The second leg of the Major League Soccer conference semifinals gets underway tomorrow and concludes on Thursday. The San Jose Earthquakes have a 1 goal advantage on the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Eastern Conference champion Sporting KC has a hill to climb after losing 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo in BBVA Compass Stadium. The other two matches are all square. The Seattle Sounders were shut out at home before heading to Rio Tinto against Real Salt Lake. DC United and New York Red Bulls each scored an own goal and have heavy concerns before beginning tomorrow night’s playoff triple header. How will it all shake out?
The match is scheduled for a 8:21 pm EST kick off and could take place in the middle of another fierce weather situation. For the Red Bulls there seems to be more and more drama after every match and this time it was Rafa
Marquez being pulled at halftime for supposed muscle tightness. The calf injury could be real but there seemed to be more to the substitution. Perhaps this is another example of why coach Hans Backe is considered a lame duck.
The Red Bulls also tried the Sebastien Le Toux experiment keeping Kenny Cooper on the sideline most of the game. Cooper will probably start this match and New York hopes to have a more active Thierry Henry. New York has only lost twice at home all year.
For D.C., they remain optimistic and coach Ben Olsen didn’t think that New York had many chances at all. Chris Pontius played a great game despite having his penalty kick saved. The question will be Bill Hamid in goal as his shaky handling of a corner gave New York their lone tally. His team can feed off of his confidence, if it is there in the early going.
Prediction: Weather induced extra time with a 1-0 win for D.C. and no Chris Pontius on the USMNT against Russia.
Houston has a two goal lead and the playoffs leading scorer in Will Bruin. They also have a coach that knows what to do in the playoffs and it’s becoming harder to bet against a Dominic Kinnear coached team. The Dynamo do have four players on yellow cads but the goal cushion may ease that concern.
For Sporting there is now a mental hurdle in beating Houston as they have now lost the last three. KC only had one shot and failed to connect on passing plays that seemed routine during the regular season. They have scored three goals only three times with the last coming on Independence Day. Kansas City have won only 18% of home games by a margin of two goals or more. Graham Zusi will need to lead the offense to orchestrate the come back.
Prediction: Sporting 2 – Houston 1, Houston advance on aggregate.
San Jose kept the goonies mentality going as they took the one goal lead in stoppage time just prior to the final whistle. That was their 10th stoppage time goal on the year. Alan Gordon is still fighting through an ankle injury so Steve Lenhart will probably see time up top with Chris Wondolowski. The overall team defending was good with no shots allowed for the first 60 minutes, although the Galaxy threatened and continued to attempt the perfect
pass or the back heel. Still, Victor Bernardez played a stellar game in the back before scoring the only goal of leg one. The Quakes have lost once at home all year.
The Galaxy are the defending champs but now have to get over the last second goal. If Omar Gonzalez had not jumped this may be even heading to Buck Shaw. The had one golden opportunity in the Home Depot Center as Robbie Keane hit the woodwork from a lay off by Landon Donovan. Keeper Josh Saunders took the blame for the goal and must take on an early attack from San Jose. The Galaxy had the possession in the first match and must find a way to build on that. The more possession the Galaxy have in the first half, the better chance they can squash the Quakes’ adrenaline and equalize.
Prediction: Earthquakes 1 – Galaxy 1, SJ Advances.
Real Salt Lake got out of Seattle the way they wanted to by gaining a draw. It may be even better that it was a goalless tie. That is due in large part to Nick Rimando and his amazing reaction time on several headers that seemed destined to get behind the Salt Lake keeper. The major problem is that this team cannot score going over 300 minutes without registering a goal.
For Seattle they could still be without Mauro Rosales although he is improving. They should have Eddie Johnson back as well. However, Fredy Montero can’t find the net in the playoffs and the team has managed only three goals in seven playoff matches. They will have confidence, but the play of Rimando has to weigh on their minds.
Prediction: RSL wins the PK shoot out after extra time 4-3 and moves on.