Anyone following LA Galaxy's procession to the Supporters Shield in 2011 would probably not have raised an eyebrow at their 1-0 victory over Portland Timbers at the weekend - so far, so Galaxy.
But the shutouts they built their challenge on last season have been conspicuous by their absence in 2012 - the Portland game was their first this year. Then on Wednesday night the Galaxy took two steps, and two goals, back from that Portland step forward, by going 0-2 down in the first half at Rio Tinto. So far, so 2012 vintage Galaxy. But then something strange happened, as a Mike Magee goal, sandwiched by a Landon Donovan brace, took all three points for LA - not only beating the current Supporters Shield leaders at home, but inflicting the first loss ever on an RSL side from a 2-0 winning position.
For a brief period after the game, it looked as if Salt Lake might have got away without any damage done to their lead in the West - Sporting KC led at Seattle, while San Jose Earthquakes trailed Colorado Rapids by a goal going into the last 10 minutes. If we've learned anything about the 2012 Earthquakes though, we know that the last ten minutes is when they're at their most dangerous - especially when Alan Gordon's on the field. First he bundled over the line in the 83rd minute to tie the game, then deep into stoppage time he drew the penalty for the winner. It was converted by Chris Wondolowski, who now leads the individual scoring charts on 12. Another late win for the Earthquakes. Second late loss in a week for Colorado.
Meanwhile in Seattle, that Sporting KC lead was cancelled out by Patrick Ianni's Ibrahimovich-like acrobatic volley, that was the highlight of a wide open attacking game of committed soccer. Montero looked to have stolen the points for Seattle when his shot squirmed under Nielsen at the end of the game. But it bounced back off the inside of the post and just evaded Alonso, who was following in. In the end the Sounders were glad to escape with a point after seeing out the final minutes with 10 men, following a red card for a retaliatory foul by Fernandez. After their shock 4-1 loss to Montreal at the weekend, Seattle were livelier on Wednesday, but could maybe do with some dull 1-0 wins to guarantee more consistent pressure on the leaders. Though they'll not complain if they get more of these to liven things up along the way...
Vancouver thought they'd got a 1-0 win after breaking down a New York side who looked better than in Sunday's lackluster tactical nightmare against Chicago. But in the 86th minute Heath Pearce headed in an equalizer to cancel out Martin Bonjour's crisp opener and give New York a precious point, as they head home to face Eastern rivals DC at the weekend. Vancouver will be left rueing the profligacy of Camilo, who had several chances to put the game out of reach. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, ex-New York strikers Juan Agudelo and Juan Pablo Angel both had a telling impact - the latter scoring the winner as Chivas USA deflated a Montreal team still buoyant from their big win and stadium re-opening at the weekend. The 2-1 win for Chivas gave them some measure of self-respect back after their 3-0 loss to RSL on Saturday.
One team who know all about the quixotic quest to get their self-respect back is Toronto. It's perhaps a small mercy that Aron Winter was no longer at the club to see three of the first team squad arrested this week, coming off an utterly luckless defeat to SKC, or this might have been the week that broke his stoic facade. Amazingly, for once Toronto seemed to briefly thrive on adversity - taking a 3-1 lead at half time, aided by a Danny Koevermans double. Sadly for Toronto, and new coach Paul Mariner, there was to be another comeback in this game as well. Will Bruin's second goal in the 90th minute tied the game and preserved both the 'fortress' status of Houston's new home and Toronto's status as the team who Just. Can't. Catch. A. Break. They're at home on Saturday - but as Real Salt Lake will tell you, home advantage isn't always all it's cracked up to be...
Wednesday night results
Real Salt Lake 2-3 Los Angeles Galaxy
Houston Dynamo 3-3 Toronto FC
Colorado Rapids 1-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Seattle Sounders 1-1 Sporting KC
Chivas USA 2-1 Montreal Impact
Vancouver Whitecaps 1-1 New York Red Bulls
We'll be back with our regular fan previews of the weekend games on Friday
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