Thursday, October 29, 2015

It Happened in America: United through after controversy, Seattle outlas LA in crazy one

DC United 2-1 New England Revolution
A late goal and some penalty area drama highlighted a thrilling opener to the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Juan Agudelo got the Revs off to an impressive start with a bicycle kick goal off a cross from Kevin Alston. United took some time to find their equalizer, but Chris Pontius gave it to them in the final minute before halftime. After a free flowing first half where both sides saw plenty of attacking opportunities, it was fitting for the first 45 minutes to wind up inconclusive.

The second half was a lot more passive than the first was. United's late winner came off a beautiful passing play in the 83rd. Nick DeLeon started it with a sick back heel pass to Fabian Espindola, who collected it on a dead run. He proceeded to slide a pass across goal to a waiting Chris Rolfe for the easy tap in. The Revs had their chances for a late tying goal. Jermaine Jones fired a shot barely wide in the 87th and was stoned by Bill Hamid on a point blank header in the 90th.

All hope was lost when Jones was sent off for an attack on the referee after he thought a United player had handled the ball in the penalty area. He did have a point, Mark Geiger did miss a handball in the box that should have been a penalty, but he can't be sprinting across half the field to shove the official. Such unsporting behavior will be looked at with a suspension in mind, no doubt.

Regardless of the controversy, United advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals in a two legged match beginning at RFK Stadium on Sunday. Their opponent will be determined by the winner of tomorrow's Toronto-Montreal duel. If Montreal prevails, they host the Red Bulls. If it's Toronto going through, Columbus comes to our nation's capital.

Seattle Sounders 3-2 LA Galaxy
Plenty of early goals kept us very much entertained as the nightcap proved to be just as exciting as the earlier match,

The match was electric right from the get go. Clint Dempsey had the home side in front just after the four minute mark. The USMNT forward banged home a cross during a moment of confusion for the LA defense. Galaxy countered right away. Sebastian Lletget brute an equalizer less than two minutes after Seattle went in front. But the Sounders wouldn't let it stay level for long. Andreas Ivanschitz played a free kick that Nelson Valdez slid home in the 12 minute to make it 2-1. 

The scoring fury continued in the 22nd with Gyasi Zardes finishing a wild sequence of shots by scoring on a deflected shot off a Seattle defender. Seattle thought they had the lead in the 26th when Ivanschitz thought he had scored, but was ruled to have been offside. The final 15 minutes of the half were far less chaotic than the first half hour, and we went into the intermission with each team sporting a pair of goals.

The rains came at halftime, but that didn't slow down any early Sounder attacks. Clint Dempsey and his crew had a couple great chances in the first five minutes of the half, but, for once, Donovan Ricketts was up to the challenge. It was a Ricketts goalkeeping error and a failed AJ DeLaGarza clearance that let to Erik Friberg's 73rd minute goal. The LA keeper wandered a little too far away from his post and allowed the Swede to loft a shot over him and into the back of the net.

It was now up to the Galaxy to overcome their suspect defending to find yet another equalizer. Standing in their way was Stefan Frei in the Seattle goal. He made key saves on Steven Gerrard (although the former Liverpool legend was offside) and Gyasi Zardes as the clock ticked past 80 minutes. A corner and a  couple stoppage time free kicks also bore no fruit for the Galaxy. The Sounders have their revenge for last year's Conference Final defeat as the defending champions fall in the first round of this year's playoffs.

Seattle will await the result of tomorrow's Portland Timbers-Sporting Kansas City match to find out who their opponent is in the next round. Should the Timbers win at home, Seattle welcomes FC Dallas to CenturyLink Field on Sunday. If Kansas City moves on, their Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps come to town.

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