Conference semifinals are underway in Major League Soccer with matches of varying styles. Real Salt Lake bunkered in to head to Rio Tinto level. DC United and the New York Red Bulls played a bizarre match. The Dynamo dominated the Eastern Conference Champions. San Jose kept the Goonies never say die theme alive. Each match up has one more leg to determine the conference finalists. Here is where each series stands.
Real Salt Lake 0 – Seattle Sounders 0
The game plan for Salt Lake was to play defensive and get out of Seattle tied, preferably at zero. The match was a goalkeeping clinic as Michael Gspurning and Nick Rimando both made superb saves. Rimando may have done so with more flare, especially saving back to back great chances off successive corners. He also took an elbow that opened him up above the eye and broke his nose. Rimando has been tweeted about still dealing with bloody noses and having to have it reset. The two keepers combined for nine saves on the night. The last 299 minutes between these two teams have been goalless.
Leg 2: November 8 9:30 PM EST, MLS Live & Direct Kick
DC United 1 – New York Red Bulls 1
RFK Stadium hosted the first leg after the storm of the past week. Moving the venue was understandable, but the
way this match unfolded was well beyond comprehension, especially the behavior of Andy Najar. Chris Pontius played a great match for United despite having a penalty kick saved. That was a story as Luis Robles kept out many quality chances or United simply failed to convert. Coach Ben Olsen said after the match that their opponents were “beatable.” The goals in the match were both own goals as substitute Roy Miller’s attempt for a sliding clearance slotted top corner into his own net. Then a Thierry Henry corner was mishandled by Bill Hamid who dropped it across the line. Emotions and miscues ruled the day. The Red Bulls’ Rafa Marquez had calf tightness apparently, but was seen verbally sparing with coach Hans Backe and never returned to the bench. Najar decided to fire the ball at the referee when he earned a yellow card. He was promptly given another and sent off. Both teams will need to find poise when they head to Red Bull Arena.
Leg 2: November 9 8 PM EST, NBC Sports
Houston Dynamo 2 – Sporting KC 0
Houston is now 3-0 against Sporting in the playoffs after dominating the match earlier today. The Dynamo has not lost at home all year and has not lost to Kansas City either. All the momentum seems to be in the favor of Dominic Kinnear’s group. The top seed in the east could get nothing going on offense. They were not clicking as they had in the regular season making too many tough passes. It was an extremely physical match with many fouls. Ricardo Clark was not afraid to bang bodies during the entire match. Will Bruin scored his third goal of the playoffs to put all the pressure on Sporting heading back to Livestrong Park. However, it was Adam Moffat’s strike from distance that will be the feature goal of this match.
Leg 2: November 7 9 PM EST, MLS Live & Direct Kick
San Jose Earthquakes 1 – Los Angeles Galaxy 0
This was not the offensive game that most had predicted. Los Angeles dominated the last 20 minutes of the first half, while San Jose had momentum early. The Galaxy were not decisive in the final third and San Jose seemed to be working to get to Buck Shaw even. The Galaxy owned the beginning of the second half as well but got too cute in the box with at least four players trying to set up the opening goal via the back heel. Perhaps the match against Vancouver took more out of Los Angeles than was previously thought. This was the least entertaining match in the semifinals. Of course the Earthquakes scored in stoppage time though. A free kick from Victor Bernardez deflected off a jumping Omar Gonzalez and Josh Saunders only slowed the ten stoppage time goal of the season for San Jose.
Leg 2: November 7 11 PM EST, ESPN2
Return legs always seem to be more compelling. Also, a reminder that the away goal rule has never been in place in MLS. See you for the return matches.