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MLS Features: Impact still perfect; rivalry week becomes parity week

1:17 PM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With the third week of the Major League Soccer regular season in the books, it's safe to say it wasn't exactly one for the ages.

The Montreal Impact continue to impress, while the league's so-called "rivalry week" failed to deliver the goods as we look back on the weekend that was in MLS.

TOP STORYLINES

MONTREAL IMPACT STILL STREAKING

Count this observer as one who definitely didn't see this coming from the second-year Montreal Impact. Marco Schallibaum's club pulled out a 2-1 win in its home opener at Olympic Stadium against Canadian rivals Toronto FC.

Montreal struck first in the 34th minute after midfielder Andres Romero was dragged down in the penalty area, setting up a spot kick for the automatic Patrice Bernier, who easily buried it for the 1-0 lead.

Veteran forward Marco Di Vaio doubled the lead for the hosts on the stroke of halftime. TFC got one back, but the Impact held on for the victory again.

Schallibaum's team has shown mental and physical toughness over its three wins this season. The club didn't panic on Saturday when Toronto pulled to within one goal with almost 20 minutes to play and the team was able to see out the result in front of almost 40,000 home fans.

Montreal has learned to win on the road and if it can continue to make its home ground a difficult place to play, the club could be on its way to an outstanding season.

PHILADELPHIA STILL HAS REVOLUTION'S NUMBER

The Philadelphia Union won its second straight match on Saturday after grinding out a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution in sloppy conditions at PPL Park.

The game remained scoreless as the teams struggled to maintain possession, but Jack McInerney netted the only goal of the match in the 76th minute on a rebound to give the Union six points from a possible nine to start the season.

In eight all-time meetings with New England, Philadelphia has never lost, holding a 5-0-3 record against Jay Heaps' club.

Philadelphia appears to be turning a corner in John Hackworth's first full season as head coach. The Union showed resolve in coming up with an impressive 2-1 away win against the Colorado Rapids before notching their first home win of the season.

Last year, a game that played out like Saturday's would have ended in a loss for Philadelphia, but the team is playing with confidence under Hackworth and the new central defense pairing of Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo has done extraordinarily well.

A huge test is on tap for Philadelphia on March 30 when the club travels to Harrison, NJ to take on a motivated Red Bull New York side.

RIVALRY WEEK FALLS A BIT SHORT

Speaking of Red Bull New York, the club kicked off "rivalry week" with a scoreless draw on Saturday against Atlantic Cup rivals D.C. United.

New York dominated possession for most of the match and had several chances, with Fabian Espindola smacking the crossbar on two occasions, but D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid put in an outstanding performance to save a point for his side.

Mike Petke's club has taken just two points from three matches this season and has squandered leads in its first two matches and will be motivated to put together a good performance against fellow I-95 rivals Philadelphia on March 30.

New York needs to take all three points against the Union to avoid falling into a deep early hole in the Eastern Conference standings.

Rookie Deshorn Brown got Colorado off to a good start against Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Real Salt Lake, but Alvaro Saborio bagged his third goal of the campaign with 10 minutes to play to give Salt Lake a 1-1 draw.

Out west, Cascadia Cup rivals Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers played to a fairly tame 1-1 draw at CenturyLink Field. Eddie Johnson scored for Seattle in the 13th minute, but Rodney Wallace netted the equalizer in stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw.

A draw is a fair result for both sides, but the first match in what has become MLS's best rivalry was a bit short on action.

Sunday's Texas derby between FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo was the only match of the weekend that lived up its billing.

FC Dallas jumped out to a two-goal lead behind tallies from Jackson and Andrew Jacobson, but Houston fought back with a pair of second-half goals from Andrew Driver and Brad Davis.

Controversy arose in stoppage time when FC Dallas forward Kenny Cooper brought a ball down with his chest before it hit his arm and was put past Tally Hall to hand the El Capitan title to Dallas.

The SuperClassico rounded out the weekend as Los Angeles failed to hold a lead and settled for a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA.

Only three teams claimed full points on the weekend, which makes one think that perhaps "parity week" may have been a more apt moniker for this weekend's matches.

GOAL OF THE WEEK?

Cooper earns this week's nod for goal of the week as his match-winner in stoppage time gave FC Dallas a 3-2 victory over local rivals, Houston.

But should it have been a goal?

On the play, Cooper brought down a long ball with his chest, but television replays showed the ball clearly hitting the arm of Cooper before he was able to put it past Hall for the decisive marker, but referee Jair Marrufo let the play stand and Dallas walked away with three points.

TRENDING UPWARD

Montreal Impact - The Impact continue to roll with nine points from three matches. They have clearly figured out how to win on the road after notching victories in Seattle and Portland and thrilled the home fans in a 2-1 triumph over Toronto FC. Schallibaum's crew could be an unexpected Eastern Conference powerhouse if they can keep their momentum rolling.

Philadelphia Union - Jack McInerney has quickly become the Union's most clutch player. The 20-year-old striker scored a late match-winner for the second straight week as Philadelphia continued its dominance over the New England Revolution with a 1-0 win on Saturday. After falling to Sporting Kansas City, Philadelphia has won two straight to rise to second place in the Eastern Conference. The team's quality will be tested against Red Bull New York on March 30.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Chicago Fire - As good as the Montreal Impact has been early on, Chicago has been equally as disappointing through three games this season. Saturday's 0-0 draw with Sporting KC gave the Fire their first point of the season, but they have yet to win a game -- or even score a goal -- in 2013. Losing Alvaro Fernandez and Pavel Pardo has affected the midfield play dramatically and the club has yet to put together a solid 90 minutes despite adding veteran pieces like Dilly Duka, Joel Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz in the offseason. The Fire needs to show some attacking prowess sometime in the next few games before they fall too far behind.

New York Red Bulls - After blowing leads in the first two matches against Portland and San Jose, New York came out and dominated the game against D.C. this weekend, but was unable to find the net in a 0-0 draw. Espindola struck the crossbar on two occasions, but New York has still not claimed a full three points. Petke was clearly frustrated at his team's lack of finishing, which will need to improve drastically for New York to end up where many people expect them to be at season's end.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Next week's pick of the lot pits Red Bull New York against Montreal. New York needs three points badly, while Montreal will look to stay perfect and collect 12 points from four matches.

D.C. United hosts the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium looking for its second win this season, while Columbus will attempt to get back in the win column after settling for a 1-1 home draw with the San Jose Earthquakes.

FC Dallas goes for its third win in four tries against Real Salt Lake, while Houston will look to bounce back against the Vancouver Whitecaps, who had this past weekend off from MLS competition.

Los Angeles battles Colorado, San Jose hosts Seattle, and Chicago will go for its first win of the campaign against Chivas to round out next week's matches.

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