MLS Playoffs – Semifinals

by Michael Orr

keane

The MLS Cup final for 2012 is set as LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo emerged from the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively. This is the same match-up as the 2011 MLS Cup, though the teams are the fourth and fifth seeds in their conferences this year, as opposed to the first and second in 2011. Gravity has been added to the game, as it has been reveled that it will be David Beckham’s last with the Galaxy, though to be fair, a similar feeling was present at last year’s final. Here is a quick look at how each side made it through:

Houston Dynamo 4 – DC United 2
In the first leg, DC United scored first, stunning the hosts, who had not lost once all season at their new ground, BBVA Compass Stadium. Nick DeLeon’s 27th minute goal was followed by the most controversial refereeing decision of the tie as Houston’s André Hainault, clearly the last defender on a breakaway, took down DC’s Lionard Pajoy just outside the box in first half injury time. Not only was Hainault not sent off, referee Ricardo Salazar did not even call a foul. Instead of going a man down, Houston replied with Hainault scoring the equalizer in the 52nd minute. From there, they Dynamo were off, scoring twice more over the next half-hour, thanks to fine goals from Will Bruin and Kofie Sarkodie.

The second leg was hosted by DC United at RFK Stadium, but it was Houston who stole any chance for momentum on the part of the hosts. Boniek García, the Honduran international, scored in the 34th minute after United had the majority of the early chances. The 4-1 aggregate lead and the Dynamo’s resolute defending were too much for United to overcome. Naturally, DC poured in chances over the final hour of their season but only Branko Bošković’s 82nd minute goal made it to the score sheet. And with that, the Dynamo reach their fourth MLS Cup final in seven years.

LA Galaxy 4 – Seattle Sounders 2
A tame first half of the first leg at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles concluded with Landon Donovan chipping a perfect ball to Robbie Keane, whose header opened scoring in injury time. Twenty minutes later, Keane launched a counter attack with a through ball to Sean Franklin, who cooly found Mike Magee and LA’s second goal. The rout was on just three minutes after the brilliant second goal as Christian Wilhelmsson chested down a deflected Donovan shot and Keane pounced to poke in for the Galaxy’s third goal. The short-handed Sounders could do little to keep the highly efficient Galaxy from cruising the rest of the way to a 3-0 lead from the first leg.

Seattle’s home leg, at CenturyLink Field, was always going to be contentious with the Sounders needing to pull back at least three goals. Eddie Johnson, back from injury, scored in 11th minute but the assistant referee incorrectly called the Sounders’ leading scorer offside. 90 seconds later, Johnson got his goal, muscling a defender off the ball and firing easily past Josh Saunders. Knowing full well that they should be just one goal behind with eighty minutes left, the Sounders were incensed. In the 57th minute, Zach Scott’s diving header directed a corner past Saunders, leaving Seattle more than a half-hour to find a goal to equalize the two-legged tie. Yet another referee decision determined the final outcome in Seattle. Keane went to the end line in the 67th minute and tried to flip a ball back toward the six-yard box. Adam Johansson’s outstretched left arm knocked the ball away and Mark Geiger awarded Keane a penalty. Seattle argued that the handball was inadvertent and no more worthy of a penalty than two previous LA handballs over the two legs. But Keane cooly converted from the spot and the lead stretched back to two goals. The Sounders made a go of it over the final twenty minutes but it was too much to ask, leaving the Galaxy as the highest remaining seed in the league, and thus the host of MLS Cup 2012.

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