfielder faces retrospective prohibit; DC United render their finest display of the season; Bradley Wright-Phillips in a scoring slump; Union make credible gains

Nigel de Jong hasnt changed

An ugly, scrappy game between LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers might have been a fairly unmemorable encounter were it not for one flashpoint whose repercussions could and should be felt well beyond this 90 minutes.

Late in the second half, with Portland making a rare counter( the latter are absorbing pressure and sitting on a 1-0 result at the time ), Darlington Nagbe tried to skip inside Nigel de Jong, as the Galaxy player lunged towards him. A second afterwards Nagbe was writhing in agony on the turf, while de Jong was jogging back into position from a melee of players, having picked up a yellow card.

It should have been a straight-out red, in a season that has so far been full of them, but which took a sharp turn in the other direction this weekend. That larger point about refereeing consistency is important, but in the specific instance of De Jongs tackle the replays showed a late, studs-up lunge that cleared Nagbe out of the game, and from the appears of it, multiple games to come. Nagbe left the field in a wheelchair with his injured leg wrapped in ice.

De Jong should consider a multiple game forbidding when the Disciplinary Committee looks at the tackle which sparked instant condemnation, even from his own squad mates. Not that Mike Magee had much selection when Fox put him up for a post-game interview alongside Stuart Holden his former US team mate whod had his leg broken by De Jong in an international and who said he felt ill watching the Nagbe challenge. To his credit, a visibly uncomfortable Magee said the game could do without tackles like De Jongs.

Meanwhile there was some sniping between the social media accounts of the respective squads that wasnt much more edifying than the incident itself 😛 TAGEND

Portland Timbers (@ TimbersFC) April 11, 2016

@LAGalaxy Sorry we don’t find signing dirty players funny. But have at it.

It was an ugly objective to a weekend where no red cards were issued. If ever a player constantly deserved one, its Nigel de Jong. GP

DC United might have finally settled on the pitch

Even if they wont much acknowledge as much, perhaps DC Uniteds District Ultras fans group now rue their decision to sit out their squads first half against Vancouver on Saturday. Of course, their demonstration was principled and not based on anything football associated, contesting a one-year prohibit meted out to one of their members, but even still, they must be at least a smidgen regretful that they missed DCs best 45 -minute performance of the season so far.

DC Uniteds display was everything Ben Olsen had promised was coming. Their second half performance wasnt bad either, scoring three times to notch an impressive 4-0 win their first win of 2016. Tensions are rising in the stands, with the District Ultras protest sparking splinter protests around the league, but any smouldering concern with whats happening on the field appears to have been extinguished for the time being.

Im glad we hung in there with that group of guys, and continued to grow, and not panic. I think we are better off for it, Olsen said afterwards, and indeed there was a certain equanimity to his teams play. They certainly didnt have the look of a side that had gone five games without a win, largely controlling the tournament against the Whitecaps.

Chris
Chris Rolfe helped his side to an impressive 4-0 win. Photograph: Brad Mills/ USA Today Sports

Questions against Olsen still persist, however. His continued exile of on-loan Boca Juniors Luciano Acosta remains somewhat baffling, especially considering the failed experimentation of Nick DeLeon in the center of midfield. Yet against Vancouver the DC United boss stuck with the same side with the exception of Marcelo Sarvas, who returned following suspension. Acosta was still given the chance to show what he could bring to the team, though.

The Argentine playmaker was introduced as a second-half replace and combined with another sub Alvaro Saborio to slather some extra polish to the scoreline, as DC United turned 2-0 into 4-0 in the final two minutes of regulation time. It was an emphatic outcome to match what was an emphatic display by the capital club.

Sure, Acosta might have shine against a dulled, tired Vancouver defence, but his cameo still demonstrated what Olsen has peculiarly overlooked thus far. So whilst DC might have finally resolved “hes still” reason to believe they might be even more comfortable with yet another reshuffle, albeit a minor one. GR

Bradley Wright-Phillips slump in form is officially cause for alarm

Just before the Red Bulls and Sporting KC kicked off for the second half of their game at Red Bull Arena, the visitors striker Dom Dwyer appeared to be offering some words of consolation to his opposite number Bradley Wright-Phillips, who had just suffered the kind of first half that could tilt a scoreless streak into a definitive slump.

Wright-Phillips, who had eight shots in that first half, cannot buy a objective at the moment, and neither can the Red Bulls for whom the 4-3 victory against Houston is beginning to look like a wild aberration in an increasingly fretting season. Dwyer on the other hand would be on the scoresheet 15 minutes after his chat with Wright-Phillips, as he managed to spin a naive Chris Duvall to turn and score off a long throw.

A couple of minutes later, New York and Wright-Phillips had a lifeline from a penalty. Up stepped Wright-Phillips to take the kicking which Tim Melia saved.

Theres credit that goes to Sporting for being organized and incisive on the counter when it mattered Dwyer seemed sharp and full of intent whenever they transgressed. But for all the promise of some of New Yorks build up play, the lack of credible reinforcements in the off-season was all too apparent at both ends of the field.

Both teams came into this game carrying five injuries, while the Red Bulls also had to deal with the loss of Felipe thanks to his red card against New England last week.

But Sporting were better at cycling their replacements into the team seamlessly and by the end of video games a Sean Davis shot off the post at the end of the first half was as close as we got to seeing a New York aim with Dax McCarty and Mike Grella also passing up great chances to score.

But surrounding those chances were the struggles of Wright-Phillips, who missed his 10 th shooting of the night by poking the ball straight at the keeper two feet from objective. Hes a level-headed, humble player wholl continue to say all the right things about this not making a difference to how he plays, but this was a horrible night for the strikers confidence.

Without the inspiration from BWP, Jesse Marsch did what he could to try and kickstart the attack moving to a 4-4-2 with the introduction of Abang, even bringing on academy product Alex Muyl to replace his captain, McCarty, for his debut late on. But the fact is, the last thing he needed was for his injury-decimated defense to be compounded by a goal shy attack by the end of video games Wright-Phillips was turning near the penalty spot, shaping to shoot, then laying it off to an offside Muyl. It was that kind of night for him, and frankly, the Red Bulls cant afford it. GP

The Union might eventually consolidate their gains

Philadelphia Union do not look like a team transformed. But they are beginning to look like an organization capable of taking steps forward without unavoidably stumbling backwards. And in the long run that may be just as important.

On Friday night, a last-minute win over Orlando City( handing the visitors their first defeat of the season) briefly took the Union top of the Eastern Conference. It was a referendum of kinds among the two Eastern Conference squads who might be best positioned to break up the group who formed last years playoff spots.

Of the two, Orlando have had the more eye-catching start, particularly with the 4-1 demolition of Portland last week. Cyle Larin has picked up scoring where he left off in his rookie year, and Cristian Higuita has looked like developing into one of the leagues more formidable enforcers covering ground and hurling himself into tackles in accordance with the arrangements familiar to anyone whos watched Ossie Alonso at his best over the past few years.

But while Philadelphias results have been solid rather than spectacular, theyve been competitive in every game, and have put a lot of pieces in place off the field, from facilities to key personnel appointments that give the impression, perhaps for the first time ever with this organization, that theres a strategy at work a reason why things are done the style they are.

One of the biding memories of the early part of Jim Curtins reign as head coach-and-four, was of him sitting grimly at a press conference welcoming Ras MBolhi to the club an inexplicable signing that his then GM Nick Sakiewicz seemed to alternate between taking and denying credit for. Sakiewicz has gone now. So, for that are important, has MBolhi, falling crossings behind him. And Curtin, who looked the most vulnerable sectors of the trio in that moment, eventually looks like he has the right to build the team he wants.

Therell be accountability for Curtin of course, primarily to new sporting director Earnie Stewart, but therell also be the opportunity for institutional knowledge and experience to grow for too long Philadelphias steps forward in one direction have been offset by unnecessary steps back in another.

So, watching Tranquillo Barnettas final-minute free kick corroborate the Unions win on Friday night, there was a sense that this felt different than other dramatic Union wins, principally for represent one they could bank as part of a continuum of progress. That advance might not be dramatic, but its definite and its progress for an organization who for once dont definitely sounds like their own worst adversary. GP

The Columbus Crew might be looking at an unexpected rebuild

A lot can change in soccer over the course of only a few months, and a lot has changed in such a timeframe at the Columbus Crew. Considered Major League Soccers most dynamic and often eccentric assaulting outfit, Gregg Berhalters side have very quickly become the antithesis of what they were last season. MLS Cup was played in December, but on what we have assured in so far it might as well have been lightyears ago.

Mohammed
Mohammed Saeid goes up against Ignacio Piatti. Photo: Eric Bolte/ USA Today Sports

With Saturdays 2-0 defeat to the Montreal Impact, the Columbus Crew have now run five games into the new season without a win, losing three times and describing twice. But its not only their results than has provided cause for concern, but the manner in which the Crew have slumped to them.

In almost every outing, Berhalters side have seemed stale and stagnant, scoring merely three goals in five fixtures. Contrast that to the 58 objectives scored in 34 regular season games in 2015 and the drop in performance levels is shown rather starkly. The reason behind that deterioration is something that mystifies Berhalter as well as everybody else, demonstrated by his tactical transformation for Saturdays clash at Stade Saputo.

Uncharacteristically, Columbus attempted to sit back and absorb Montreals passing pressure early on, surely in response to the Crews dramatic assaulting downturn. The game plan worked to a certain extent, with the visitors taking a goalless scoreline into the break despite the Impact outshooting the Crew 10 to 2.

They could only inhibited their natural instincts for so long, though, with Montreal drawing out Columbus in the second half to eventually secure a comfy 2-0 win. Whatever it is, there is something very fundamentally wrong at the Crew right now. Their flaws go deeper than the poor finishing Berhalter has cited as explanation.

Remarkably, Columbus one of the leagues most characterful teams in 2015 are struggling for an identity this season. This runs against all reasonable logic, given that Berhalter managed to keep together the majority of his squad together over the off-season, but thats what is most concerning about the Crews form. If the problem is so complex and difficult to pinpoint the answer is unlikely to be any easier to detect. GR

Results

Friday

Philadelphia 2-1 Orlando City

Saturday

New England 1-1 Toronto FC

Montreal Impact 2-0 Columbus Crew

DC United 4-0 Vancouver

New York Red Bulls 0-2 Sporting KC

FC Dallas 2-2 San Jose

Real Salt Lake 1-0 Colorado

Sunday

Houston Dynamo 1-1 Seattle

New York City 0-0 Chicago Fire

LA Galaxy 1-1 Portland Timbers

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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