MLS Playoffs – Quarterfinal First Legs

by Michael Orr

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Seattle Sounders 0 – Real Salt Lake 0

With their field festooned with the markings of Seattle’s NFL team, the Sounders played to a 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake in the first leg of their Wester Conference Semifinal at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Nick Rimando was the hero for the visitors, brilliantly saving numerous shots, including an incandescent pair of headed corner kicks in the 33rd minute. In the 67th minute, Rimando caught a Christian Tiffert elbow which broke his nose and opened a large gash over his right eye. Yet the USA international stayed in the game and recorded another dramatic save on a Tiffert header. For his part, Michael Gspurning had several fine saves for the Sounders. Seattle will feel they missed out the most, particularly in two-legged series where away goals are not a factor. The second leg comes on Thursday with RSL carrying the upper hand as the series moves to Utah.

DC United 1 – Red Bull New York 1

Having swapped home dates to account for the widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in the New York area, DC United and Red Bull played to a draw in their first leg at RFK Stadium in Washington. The somewhat strange encounter included New York back-up goalkeeper Luis Robles saving a Chris Pontius penalty in the 33rd minute after Conor Lade handled the ball in the box. The game remained scoreless until a Roy Miller own-goal in the 61st minute gave DC United the lead in their first home playoff game in five years. But just four minutes later, Lade headed a Thierry Henry corner in front of goal, where DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid snatched it. Yet Hamid fell backward into his own net, carrying the ball across the line for an absurd own-goal and a 1-1 score line. In the 71st minute, Andy Najar, DC’s 19-year old Honduran international, picked up a yellow card, threw the ball at the referee and was immediately sent off, adding further intrigue to a bizarre affair. Despite the man advantage, New York did nothing over the final twenty minutes and the score remained 1-1.

Houston Dynamo 2 – Sporting KC 0

Houston Dynamo, who upset top seeded Sporting Kansas City in 2011 to reach the MLS Cup final, made a strong case for a second consecutive stunner. Adam Moffat scored a brilliant 30-yard goal, as he is wont to do, to open scoring after just eighteen minutes at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. It took until the 75th minute for either team to score again as Sporting struggled and Houston missed out on several chances. Finally, it was Will Bruin, who scored both goals in the Dynamo’s play-in game victory in Chicago, who poked in a clean shot after Calen Carr scampered into the box on the left side. Despite being the best team in the Eastern Conference for most of the season, Sporting will have quite a challenge in the second leg if they are to avoid flaming out once again.

LA Galaxy 0 – San Jose Earthquakes 1

In the weekend’s final game, San Jose Earthquakes continued their amazing run with an injury-time winner from Víctor Bernárdez, of all people, to secure a 1-0 away win against LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. Both Jon Busch and Josh Saunders made nice saves on long shots, though the game’s best chance from the run of play came in the 86th minute when Landon Donovan set up a wonderful Robbie Keane shot that ricocheted off the crossbar. The game finally turned when, in the third minute of injury time, Bernárdez smacked a free kick low and hard, skipping it just beneath the Galaxy wall and tumbling across the line under Saunders. The set piece was disastrous from the home side, providing the visitors their ninth injury time goal of the season, the sixth of which coming as a match-winner. The Earthquakes still have not lost to the Cup holders in 2012 and will host the second leg with a chance to reach the semifinals for the second time in three seasons.

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