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Football Americana Week 20: Early strikes fire Columbus to the top



After a very short break for the 2011 All-Star game (a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United at Red Bull Arena), Major League Soccer returned with a superb weekend of action.

In Pennsylvania it was Colorado Rapids who took three points in their game against Philadelphia Union, ending Philly's good run of form. Pablo Mastroeni drew first blood for the Rapids, with a lovely turned and curled finish ten minutes before the break. Sanna Nyassi continued to deliver up front with a neat first-time finish for 2-0 and there was no coming back for the Union. The sending off of Sheanon Williams compounded Philly's misery and was severe punishment for double dissent. All that was left for the hosts was a stoppage time consolation which was scored by Roger Torres, who blasted the ball home after a remarkable dribble inside the box.

LA Galaxy unloaded on Vancouver Whitecaps, thumping them 4-0 and barely breaking sweat, although it took Landon Donovan (pictured) until deep into the second half to open the scoring with a composed finish - his tenth of the season. He made it two from the penalty spot, and then two of his team-mates killed off the match with goals of their own. Sean Franklin had missed a good chance in the first half but made amends with ten minutes left, scoring with a tap-in from Donovan's cross, and the fourth was a poorly defended header from a forgotten man: former DC United forward Adam Cristman.

Seattle Sounders travelled to Texas and lost out 3-1 against Houston Dynamo. The men in orange opened the scoring inside the first ten minutes, Colin Clark scoring from close range with Kasey Keller powerless to stop him. Brian Ching added to the advantage with a header after 22 minutes only for the Sounders to pull one back before the break. Corey Ashe was adjudged to have tripped Fredy Montero, and Alvaro Fernandez stepped up and scored. Ching's second put the game beyond Seattle after 10 minutes and was as simple a finish as any target man could hope for.

Sporting Kansas City and New England Revolution shared the points on a scorching night at Livestrong Sporting Park. Rajko Lekic put the Revs ahead towards the end of the first half, springing the offside trap and nonchalantly prodding the ball past Jimmy Nielsen with the outside of his foot. New England went down to ten men with just under ten minutes to go thanks to AJ Soares' dismissal for a professional foul, but Sporting went on to get their equaliser regardless. In the 89th minute they got a lucky ricochet in the area and Teal Bunbury was in the right place to sweep it past Matt Reis to earn a point for his team.

In Utah it took Columbus Crew just ten minutes to complete their business against Real Salt Lake, winning 2-0 on the back of an early double. Eddie Gaven got the first after five minutes, gobbling up an easy chance to score his fourth of the campaign. Five minutes later it was 2-0, Tommy Heinemann's sketchy header squeezing in via Nick Rimando's fingertips and the post. RSL were denied a very good shout for a penalty with just over 15 minutes left, but it wasn't their night at Rio Tinto.

At Buck Shaw Stadium DC United avenged their home defeat against San Jose Earthquakes by returning the favour with a 2-0 win. Both goals came in the second half and both were scored by Dwayne De Rosario, a former Earthquake. Nana Attakora's slip allowed De Ro to take advantage by clipping the ball high past Jon Busch and in off the crossbar for his first of the night, and ten minutes later the Canadian's delicious one-time finish found the top corner in some style. The shine was taken off the victory for DC when Andy Najar was sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity by fouling Joey Gjertson.

Portland Timbers also took a 2-0 lead, but against Toronto FC they were unable to hold on. Englishman Eddie Johnson hit the bar in the tenth minute but did get his goal in the first half, finishing wonderfully from the edge of the area to give Portland the lead. After the break Jack Jewsbury did the business from a set piece yet again, slamming in from the penalty spot after Diego Chara was felled by Andy Iro. Peri Marosevic's low half-volley kicked off the comeback after he came off the bench, and in the last ten minutes it was Danny Koevermans who equalised, getting across his defender to meet Joao Plata's pass in turn it across Troy Perkins and into the net.

And in the week's final game, Marvin Chavez scored the only goal as FC Dallas defeated Chivas USA. His deflected effort was enough to bag three points for the hooped Texans on a boiling afternoon at Pizza Hut Park.

The 2-0 victory at Rio Tinto puts Columbus on top of the East, although Philadelphia in second have two games in hand. New York, with one game more played, are four points behind. Chicago prop up the Conference. In the West, LA continue to lead ahead of Dallas and now have a seven point gap to third and Seattle. Vancouver remain on 15 points.

You can see those tables here.

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