Friday, November 18, 2011

Its Time for the MLS CUP!!

Well, the playoffs are over and Sunday night the LA Galaxy will host the Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center for the MLS Cup Final.  The International break has only added to the anticipation of the big game.  In an earlier post, I recapped the wild card playoff matches and the 1st leg conference semifinals.  If you're wondering how things progressed, we'll catch you up to speed:

Sporting KC 2-0 Colorado Rapids

Predictably, Sporting saw off a depleted Rapids side in a sloppy affair before a rain-drenched sellout crowd at Livestrong Park.  Both goals came from Zusi freekicks, about half way through the first and second periods.  A strong performance by the hosts, and a repeat of the first leg.

Seattle Sounders 2-0 Real Salt Lake

Alonso ignites the Emerald City
In a thrilling second leg victory, the Sounders battled ferociously to overturn the deficit from the previous leg.  Two second half goals frenzied Centurylink field however, the Emerald City was unable to produce the needed miracle.  Both goals came from former Charleston Battery players as Osvaldo Alsonso converted a penalty kick in the 56th, and Lamar Neagle netted the second six minutes later.  A valiant effort, but not enough to continue Seattle's postseason dreams.

Houston Dynamo 1-0 Philadelphia Union

The Dynamo finished off the Union in a game that was anything but spectacular.  Brian Ching, the perennial Dynamo hero, netted the only goal deep into first half stoppage time.  Philly made at triple substituion at 66 minutes and it sparked an immediate offensive threat.  The visitors however, were unable to turn the tide.  The Union can be proud of an excellent second season and notching an incredible finish as a newer expansion franchise.

LA Galaxy 2-1 NY Red Bulls

The Red Bulls struck first in the fourth minute, looking to make history as the first visiting team to leave the HDC victorious.  The game was a tense, back and forth match, with everything to play for despite LA's advantage.  The Galaxy leveled the score as Mike Magee headed home a deadly Beckham corner kick.  New York would have more opportunities in the second half, but a penalty decision and Donovan goal iced the game in the 75th.  A great series between the two MLS giants, the aggregate ending 3-1.

The Conference Championships:

Sporting KC 0-2 Houston Dynamo

Sporting boasted a record 20,839 fans for this playoff fixture.  The hosts came out guns blazing and nearly scored in the second minute.  The Dynamo suffered a critical blow as MLS MVP candidate Brad Davis was seriously injured and taken off in the 35th minute.  Sporting took advantage and bullied their guests till the break.  The second half was very different from the first and the Dynamo scored from some set piece pinball at 53 minutes.  KC was grasping at straws and had several good opportunities, not to mention an appeal for a PK.  However, the result was no longer in doubt when Carlo Costly seized on a through ball, making use of the post as he ended Sporting's successful season, three minutes from time.

LA Galaxy 3-1 Real Salt Lake

This game was expected to be quite lively and both teams delivered.  RSL took the pitch with something to prove and dominated the opening quarter hour.  A slackened pace allowed LA to take back momentum and a 21st minute Donovan PK shifted the pendulum in their favor.  The claret and cobalt responded quickly, as Saborio level less than two minutes later.  Robbie Keane nearly edged LA ahead but instead hit the post before firing wide moments later.  RSL had some good chances in the closing stages of the first half as Beckerman rattled the upright just before the break.  Right away the Galaxy had two near goals, but the RSL defense was able to cope.  However, the visitors soon caved to the pressure as David Beckham and Mike Magee combined to score for the third time in three matches.  The pair are in unstoppable form at present.  Nearly leveling immediately, RSL's Espindola clanged off the bar and it seemed Real could hit every part of the goal except the net.  As RSL pressed to equalize, they exposed their defense and Robbie Keane was quick to punish the error.  The game was all but finished as he found the net on a counterattack in the 68th minute.  The visitors rallied and forced some excellent saves from Josh Sauders, but the damage was already done.

...and so that brings us to Sunday!  The LA Galaxy face Houston at the Home Depot Center!!  The match will be broadcast at 9:00pm and is airing on ESPN, Galavision, and TSN 2.  The Galaxy are the heavy favorites and will expect to preserve their unbeaten record at home this year.  The LA threat will come from several angles as the Beckham/Magee show searches for a memorable Season Finale.  Also, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan will surely test the Dynamo's defense.  LA's defense on the other hand has proved to be nearly unbreakable, and the resolution of the home crowd will only bolster their performance.  Houston have their work cut out for them, and with great form finishing the season and some unlikely playoff results under their belt, they are certainly capable of an upset even without star Brad Davis.  It looks to be an exciting match however you slice it, and I'll be sure to follow up with the postgame report next week!  Enjoy!!

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