To review the MLS playoff quarter final 1st leg action, I'm very happy to host a guest post from James Grossi of the fabulous Partially Obstructed View which is well worth a click and hours of your time.
Salt Lake v Seattle
A brace from Alvaro Saborio, plus a late third by Ned Grabavoy saw Salt Lake take the initiative in their tie against Seattle at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night with a 3-0 victory.
The central midfield partnership of Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales dominated the affair, as Morales setup both of Saborios goals, while Beckerman was instrumental in keeping the ball moving and stifling the Sounders attack.
The Salt Lake attack was as devastating as it had ever been and spectators witnessed a performance not seen from the so-called best team in the league since their disappointing loss in the CONCACAF Champions’ League Final.
Seattle continued their jinxed playoff existence, being shutout once again – the fourth time in five matches, having only scored once during that stretch. The unavailability of Mauro Rosales surely played a factor in their impotent attack, and they will hope he returns to the lineup for the return fixture. Though things could have been much worse had Osvaldo Alonso been sent off for raising his hands to an opponent after Salt Lake's second goal.
The return match is scheduled for Wednesday night (8:00 pm EST), expect a large vociferous rave-green-clad turnout for what should be a fascinating if almost decided clash. Should Salt Lake score first, the tie could well be over, as scoring four should prove difficult.
New York v Los Angeles
A fortunate first half goal from Mike Magee, taking advantage of a distracted defensive line on a deep David Beckham free kick granted Los Angeles a 0-1 win at New York's Red Bull Arena.
The former New York attacker found the ball at his feet unchallenged by defenders who were expecting play to be called off because of Robbie Keane's passive offside. A costly error as Magee struck his shot across a barely reacting Frank Rost to open the scoring early in the first half.
Despite numerous chances each way – including two spectacular efforts from Thierry Henry – neither side could find another goal, in large part due to goalkeeping heroics.
Josh Saunders in the Galaxy goal made several point-blank denials, robbing Dane Richards, Joel Lindpere, and Henry himself of an equalizing goal, while Rost denied a potential series clincher when Tim Ream slipped allowing Landon Donovan in alone only to be prevented by the steely German’s outstretched hand.
When the match ended, the fireworks continued as some Rafa Marquez-led petulance; hurling the match ball in the direction of Donovan - inspired some pushing and shoving that led to some theatrics and eventually saw both Marquez and LA midfielder Juninho sent off for their involvement.
The return leg is scheduled for Thursday night (11:00 pm EST); with progression hanging in the balance it will be interesting to see if the bad blood carries over to the match in Los Angeles.
Philadelphia v Houston
Philadelphia were undone by Brad Davis' set-piece accuracy early in the franchise's first ever MLS playoff match as his sixth-minute free kick allowed Andrew Hainault to nod in the opening goal. Sebastian Le Toux quickly pulled them back level before Calen Carr grabbed what proved to be the game-winning second.
A defensive game-plan seemed to bite the Union as their strong defense was twice beaten in the first half. Second half introductions of youthful attackers, Roger Torres, Jack McInerney and Freddy Adu added extra impetus to their play, and the Dynamo was lucky to escape the match with a 1-2 victory.
In a match not without its own physical confrontations, the calm, even play of Houston held that early lead despite mounting pressure from a Philadelphia side intent on leveling the match. Numerous chances fell begging due equally to wasteful finishing and some superb goalkeeping from Houston’s Tally Hall.
The return fixture is set to be played on Thursday night with a slender one-goal lead all that separates the two sides. The Union will look to build upon the attacking display that saw them come so close to equalizing in the final half hour of the match, while the Dynamo will look to keep a cool head to see out the tie with another professional performance.
Colorado v Kansas City
The final match of the round saw a Colorado side decimated by injuries and circumstance on the night fall to a second half, ten minute brace by Teal Bunbury.
A tense first half, in which both Caleb Folan and Kosuke Kimura were forced off the field with injury, gave way to a whirlwind ten minutes. Bunbury's first brought about by a defense slicing through-ball from Brazilian defensive midfield Julio Cesar putting in the young American striker alone to lash a shot across Rapids keeper Matt Pickens.
His second came from the penalty spot after Tyrone Marshall was adjudged to have brought him down in the area, and was duly sent off by the referee.
Colorado was forced to use their final substitution on yet another injured player as defender Drew Moor was struck down with a shoulder injury – caused by a collision with Bunbury in the first half - that prevented him from completing the match.
A 0-2 Sporting win; a nightmare for the home-side Rapids, who must now regroup and hope for a speedy return to fitness of several players and find some goal-scoring form to revive any hope for the second leg.
The return match is scheduled for Wednesday night, and given the home form of Kansas City, this, along with the Salt Lake - Seattle tie, appears to be the one closest to having been decided.
>Salt Lake v Seattle 3-0; New York v Los Angeles 0-1; Philadelphia v Houston 1-2; Colorado v Kansas City 0-2.
Links to full reviews