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Football Americana Week 21: Sounders start to slide

Just the six matches in Major League Soccer this last weekend, with other teams taking advantage of the opportunity to get schooled by Real Madrid in pre-season friendlies. But we don't care about those games here at Football Americana, so let's get down to business.

At Pizza Hut Park, it was that man Jeff Cunningham making the difference once again. On Thursday, FC Dallas hosted fellow Texans Houston Dynamo and sprang something of a surprise. Having already been defeated twice by the Dynamo, FCD took their revenge with a 1-0 win. Cunningham missed an opportunity to open the scoring in the 13th minute. Having been hauled down in the box by Bobby Boswell, he had his spot kick comfortably saved by Pat Onstad. Just minutes later he won it with a stunner, picking the ball up in midfield before knocking it over Boswell, beating another man on the edge of the box and finding the corner past Onstad.

In the second half, Dynamo's Brad Davis was red-carded - despite not being on the pitch. Dave van den Bergh slid across the rainy touchline in front of the benches and the referee took umbrage at Davis' decision to get involved in what looked to be a very minor altercation.

The LA Galaxy bandwagon rolled on with a tidy win over New England Revolution. Landon Donovan fired the Galaxy ahead with a stunning, curling left-foot volley from the edge of the area in the 21st minute. Jovan Kirovski took advantage of some indecisive defending by the Revs to turn in the second shortly after half time, and Steve Ralston slid home a late penalty to give them a consolation goal.

It was a comfortable win for Columbus Crew at the delightfully named Candlestick Park in San Francisco, but it took three second half goals to defeat San Jose Earthquakes. Robbie Rogers laid on an easy header for Alejandro Moreno to put the Crew in front, then added a second himself with a neat finish from a very fortunate ricochet and a slow Quakes reaction. Adam Moffat scored the third with a deflected header from a Gino Padula corner late on.

There was only one goal as Real Salt Lake kept all three points at Rio Tinto. In the 62nd minute RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando found Robbie Findley with a long ball forward and the striker made no mistake driving in the winner to down Seattle Sounders.

Yet more goals at Dick's Sporting Goods Park this week, where Colorado Rapids demolished Chivas USA. In the very first minute Omar Cummings teed up a blistering 30-yard drive for Pablo Mastroeni to score his first goal since 2005. Chivas' debutant goalkeeper could do just as little with the Rapids' second shot, a delicious lob - assisted by Cummings, naturally - by Conor Casey. From the edge of the box, the big striker found the underside of the bar for 2-0. In the 23rd, Cummings grabbed his third assist, providing a tap-in for Casey.

And he wasn't done yet. Shavar Thomas was dismissed for hauling Cummings down in first half stoppage time, and Casey hit his third of the night (his 11th of the season) with the cheekiest penalty you'll ever see. Flooring the goalkeeper with his eyes, Casey chipped the ball at snail's pace into the net. Wonderfully done.

There were even more goals at Robertson Stadium, but in their second game of the week Houston Dynamo had to settle for three of the five. Kei Kamara and Rico Clark put them 2-0 up over Chicago Fire by half time. The Fire fought back after the break with a quickfire double. Chris Rolfe found the bottom corner superbly from 25 yards and Cuauhtemoc Blanco sent in a delicate cross for Peter Lowry to volley home two minutes later. In the 83rd minute Stuart Holden put paid to Chicago's chances by smashing in a well-taken penalty to give Houston a 3-2 victory.

21 weeks down, Houston remain at the top of the West with 38 points. The resurgent Galaxy are in second with 31. Columbus Crew lead the East with 36 points from Chicago with 32. Colorado (32), Seattle (29), DC United (28) and Chivas USA (27) occupying the remaining playoff slots. But Toronto, RSL, the Revs and FC Dallas are all within striking distance. The pressure is on.

Full results and standings here.

For more great football writing by Chris Nee, visit TwoFootedTackle.com...

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