30 October, 2011

MLS Quarterfinals First Leg Recap

The first leg of the four aggregate home-and-home MLS quarterfinal matches concluded today, and the biggest winner would have to be Real Salt Lake. The lower ranked teams hosted the first leg, and the favored road team won every matchup except one: Real Salt Lake defeated the Seattle Sounders 3-0 yesterday in Sandy, Utah, on the strength of two goals by Costa Rica star Alvaro Saborio. For Seattle to advance to the final four, they must beat Real Salt Lake by four goals at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday. A Seattle win by only three goals will give the win to RSL by the away goals rule since Seattle has no away goals, unless the score is exactly 3-0, in which case it will force overtime. Kasey Keller was valiant for Seattle, with two big saves on what looked like sure goals for RSL in the 20th and 24th minutes. Saborio tapped in a Chris Wingert cross, barely onsides, in the 41st minute, and then scored a real beauty by hitting a bouncing ball with his heel behind his back into the goal in the 53rd minute. Lastly, late sub Ned Grabavoy, who entered the game in the 79th minute, out-hustled everyone to put a rebound into the goal in the 88th.

The first of three favorites to win on the road today was the LA Galaxy, who defeated Red Bull NY 1-0 on a first half goal by Mike Magee, assisted by David Beckham. The goal was a bit controversial because LA's Robbie Keane was in an offside position but did not participate in the play. However, the defense may have hesitated because of Keane's illegal position. The result confirms my selection of Omar Gonzalez as my Defender of the Year, because Big Omar completely dominated international superstar Thierry Henry and did not allow Henry to get the ball. RBNY were without any doubt frustrated by the home loss, which will allow the Galaxy to advance with a tie or better at home in the second leg on Thursday. The match was a rough one. So, at the conclusion of the match at Red Bull Arena, RBNY's Rafael Marquez and LA's Juninho were both red carded for fighting. It seems the last play of the game was a save by Josh Saunders on what looked like a sure goal for Marquez. After the final whistle, Marquez threw the ball at Landon Donovan, and then took a swing at Adam Cristman. Automatic Red Card. As a crowd gathered, Juninho took a swing at a Red Bull player for a Red Card of his own. Both will miss the second leg at the HDC on Thursday and obviously their absence will hurt RBNY much more than it hurts LA.

The middle of three games this afternoon took place in Philadelphia's PPL Park, where the Houston Dymano defeated the Philadelphia Union for the first time, ever. Houston scored early, with a header by Andre Hainault on a free kick from Brad Davis in the 5th minute. Sebastien LeToux equalized just one short minute later, on an assist by rookie and former La Jolla Nomad star Michael Farfan. Note that there are two rookie Farfans for Philadelphia, as Michael's twin brother Gabriel made a nearly equal number of appearances this season. Both Farfan twins started today. But, in the 30th minute, Calen Carr put a pass from Brian Ching into the net to put the visiting Houston Dynamo up 2-1. Calen Carr had only appeared in 4 games for Houston all season, usually as a sub, but got the start today and made the most of it. Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall made a number of excellent saves to keep the Dynamo ahead for the rest of the game. Now Houston only needs at least a tie Thursday at Robertson Stadium to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, most likely against Sporting Kansas City.

Today's final winner, Sporting Kansas City, was a one-man show. That one man was Teal Bunbury, who scored both goals in Sporting's 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. The key moment was when Colorado defender Kosuke Kimura was injured in the first half. Kimura was replaced by aging veteran defender Tyrone Marshall. Teal Bunbury burned past Marshall for his first goal in the 50th minute at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Less than ten minutes later, Bunbury burned past Tyrone Marshall again, but this time Marshall pulled him down in the box from behind. Marshall was ejected with a straight red card, and Bunbury converted the penalty kick himself to complete the scoring. And, oh yeah, Teal Bunbury also knocked Colorado defender Drew Moor out of the game late in the first half with a shoulder injury. Drew Moor holds the record for most consecutive MLS complete games by a field player, and had not been subbed out of a game since 2007, until today. Captain Pablo Mastroeni also missed the game for Colorado with an injury. Sporting Kansas City looks very strong but there is no question that Colorado was not at full strength for today's encounter.


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