MLS Playoffs – Quarterfinal Second Legs

by Michael Orr

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While Sporting KC managed to win its home game in the second leg of the MLS quarterfinals, all four hosts crashed out at the round of eight. It should be noted that MLS does not use away goals in determining the winners of its playoff ties.

Sporting KC 1 – Houston Dynamo 0 (1-2)

Sporting got the game’s only goal in the 64th minute when Kei Kamara made a slaloming run into the Houston box, poked wide for Graham Zusi, league’s leader in assists. Zusi’s cross fell perfectly to a diving Seth Sinovic, pulling the hosts back into the two-legged series with less than a half-hour to play. Unfortunately for the 20,894 packed into Livestrong Sporting Park, an evening full of strong, attacking soccer resulted only in Sinovic’s header as the Eastern Conference’s top side was felled by Houston Dynamo for the second straight year. Sporting held the ball for 71% of the game and completed over 600 passes, dominating the game from the start in an aggressive style made necessary by their 2-0 defeat in the first leg. Houston made several forays into Sporting’s box but for the most part absorbed the inevitable waves of attack. The Dynamo’s typical discipline made the one-goal aggregate lead stand and advance to the conference finals for the fifth time in seven years.

San Jose Earthquakes 1 – LA Galaxy 3 (2-3)

Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan destroyed San Jose Earthquakes, providing LA Galaxy with three goals in eighteen minutes as the MLS Cup holders eliminated this season’s Supporters Shield winners in front of 10,744 at Buck Shaw Stadium. The Earthquakes were undone in the first half as Keane ran rampant and Donovan skipped through the San Jose defense at will. The one-goal lead from the first leg was shattered before the 40th minute as Keane’s brace and Mike Magee’s goal flipped the series upside down. Though Alan Gordon did pull one back in the 82nd minute for the hosts, it was not enough to keep the Galaxy from ruining what had seemed all year like a magical season for San Jose. Over the two legs, the league’s golden boot winner, Chris Wondolowski, was kept silent, while Keane emerged as perhaps the best striker in the league.

Red Bull New York 0 – DC United 1 (1-2)

Rescheduled after a disastrous night involving a blizzard, an empty stadium and disgruntled fans and players from both sides, the second leg of the bizarre Red Bull New York-DC United tie took place before 14,035 shivering fans at Red Bull Arena. With all of the complexities of the series in mind, the game somehow managed to make life even stranger for all involved. New York barely missed out on several key first half chances with Thierry Henry and Joel Lindpere coming the closest. DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid played well until he was sent off after his take down of Kenny Cooper in the box in the 69th minute. Cooper scored the resulting penalty against new keeper Joe Willis, but Henry (and two other Red Bulls) were well into the box at the time of the kick, forcing referee Mark Geiger to call for the kick to be retaken. At the second asking, Willis stonewalled Cooper’s attempt. With a man advantage at home, Rafael Márquez wasted just six minutes in getting himself a second yellow card, perhaps ending his controversial and utterly distracting tenure at Red Bull. Finally, DC broke through with a goal by rookie Nick DeLeon thanks to an unlikely assist from 33-year old right back Robbie Russell. New York’s exit completes its seventeenth season (the entirety of MLS’s existence) without a trophy, while DC advance in the hopes of winning its fifth MLS Cup.

Real Salt Lake 0 – Seattle Sounders 1 (0-1)

The last game of the quarterfinals was perhaps the most dramatic. It took 171 minutes for either side to score as both goalkeepers, Nick Rimando for Salt Lake and Michael Gspurning for Seattle, were again fantastic. Yet in the 81st minute, Honduran international Mario Martínez struck a brilliant volley on a quick counterattack to stun the hosts and give the Sounders their first ever playoff series victory. Fredy Montero provided the assist on the winning goal and Seattle celebrated in front of 19,657 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah. The Sounders advance to the Western Conference finals and will play their nemeses LA Galaxy.

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