Nov 7, 2012; Harrison, NJ, USA; A general view before the first half of the DC United and New York Red Bulls game at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE

MLS Playoff Recap: Weather Impacts Schedule, Dynamo & Galaxy Advance


Major League Soccer decided to postpone the match between New York and D.C. to Thursday night at 7:30 pm EST.  A major snowstorm hit the metro area, but the MLS waited until almost 9 pm to make the decision.  Officials kept cleaning the field as the snow fell.  D.C. coach Ben Olsen was ready to play, but New York coach Hans Backe felt it would be a travesty and all about luck if the match was played.  This also postponed the start of the Eastern Conference final as the teams are required two days rest by the collective bargaining agreement.  The Red Bulls agreed to pay for D.C. United fan buses to come back Thursday night as 700 faithful had journeyed north.  The United players joined those fans after the decision was made.  As one may imagine, the D.C. United contingent was upset as they had already been asked to move venues for the first match.  

 

Olsen added,

The game has got to go on at some point. We’ve done our part and changed games. It’s a playable field, from our end.

Chris Pontius summed up the night for D.C. United.

A lot of the guys are angry. You’ve just got to bottle up that energy and that anger, and use it out on them tomorrow.

 

This postponing meant that the first team to advance to the Eastern Conference Final would be either Sporting KC or Houston Dynamo.  Houston entered Livestrong Park with a two goal lead on aggregate.  Sporting came out pressing owning the possession and threatening in the box.  They would complete 84% of their passes in the first half to the Dynamo’s 60%.  Graham Zusi pitched one over the bar from inside the box on a one timer from Kei Kamara.  C.J. Sapong had a golden opportunity but slammed it right to Houston keeper Tally Hall.  Kamara had a scrambling Dynamo defense and pounded it off the back of Bobby Boswell’s legs.  It seemed like Kansas City was able to maintain possession, but when they got in the box their game dissolved.

Houston continued to sit deep in the second half allowing Sporting to send balls in.  This also meant the Dynamo

Nov 7, 2012; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting KC midfielder Peterson Joseph (19) and Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark (13) collide in the first half at Livestrong Sporting Park. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

had no outlet once possession was gained.  The referee allowed a lot of physical play but Chance Myers and Zusi were given yellows.  Sporting was pressing and as the first 15 minutes of the second half passed the frustration was growing.  Then finally KC gained life along with the crowd.  In the 65th minute defender Seth Sinovic made a run to the far post and was found by Zusi after Kamara held off two defenders.  Sapong made a run to the near post allowing Sinovic to be all alone for the diving header.  It was his first goal of the year.

The goal finally showed something that had been happening repeatedly on the night.  Houston was devoting many players to the near post leaving the far post open.  The momentum had swung and KC began playing with more energy.  They had more chances and could not finish with the head.  Kamara bent in a ball behind Boswell with Hall rushing in the 74th minute, but Sapong sent it over the yawning net.  The final fifteen regulation and four stoppage minutes were frenzied.  Zusi and Kamara were doing everything in their power.  Roger Espinoza was taking shots from distance trying to extend his MLS career.  The Dynamo were bystanders packing it in and hoping to hold on.  In the end Dominic Kinnear continued to haunt Sporting as the Dynamo advance to the first leg of the conference finals Sunday at 4 pm EST, 2-1 on aggregate.

With one side of the Eastern Conference finals set, it was time for the first team in the Western Conference to be settled as the LA Galaxy looked to be the first team to beat San Jose at Buck Shaw Stadium this year.  Los Angeles won early possession and had two dangerous set pieces in the first six minutes thanks to the use of elbows by Victor Bernardez.  Jon Busch stopped a threatening attempt by David Beckham on the second free kick just outside the box.  Bernardez was quickly removed for Ike Opara due to a leg injury.

Opara’s inexperience would come through quickly as Robbie Keane got a free run to just outside the box before Opara moved up.  Keane ran for 10 yards while Jason Hernandez and Opara failed to communicate.  In the 21st minute the low shot from Keane slammed the bar and into the back of the net.

After some San Jose possession, Keane would capitalize again; this time on a counter attack.  Landon Donovan would carry the ball to the defense waiting to slot a pass perfectly as the back line collapsed.  Keane had a cool finish.  Almost as the celebration ended the Galaxy opened up a 3-0 lead as Mike Magee had loads of space in the box directing in a low Donovan cross.  Busch had no chance and LA was up 3-1 on aggregate.

November 07, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes midfielder/forward Simon Dawkins (10) controls the ball between Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan (10) and defender Omar Gonzalez (4) during the first half at Buck Shaw Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Frustration came through just before halftime for the polarizing Steve Lenhart as he went right after Omar Gonzalez after receiving a high elbow in a challenge.  Lenhart challenged Gonzalez as he was standing in the wall.  The one on one battle was boiling over.  Neither were playing smart.

The match settled down in the second half.  Coach Bruce Arena moved Donovan up top to make the smart decisions and the Galaxy defense, especially Tommy Meyer, were up to the challenge.  In the 74th minute Alan Gordon entered the match meaning the Quakes would go with three in the back.  Ten minutes later San Jose would finally crack the Galaxy defense off a scrambled set piece.  Gordon was in the right place to send it bouncing home.

This time the Goonies would die.  Despite LA missing many chances to ice the victory, including three by Christian Wilhelmsson, they would hang on for the 3-2 aggregate victory.  One last chance by Ike Opara would sail well high.  Donovan was whole-heartedly into this match and the Galaxy will now play on Sunday night in the Western Conference Final.

 

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