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Football Americana Week 5: Jeld-Wen Field opens in style



A soaked Week 5 in Major League Soccer, and the opening of their refurbed stadium seems to have done the trick for Portland, who won twice in a matter of days to kickstart their inaugural season in the league.

The week's action kicked off at BMO Field, where Toronto FC played out a goalless draw with LA Galaxy in a game that will be remembered more for David Beckham's post-match criticism of MLS officiating than for the action itself. Chad Barrett's shot that thudded against the crossbar after 12 minutes was the highlight and one of three occasions on which LA hit the woodwork. Midfielder Juninho earned a yellow card mid-way through the first half and went on to be handed a second in the dying moments for an aerial challenge with Tony Tchani.

Portland Timbers played their home opener on Thursday, welcoming Chicago Fire to a rain-drenched, chainsaw-echoing Jeld-Wen Field for their first home game in MLS, and what a night it was! The first (given) goal at the refurbed stadium was scored by Jorge Perlaza after half an hour, a fine composed finish that had coach John Spencer out of his new seat. Less than ten minutes later it was 2-0 thanks to Rodney Wallace's volley through the crowd after a free kick.

After the break, Wallace turned provider with a low cross that goalkeeper Sean Johnson spilled right onto the toes of Perlaza for 3-0. The Fire had a tilt at turning the dream to a nightmare, dragging the game back to 3-2 through an Eric Brunner own goal and Marco Pappa's delicious curling effort after some nifty footwork ten minutes from time. With Chicago hunting down a third, the Timbers made it 4-2 from a corner and an almight goalmouth scramble which began with a Kenny Cooper handball and culminated in Dasan Robinson's unfortunate own goal.

The Galaxy and the Fire met at the weekend, with the LA side triumphing 2-1 at Toyota Park. They were significantly under strength and had to wait almost until half time to break the deadlock, Chad Barrett getting his name on the scoresheet with a poacher's finish against his old club. Omar Gonzalez (pictured) doubled the lead with just under 20 minutes to go, leaping highest to head home the vital goal. Dominic Oduro's consolation was the familiar run at speed combined with an uncharacteristically assured finish, but LA goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts should have saved it and, truth be known, caught it.

Portland's second game at Jeld-Wen Field against FC Dallas resulted in another win, again a win that should have ended more comfortably than it did. The Timbers took a 2-0 lead into the dressing room at half time thanks to Jack Jewsbury's shot that bounced off the post and then Kevin Hartman, and a great header by Kenny Cooper. Rodney Wallace cracked in his second of the week to make it 3-0 and the Timbers should have been home and dry. But Dallas responded with two goals in the last ten minutes, David Ferreira getting the first by sliding in to knock home Break Shea's pass, and Shea grabbing the second for himself with a delicate finish after the Colombian returned the favour. Ferreira would have a shot saved onto the crossbar still later.

It was 2009 champions v 2010 champions as Real Salt Lake hosted Colorado Rapids at Rio Tinto Stadium and it had looked like ending with the same result as TFC v LA. Fabian Espindola had the ball in the net just before half time but it was ruled out for offside, and the Argentine had to wait until the 93rd minute to finally score the goal that handed RSL yet another win. Javier Morales' brilliant free kick came off the post and Espindola reacted quickest to score the only goal of the game.

High-flying Philadelphia Union looked certain to continue their good start only for Seattle Sounders to score a stoppage time equaliser at PPL Park. Carlos Ruiz gave the Union the advantage with a deflected free kick in the 32nd minute. 20 seconds into stoppage time Alvaro Fernandez headed Fredy Montero's cross in off Faryd Mondragon's post to earn a point for the Sounders.

DC United got back to winning ways thanks to a Chris Pontius (pictured) brace at Toronto FC. His first came in the fifth minute and was a brilliant solo effort that saw him go past two men and finish emphatically into the bottom corner. Five minutes later Charlie Davies' fifth of the season made it 2-0 after he followed up Josh Wolff's saved effort to slide the ball into an empty net and matters got even worse for TFC when Ty Harden was dismissed just after half time for a professional foul. The decision could be seen as a harsh one in the sense that few referees apply the letter of the law quite so closely in terms of denying a goalscoring opportunity. Pontius' second was as superbly done as his first.

It was a rare goalless game involving Vancouver Whitecaps when Chivas USA came to town over the weekend. It's another point for the Caps, who sit in fourth in the West, but winless Chivas prop up the entire league at present.

A second half goal from Robbie Rogers was enough to secure a 1-0 win for Columbus Crew over ever-travelling Sporting Kansas City. Julio Cesar was booked before the Crew's goal for a foul from which Columbus would have been far better served by an advantage being played, but they soon led through Rogers' finish from a tight angle in the 53rd minute. Sporting played 20 minutes with ten men after Cesar accidentally handled the ball to earn a second yellow.

Like DC, New York Red Bulls raced out into an early 2-0 lead. A quickfire double from Luke Rodgers got the scoring underway against San Jose Earthquakes, his first a poacher's header and his second a tap-in after Thierry Henry had mugged the full back and played a great ball across the six yard line for the former Notts County man. Late on, Henry got one of his own on a night when it really didn't seem to be going his way. Rodgers' fantastic pinpoint cross did the damage and Henry thumped his header back across goal and into the corner.

The week finished in controversial fashion at the end of a game between Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution. The Dynamo had already had a goal denied when the ball appeared to have crossed the line before their winning goal in the dying minutes. With the ball dropping from high after it had headed skywards off the bar, the ball found its way over the line by way of an accidental handball by Hunter Freeman. Controversial, maybe, but goalkeeper Matt Reis was fouling Freeman right on the line in any case.

Philadelphia remain on top of the East, two points ahead of New York, Houston and Columbus who all gained ground. Chicago are bottom and have now lost three consecutive matches. In the West, Real Salt Lake are level on points with LA but already have a much stronger goal difference and three games in hand. Colorado are third.

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