Monday, October 31, 2011

Playoff Recap: Round One

 Happy Halloween MLS fans. The past weekend saw the first round of the playoffs provide a number of story lines. After the Wild Card match-ups we were left with an impressive slate of matches and drama delivered. Goals were scored in each match and a few surprises came through in the form of shoving, ball throwing antics. Bottom line, it's playoff time and the first round was one to remember.

Real Salt Lake 3, Seattle Sounders 0

Real Salt Lake hosted the Seattle Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium in the first leg of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. RSL came out of the gates fast and applied early pressure on the Sounders' defense but they were able to hold strong with good recovery play and some quality saves by Kasey Keller. However, RSL was able to get through in the 41' on what initially appeared to be a questionable goal from Alvaro Saborio. It initially appeared that Saborio might have been offside on the feed from Chris Wingert, but the referee upheld the goal and play continued. Later replays confirmed the correct call and the Sounders found themselves behind. RSL continued to pressure Seattle and found the back of the net again in the 53'. Alvaro Saborio finished a centering pass by Javier Morales with a cool back-heel flick past Keller for his second of the night. RSL added a third in the 88' from an unassisted Ned Grabavoy goal following a series of attempts at the Sounders' goal. Seattle now takes a 3 goal deficit back to Century Link Field in the final leg of the series.

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New York Red Bulls 0, LA  Galaxy 1

New York played host to their cross coast rivals in what was dubbed the #1pctberby on Twitter heading into the match at Red Bull Arena.22,663 fans made it out to the Arena to watch the league's biggest names battle it out in their quest for the MLS Cup. LA nearly jumped ahead in the 12' when David Beckham sent a well placed ball to Mike Magee in the box but NY's Stephen Keel was able to knock the ball away before he could get a shot off. However, the ball rolled to the feet of Robbie Keane who sent a curling shot off the far post which rebounded right in front of goal to Mike Magee but his header went over the net. But just minutes later Magee found his redemption as he was once again played into the box by a long David Beckham pass, which he quickly volleyed low and hard past NY's defense  which were looking for an offside call for the 1-0 lead. The Red Bulls turned up the heat in the second half and began to put pressure on the Galaxy goal. However, LA's Josh Saunders was up for every challenge and made a number of incredible saves to keep his teams lead and secure the road victory. New York now heads to LA down 1 goal in the two-leg series.

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Philadelphia Union1, Houston Dynamo 2

The Philadelphia Union took their field at PPL Park to face the Houston Dynamo in front of 18,539 fans. Houston had made a season off of set piece goals this year and this match was no exception. Brad Davis sent a wonderful free kick into Philadelphia's 6 yard box that Defender, Andre Hainault got on the end of and headed into home for a quick 1-0 Dynamo lead. Philadelphia didn't take long to answer. Sebastian LeToux continued his run of form with a nice one time volley off a deflected Michael Farfan pass. Houston added a second goal in the 30' when Brian Ching played a well weighted through ball onto Calen Carr's run that the forward was able to poke past an on-rushing Faryd Mondragon for the 2-1 Dynamo lead. Both sides had a couple of opportunities to add more goals but couldn't convert on the chances. The Dynamo now take a 1 goal advantage back home to Houston for the second leg.

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Colorado Rapids 0, Sporting Kansas City 2

Sporting KC traveled to Dicks Sporting Goods Park to face the Colorado Rapids. The match was a tale of two sides. For the Colorado Rapids, they saw 3 starters go down with injury during that match and Sporting KC saw one of their young prospects shine in a big game. Colorado's first injury was to Caleb Folan in the 23'. Then in the 36' they lost, Right Back, Kosuke Kimura. It didn't take Sporting Kansas City long to take advantage of the injury as Teal Bunbury got behind right back substitute, Tyronne Marshall, with a wonderful through ball by Julio Ceasar and calmly placed it past Matt Pickens in the 49'. Bunbury once again took advantage of his match up with Tyronne Marshall as he was able to take a few touches in the box to get by Marshall before Marshall appeared to pull him down in the box for a Penalty. Bunbury converted the PK and gave Sporting the 2-0 lead in the 59'. Colorado took another tough blow as they saw, Defender, Drew Moor leave with a shoulder injury in the 60'. The Sporting was able to hold on to the lead and now take a 2 goal advantage with them to LiveStrong Sporting Park for the second leg.

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The second leg of each series will be just as interesting. We're looking forward to seeing if Seattle can rebound, if New York can play without Rafa Marquez and whether Houston is for real. Today's recaps were provided by Pedro Gomes (@MLSSuperSub)

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