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Nov 082013

MLSCup2013PlayoffsLogo2 MLS 300x248 MLS Playoff Roundup


MLS Playoff Roundup

This week’s midweek MLS playoff action provided plenty of surprises and massive amounts of drama.  Although it is unfortunate that the Supporter’s Shield recipient, the New York Red Bulls, were bounced out of the tournament early, it is good to see three out of the top four seeds still alive. The Supporter’s Shield race was close all season so at least one of the teams that was in the running for the title at the end of the regular season will be rewarded with home-field advantage in MLS Cup  Here are the final results from this week’s action and the upcoming ties for the Conference Finals:

MLS Conference Semi-Finals Results

Conference Match Fixture Aggregate
Eastern New England 1-Sporting   Kansas City 3 3-4
Eastern Houston 2- New York  1 4-3
Western Los Angeles 0- Real Salt   Lake 2 1-2
Western Seattle 2- Portland 3 3-5




MLS Conference Finals Matchups

Conference Match Fixture(Lowest Seed First) Game #1 Game #2
Eastern Houston v Sporting Kansas City 11/9 2:30 NBC Sports Network 11/23 NBC Sports Network
Western Real Salt Lake v Portland 11/10 9pm ESPN 11/24 ESPN


A couple of thoughts before we get to the next round of matches:

  • While many people will give credit to the Houston Dynamo for once again pulling off the upset and beating the New York Red Bulls, let’s face facts: the Red Bulls blew this game. Much like in Sunday’s game the Red Bulls dominated the first half, controlling possession, taking good shots on target and having a stout, resolute defense. Even without Jamison Olave they looked like they were going to go through. It is very difficult to score on Houston Dynamo GK Tally Hall so one would have thought that would have been enough to get the Red Bulls through. Instead in typical Red Bulls fashion, their defense breaks down in the 37th minute (thanks in part to Ibrahim Sekagaya refusing to go off or at least stop play because of an injury,) and the team plays right into the hands of the Dynamo. Houston did exactly what they always do: play solid defense, rely on Tally Hall to make 1-2 quality saves, make the most out of free kicks and use their deep bench to their advantage. The Red Bulls had this team beat not just once, not just twice, but three times over the span of this two-leg playoff. Although I am sure that there are plenty of fans who will be happy with the Supporter’s Shield, the team’s first-ever trophy, it feels like yet another missed opportunity for the Red Bulls.


  • While the Red Bulls may have letdown their fans with the result on Wednesday, the worst performance thus far in the playoffs belongs to the Seattle Sounders. Facing a 3-1 deficit and going on the road to their hated rivals, the Portland Timbers, one would have thought that the Sounders would have come out of the box playing aggressive and trying everything to pull closer to Portland. Instead, within the first 47 minutes the club was down 3-0. Only a complete breakdown by the Portland defense made this game at least marginally close, but the Sounder’s last two goals felt more like garbage points than anything else. The Sounders have looked flat for the past two and a half months and really have not been the same team since Forward Eddie Johnson decided to give the “pay me” sign to owners back in August. I am not really sure why Adam Moffat and Shalrie Joseph were starting over Obafemi Martins and Mauro Rosales, but it seemed to be counter-productive to the whole “scoring” thing.

    What made Seattle so great for so many years is it felt like this team had a plan that you could see on the field.  From youth development to scouting to signing international players, you could always see that there is a clear direction for this club. But by signing players like Joseph, Martins, and let’s be honest Clint Dempsey, it feels like the club is unbalanced that there are too many overpriced, experienced players and not enough young talent to bring some creativity and flair. Perhaps with Lamar Neagle out due to yellow card accumulation they had to readjust their lineup.  But Seattle has not looked good for a few weeks now and I would think that there may be some changes in terms of player personnel at the end of the season.

  • As for the other two Semifinal losers, Los Angeles and New England, their postseason runs almost feel like trial runs for next year. Both teams are loaded top young talent, and to be honest both probably made it farther than they should have this year.

    That may sound strange with Los Angeles, but if you think about all of the things that they have gone through this season with David Beckham leaving, Landon Donovan heading to parts unknown for a few months, the goalkeeper mess, trading Mike Magee, and the Omar Gonzalez contract situation they have had a lot happen to them this season. As opposed to caving in, the club signed an excellent goalkeeper in Jaime Penedo, signed Gonzalez and Donovan long-term deals, and give playing time to many of their academy players. DEF Kofi Opare, MID Jose Villareal, FWD Gyasi Zardes, and FWD Jack McBean are all considered to be some of the top young talent in American and all of them will figure prominently in Coach Bruse Arena’s game plans next year.

    Unlike the Galaxy, no one expected the New England Revolution to make it this far, let alone take Sporting Kansas City to the limit in a two-leg playoff. Revolution management’s efforts to improve their academy and draft selections have led them to accrue a core nucleus of explosive, talented players. Credit should also go to Coach Jay Heaps, who has done a phenomenal job in getting all of these players to play as a unit, which can be difficult if you don’t have a foundation to build off of.

    What will be interesting is to see how this team replaces GK Matt Reis (retiring) and MID/FWD Juan Agudelo (Transfer to Stoke City) in the offseason. Backup GK Bobby Shuttlesworth was a very capable replacement for Reis during the season, but he often lacked decisiveness when it came down to the final minutes. Agudelo will be far more difficult to replace. His partnership with Fagundez and Rowe in the midfielder was the key for the Revolution’s success this year. You have to wonder if signing former US Men’s National team Forward Charlie Davies in August was meant to be Agudelo’s replacement. Davies plays a very similar style to that of Agudelo; however he has never been the same since the car crash that nearly took his life back in October 2009. The good news is that if Davies does not work out, the club has plenty of Allocation money and young players to move for a more proven veteran striker.


Conference Final Previews:

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City

A rematch of last year’s 2012 Conference Semi-Finals matchup, which saw the Dynamo upset Sporting K.C. 2-1 on aggregate, this series should be a very close set of games. Although Sporting did defeat the Dynamo earlier this 1-0 in Houston, who at the time had a 25 game home unbeaten streak, the Dynamo were also able to get a 1-1 draw at Livestrong Park in Kansas City. Expect a very physical set of games: in their two previous matches this season the two teams had a combined 56 fouls and 6 cards (all yellow.)

The key to this series is if Sporting Kansas City can limit the number of unnecessary fouls. The reason why the Dynamo are so difficult to defeat in a two-legged playoff is that they have are able to exploit their opponents weaknesses and are deadly with set pieces. Kansas City cannot give away too many chances to the Dynamo or they will suffer the same fate as the New York Red Bulls.

Although it seems like Bad Karma to pick against the Dynamo, given their history, I give the slight edge to Sporting Kansas City. Yes they will be physical and probably draw a few unnecessary fouls, but they have also shown that they are able to come back from any deficit and pull out a victory. MID/FWD Graham Zusi has been in amazing form as of late, and I really like the partnership that he has developed with Sooney Saad. Also, if Claudio Bieler (game-winning goal in extra time against New England on Wednesday) is actually ready to play he could be a difference-maker in this series off of the bench.

Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers

If you are a soccer mom or dad and you want to get your son or daughter to watch a game of American soccer, have them sit down in front of the T.V. and watch one of the two matches between Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers this month. No, not because Timber Joey gets to chop down a tree or because you want to explain to your kids what “YSA” means. Chances are they already know that one. You want your kids to watch this matchup because these two teams when they are at their best play the best form of American soccer.

What’s interesting about this match is that it would seem that the Timbers would have a distinct advantage over RSL. They have not lost a match since late August, a 4-2 loss to Real Salt in Utah, and just smoked the Seattle Sounders. Plus Real Salt Lake’s form has been very poor since the U.S. Open Cup final against D.C. United and it looked like all of the controversy regarding coach Jason Kreis’ contract had finally got to them.

Then Thursday night happened and the Real Salt Lake team that at the halfway point of season were the front-runners for the Supporters Shield showed up again. The swift counter-attacks on the right flank by Luis Gill was back, as was Alvaro Saborio’s clever touches and passes. I also really like the addition of Velasquez to the lineup, who was the only player to play with any initiative during the previous match.  They also showed tremendous perseverance after having Javier Morales’ splendid free kick nullified by a curious call by the referee.

Despite all of this, I still like for Portland to make it through to the MLS Cup. While Real Salt Lake has turned it on as of late, Portland has not really given one bad performance throughout this entire MLS Season. Even in the early part of the season, when the team was still trying to adjust to Coach Caleb Porter’s style, they always played with a commitment to defense and avoiding risky shot selection in the attacking third.

Going back to the 3-3 draw against Real Salt Lake in August, Portland found tremendous success in moving the ball through the center of the midfield through Will Johnson and Darlington Nagbe up to Ryan Johnson and Diego Valeri. Real’s midfield is more of an attacking midfield than a defensive one and had tremendous problems against the Los Angeles attack during their two game set. Although I would expect RSL GK Nick Rimando and RSL DEF Chris Schuler to continue their solid run of form, it will be difficult for RSL to keep up with the Timbers offense.




MLS CUP 2011 Preview Extravaganza and Stat Blowout

 Posted by on November 17, 2011 at 3:52 am  Uncategorized
Nov 172011

Sunday will be home game No. 20 of the 2011 MLS season for the LA Galaxy. Oh, and the MLS Cup final.

The playoff’s top seed and Supporter’s Shield winner didn’t necessarily benefit from netting the most points over the course of the 34-game season having flown cross-country to meet arguably the league’s most talented team in the NY Red Bulls, only to then have to get past the 2009 MLS champions in the team’s 19th home match to reach the final. But if the Galaxy can take comfort in anything, it’s the 14 – 5 – 0 record at home this season and playoffs. Win No. 15 at home will not only secure an undefeated season and playoffs at home in 2011 — the team is also undefeated at home in CONCACAF matches — but will also see them capture the their third MLS Cup, and first since 2005.

Opposing the Galaxy Sunday will be the playoff’s 7th seeded team, 2nd in the Eastern Conference, the Houston Dynamo. The Dynamo had a fairly comfortable road to the final, beating the Philadelphia Union home and away, before an impressive win at Kansas City. A win made even more impressive when you consider that their team MVP, and potential league MVP, Brad Davis left the match injured after just the 38 minutes.

Without Davis, the Dynamo are fairly limited. He is their main source creatively, coming in from the left side of midfield, and their dead-ball specialist. Though, when Davis went down in the Eastern Conference final, the team didn’t seem to skip a beat in the hostile environment of Livestrong Park.

The Galaxy are not without their own injury woes, although to a far less influential player. Chad Barrett suffered a freak ankle injury in training leading up to the final, effectively rendering him out for season. While Barrett was not in contention for the league, or even team, MVP by any stretch, he managed to put a nice streak of goals together to end the season and it seemed he had found some chemistry with LA’s Robbie Keane.

Speaking of the team’s Irish superstar, Keane returned to the team just days ago from Euro2012 qualifying playoffs with his national team. Worries are he might be worn and weary from travel, but after the Irish’s 4 – nil stomping at Estonia, Keane was able to coast through a 1 – 1 win Tuesday in Ireland, and celebrate a Euro2012 berth with his squad (there first since 1988). Keane had previously been injured in the final games of qualifying, putting his MLS playoffs in doubt, but after a quicker than anticipated recovery and a goal against RSL in the Western Conference final, and two more versus Estonia, the striker might just be finding form at the right time for the Galaxy.

Who will partner with Keane up top is the real question though.

Much of the attention has centered on forward Adam Cristman. The hulking striker has worked well in the past holding up play and harassing opponent’s back lines for Keane, and speculation is he’ll be called in for a shift on Sunday. However, don’t be surprised if manager Bruce Arena opts for Landon Donovan leading the line, as he has the technical ability to link with Keane, and we could even see the Galaxy’s leading goalscorer in the playoffs, Mike Magee, move from midfield to forward, with Chris Birchall taking his spot at left mid. The Dynamo boast two tall center backs, Arena’s though process may be to pull them out of position with smaller, fleet-footed forwards allowing Keane, Donovan or Magee to exploit the spaces left behind.

Whatever the pairing up top, the team’s league low eight goals against at home means goals are likely to be at a premium in this match. Todd Dunivant, Omar Gonzalez, AJ De La Garza and Sean Franklin have been stellar all season — when are we going to get to see an all Galaxy back line for the national team, Jurgen? — and Josh Saunders has made big saves so far in the playoffs, only giving up 2 this postseason, while Houston has only seen one ball hit their nets in the playoffs. So, don’t expect a shootout in this final. A terse, organized affair from both sides might not be the prettiest of games, and it may come down to the team that makes the least mistakes in the match.

The Teams by the Numbers

22- The amount of set piece goals the Dynamo have scored on this year (stat courtesy of Luis Bueno, Galaxy beat writer for Centerback Omar Gonzalez was defender of the year in MLS and will have to be on his toes, as the Dynamo have quite the height advantage over LA’s preferred starting XI.

0- Number of Galaxy losses at home. It’s been said already, but it bears repeating. The Home Depot Center is a fortress for this team, and ever since it was announced they’d host the MLS Cup, there has been a lot of pressure to get to this game in front of their home supporters. LA shouldn’t need anymore motivation than the cup itself, but an unbeaten 2011 at home might be an added incentive.

1- Team has won the MLS Cup at home. DC United pulled off the feat way back in 1997, with only the NE Revolution making the cup at home since in 2005. They of course lost to the Galaxy that year.

14- Assists for David Beckham and Brad Davis this season to lead MLS. The Dynamo are saying Davis won’t play a part in MLS Cup, but look for Beckham, 3 assists in the playoffs so far, to add to that total. Mark my words, set pieces will be key for BOTH teams in this match.

6- Dynamo losses on the road the season. In comparison, LA only lost 5 times both home and away. Houston has been bunkering down all week, creating a siege mentality to enter this match, can they pull off what would likely be a huge upset?

3- Times the Home Depot Center has hosted the MLS Cup before. This will be LA’s first time being a part of a HDC MLS Cup final.

0- Number of MLS Cups David Beckham has hoisted in his 5-year MLS career, and number of games many are saying he will have left in MLS after the final. When you’ve captained the most soccer crazy (keyword: CRAZY) country in the world in England, have won the Champions League, and been runner-up in the Ballon D’or and World Player of the Year voting, it’s not likely an MLS Cup will be the most prominent piece of silverware on your mantle. But David is a consummate professional and played inspired all season. IF this is to be his last MLS game, he’d likely want a similar result to the one he had before coming to MLS: a league title


LA Galaxy 2 – Houston 1

For Galaxy Sunday is About Getting to MLS Cup Final, Not Revenge for ’09

 Posted by on November 5, 2011 at 5:18 pm  Uncategorized
Nov 052011

On Sunday at the Home Depot Center, two of MLS’s better teams of the past three years will meet for a chance to play in the MLS Cup final two weeks later on Nov. 20. No strangers to the MLS Cup, the match between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake will be a rematch of the teams that met in the 2009 edition of the Cup, with LA losing to RSL on penalty kicks in the match two years ago.

Heading into the MLS Cup Playoffs, RSL looked to be a team primed to be knocked out right away. Stuggling to end the season and winless in their final six, the 2009 champion’s task was made worse as they drew the league’s 2nd ranked side, the Seattle Sounders, in the playoffs. But to the shock of many, RSL raced out to a 3 – 0 lead at the end of their first leg contest with Seattle, and held on to eliminate the Sounders in a 2 – 0 return leg defeat, advancing to Sunday’s Western Conference Final.
“They have some very talented players, I know they had a very rough close to the season,” said LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena. “But the way this thing works in our league it doesn’t matter, you’re in the playoffs and you’re competing for a championship, and that’s where they are right now.”
Among the players the Galaxy will have to look out for Sunday, midfielder Javier Morales, who recovered recently from a serious ankle injury earlier in the season, will be someone to keep a particularly close eye on. The creative Argentine picked up two assists in RSL’s opener with Seattle and is key to their attack.
On the other side of the pitch, the home side comes off two hotly contested matches with the NY Red Bulls, having finished off NY Thursday 2 – 1 at the Home Depot Center. The quick turnaround of the match Sunday will provide the Galaxy with the added challenge of getting players fit following the cross country travel to NY and high tempo of the previous two matches.
“This is maybe the 10th time these year we’ve done this,” said Arena of his team’s short break between games. “We know how to recover from it, it’s never easy, but we will get our team recovered.”
Defender Omar Gonzalez echoed his manager’s sentiments saying, “the trainers are gonna have a lot of work… it’s a short turnaround so we are going to have to hydrate, kick up the legs a bit and just relax.”
One boost for the Galaxy will be the return in central midfield of Juninho, who was suspended in the aftermath of the altercation between LA and NY following the teams’ first leg match. Chris Birchall did well deputizing the Brazilian Thursday, but the amount of protection Juninho provides to the Galaxy back line and his understanding with David Beckham has been pivotal to the Galaxy’s success in all competitions. His return to the starting XI should sure up a midfield that was plagued by the withdrawn play of Thierry Henry in the last match, and will be keeping a close tabs on Morales, who plays in a similar spot on the pitch for RSL.
One thing is for sure though, LA isn’t look beyond this game.
“The final’s not here, yet. We have to go past Salt Lake first, you know take it one game at a time,” said Gonzalez. “Hopefully we will get past Salt Lake, and then we’ll take it from there.”
Midfielder Mike Magee echoed LA’s focused approach, mindful of the team’s loss at this same juncture last year.
“Against Dallas last year we got absolutely smashed looking forward to the MLS Cup. We have a majority of the same guys back so that’s not going to happen again this year,” said Magee.
As for revenge, it’s all about advancing to the final and winning an MLS Cup for LA. Revenge is taking a backseat this Sunday.
“There’s no revenge about any games that we play in,” said David Beckham of Sunday’s match. “But of course we want to beat them. It’s simple as that.”

Galaxy Finish Off Red Bulls; Face Real Salt Lake in Western Final Sunday

 Posted by on November 4, 2011 at 4:05 pm  Uncategorized
Nov 042011

If the verbal sparing matches with Landon Donovan and the rest of the Galaxy team weren’t enough to confirm Luke Rodgers villain role in the LA/NY rivalry, his first eight minutes of the Galaxy’s home leg with the Red Bulls in the Western Conference Semifinals would have sealed it.

Slipping between the center-back pairing of Omar Gonzalez and AJ De La Garza, Rodgers got on the end of a Thierry Henry through ball and in 1v1 on Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders. Sliding a low right footed shot past the onrushing Saunders, Rodgers leveled the aggregate score of the tie just four minutes into the match, silencing the sellout crowd of 20,000 at the Home Depot Center Thursday night.
It was early, but Rodgers wasn’t finished being a pest to the Galaxy and their supports. Off the ensuing kickoff, lunging into a reckless tackle in the center circle, Rodgers picked up a yellow card, as the match looked destined to pick up where the ugliness at the end of the match in New York left off. And four minutes later, Rodgers, frustrated he was unable to latch on to a ball at the touchline, fired the ball towards the crowd, nearly decapitating a Galaxy fan. Villain status secured, Rodgers wouldn’t touch the ball without “boos” reigning from around the HDC.
“Rodgers is dangerous getting behind us,” said Galaxy manager Bruce Arena after the match. “And he did that two or three times tonight, so it was difficult.”
But if Rodgers was the clear villain of the Galaxy’s two matches with NY, Mike Magee was there to rescue the Galaxy. The former Red Bull, and figure of almost mythical proportions for Galaxy supporters, was once again the unlikely hero and man on the spot for LA.
Off a David Beckham corner in the 42nd minute, Magee shook free of his marker to meet Beckham’s in-swinger at the near post and head into the roof of the NY net. Leveling the score on the night, the goal would have added significance as it put the Galaxy ahead for good in the tie, and into the Western Conference finals Sunday against Real Salt Lake.
“Anytime David has the ball, especially on corners, you just got to put yourself in a good spot because he is going to put it there,” said Magee of his goal. “I think Omar picked about five guys behind me, which obviously helped, but I just tried to get in the right spot.”
After sustaining a flurry of attacks prompted by the withdrawn role of Henry in the Red Bull attack, it appeared Magee’s goal finally settled the Galaxy into the match, and they looked much the better team in the second half once Henry’s passing lanes were cut off. And in the 74th minute, a penalty won by Beckham, as NY’s Roy Miller bundled him over in the area, led to a coolly finished kick from the spot by captain Landon Donovan.
“I was surprised because I was in the penalty area,” said Beckham of the foul that led to the goal. “I was surprised when I found his boot around my ear… it was a difficult game tonight, so overall, it helped.”
The 2 – 1 win keeps the Galaxy’s unbeaten run in all competitions at home this year intact, and more importantly gives the team another home game, with the opportunity to get back to the MLS Cup on the line. The Galaxy’s last trip to the finals was just two years ago, losing in penalties to Sunday’s Conference Finals opponent, Real Salt Lake.
For their part, the Galaxy are saying the upcoming match won’t be about revenge though.
“That was something that happened in the past, you know of course it is on our minds, but we can’t think about it as revenge, it’s a whole new year, a whole new team,” said Gonzalez after the match. “We’ve been working up since 2009, and we’ve been getting better and better. We’ve got some different players on the team, and everyone’s focused and ready to win.”
Sunday’s match will be the second of a doubleheader for the MLS, which features the Eastern Conference Final between Sporting KC and the Houston Dynamo, before the Galaxy take on RSL at 6pm. The winner’s of the matches will meet Nov. 20 at the Home Depot Center with the MLS Cup up for grabs.

Despite Solid Performance, Red Bulls Fall Short

 Posted by on October 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 312011

The Red Bulls played a mighty fine match against a very good Galaxy yesterday in a cold Red Bull Arena.  However, it was not enough to beat the Supporters Shield winners as a set piece gaffe cost the Red Bulls a 1-0 result.  If the Red Bulls can avoid anymore mistakes and play like they did yesterday, then it’s very possible that they can get the two goal difference needed to advance.  That’s quite the daunting challenge, but this team has been resilient lately.  Time will tell if they can pull it off, on to player reviews.

Frank Rost GK: 6
He made a number of nice saves but was flat footed on the goal despite being let down by his backline.  He also had a few head scratching moments yesterday.

Roy Miller LB: 6
He’s a great attacking left back and that prowess continued yesterday.  His defending was solid as well.

Tim Ream CB: 7
Ream had one of his best games in a while.  It’s possible the sophomore slump is ending as the cancerous Marquez is no longer next to him.

Stephen Keel CB: 7
Had another great game of blue collar work.  Had one particular tackle in the box that saved the game from being any worse.  He’s making a convincing case to go into 2012 as the starting CB.

Carlos Mendes RB: 6
A solid game on the right side, playing there due to DJ Solli’s red card.  He doesn’t possess the attacking skills of Solli, though, he almost equalized on a header.

Joel Lindpere LM: 5
He was his usual tenacious self, but while the whole backline can be faulted for raising their hand offsides, Lindpere was the one that Magee snuck right by.

Teemu Taino CM: 6
A solid game in his sweeper role.

Rafa Marquez CM: 3
It’s funny, had Marquez just walked off the field at the end of the game, this grade would have been significantly higher.  Landon Donovan maybe a petulant player, himself, but Marquez’s actions were inexcusable.  Backe should bench Marquez after the red card should this team advance, with Marquez playing his last game in a Red Bull uniform.

Dane Richards RM/F: 6.5
Richards was dangerous despite not having Solli with him to form that offensive force on the right.  Saunders robbed him of a goal.

Luke Rodgers F: 5.5
He was feisty, but didn’t produce much.  At times he was sloppy on the ball.

Thierry Henry F: 5
His most exciting moment was his attempted bicycle kick.  Other than that he had a relatively quiet match.


Medhi Ballocuhy RM: 5
Came on and added nothing to the attack.

Backe was quick in the postgame to point out that the defensive line holding up their arms was inexcusable on the goal.  Nevertheless, he should have had set piece issues ironed out by now.  Dealing with Marquez would go a long way to regaining the faith of fans and probably players in the, most likely returning, coach.  Fortunately, he seems to be at his best when his back is against the wall and that will very much be the case Thursday.

Magee Secures a First-Leg Win for the Galaxy in NY

 Posted by on October 31, 2011 at 4:18 am  Uncategorized
Oct 312011

The myth of Mike Magee might soon be falling behind the reality.

The 27-year-old Galaxy midfielder/forward/occasional defender/one-time goalkeeper is a fan favorite in LA with numerous big goals to his name, and an ability to offer the Galaxy just what they need at opportune moments. His exploits even led to the creation of a trending Twitter hashtag, #MikeMageeFacts, which includes an ever growing list of Magee’s many talents.
But in LA’s first-leg match at the NY Red Bulls, Magee, a former Red Bull, provided in the more traditional sense, with his precise strike finding the bottom corner of the NY net, and leaving Red Bull keeper Frank Rost as little more than a wax statue in goal.
Originating from a Galaxy set-piece near midfield, Magee found himself alone behind a protesting Red Bulls’ back line, and with only Rost to beat. The ball bouncing towards the left of the NY 6-yard box, Magee expertly finished the move with a low left-footed volley, of which Rost could only manage a passing glance, before joining in the offside protest.
Beaten by the looping long ball of David Beckham, and the impeckable timing of Magee, the NY back line took themselves out of the play as they protested the offside position of Galaxy forward Robbie Keane. But as the Irish forward made no attempt to play Beckham’s pass, running instead towards his own net, the referee and his assistant correctly adjudged the play onside, allowing Magee to carry on with the play.
Away from home and with 75 minutes plus remaining in the match, the lone goal would prove enough to win the match, with the well-organized Galaxy defense showing the Red Bulls why they allowed the fewest goals against in the league this season.
Though NY didn’t go down without a fight; sadly, in more ways than one.
Pointblank efforts by midfielders Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere were miraculously brushed aside by LA keeper Josh Saunders, with the collective defensive-effort of the Galaxy frustrating the Red Bulls at every turn. Even Thierry Henry aerobatics were not enough to see LA concede, as the Frenchmen’s bicycle attempt in the area went well wide, and with the match ending in the Galaxy’s favor 1 -0, the Red Bulls had one last bit of fight in them.
It’s unclear exactly how it started, but it appeared a ball thrown by Rafa Marquez at LA’s Landon Donovan caused a post-match scuffle that led to punches being thrown by both Marquez and the Galaxy’s Juninho. Both players were ejected by the match’s referee in the aftermath, and will miss Thursday’s return leg, and possibly more after the league reviews the match report.
Regardless, the Galaxy will be feeling quite confident heading back to LA and the Home Depot Center, a proverbial fortress for the team, where it has yet to lose all season.

New York, New York

 Posted by on October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 282011

Our first opponent of the playoffs has been decided. The NY Red Bulls defeated FC Dallas 2 – 0 in their play-in contest, meaning LA is off to the Big Apple (actually, NYRB play in New Jersey, but you get the point) to take on Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls, in what will likely be one of the most watched playoff ties of the year.

Heading into the playoffs, LA was rehabbing injuries from some key members of the squad, and it appears there may be good news on that front. Multiple sources have said injured Irish forward Robbie Keane seems to have recovered sooner than expected from the injury he sustained playing with Ireland in Euro2012 qualifiers, and was able participate in full training with the first team. Also back in the team, LA captain Landon Donovan, who sat out the team’s final game of the season after seeing limited time in their final CONCACAF Champions League group stage match, is available for Bruce Arena, and has been training all week. With Sean Franklin returning in the team’s final regular season match in Houston, the Galaxy will likely have their full strength squad at Arena’s disposal Sunday.
The Red Bulls are of course not without their injury concerns after the long season. Key forward Luke Rodgers has a knee injury, and had to miss the play-in game with FC Dallas. He is still listed as questionable for NY, and despite winning their last match, the Red Bulls are dismal without Rodgers in the line-up.
Arena has been very conservative in pivotal away matches this year, and with no away-goals rule in effect for the playoffs, look for him to set out a compact and patient team in NY. With the return leg in LA Thursday, Arena would still be confident with a 0 – 0 game in NY.
The teams’ first match-up of the season in LA was a highly anticipated affair, and one that lived up to its billing and was a great advertisement for exciting up-tempo play in the league. So, while you’re likely to see a very conservative opening match, expect a much more exciting return leg Thursday.
The first leg is Sunday at 3:00 pm EST, with the return to LA Thursday at 8 pm PST.
Prediction: LA advances

First Step For Red Bulls Complete

 Posted by on October 27, 2011 at 7:22 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 272011

Despite much consternation over their prospects, the Red Bulls prevailed down in Texas last night defeating FC Dallas 2-0.  The name of the game in the Wildcard match was to stay alive, and the team did just that.  Now they host L.A. in a matchup Sunday in Red Bull Arena, step 2 in their quest for playoff glory.  Survival is the name of the game when it comes to the MLS playoffs.  Let’s see how the individual players did to survive last night.

Frank Rost GK: 7
Rost just always seems in control.  On a number of balls in the air, Rost was quick to punch them away or snatch them erasing all possible danger posed by the FC Dallas offense.
Roy Miller LB: 6.5
A solid game all around offensively and defensively for the Costa Rican defender.
Tim Ream CB: 6
Had a few moments in the early part of the first half where he looked like maybe he was going to cost the Red Bulls this match.  As with much of the team, he settled down 30 minutes in and provided glimpses the rest of the way of the Ream everyone expected this year.
Stephen Keel CB: 7
The guy has been a late season revelation.  Man had no issue using his head on numerous occasions to clear any danger posed by stray balls into the Red Bulls’ area.  Just a great performance.
Jan Gunnar Solli RB: 4
Just a foolish red card.  Someone at Catas, the Viking Army bar, yelled, “He got all ball!”  Yeah he also got all hamstring.
Joel Lindpere LM: 8
Time and time again, the man proves he is the heart and soul of this team.  His goal wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it did the job.
Teemu Tainio CM: 6.5
Solid game sweeping in front of the defense keeping the Dallas attack stagnant.
Rafael Marquez CM: 6.5
Marquez looked like he cared last night which is a definite plus.  He had some very nice passes and played well defensively too.
Dax McCarty RM: 6
A solid night on the right side before he went down with an ankle injury.
Dane Richards F: 6
Was fairly dangerous using his pace to push the backline of Dallas.  His size, though, enables defenders to push him off the ball easily in the Forward position.  Nevertheless a commendable effort.
Thierry Henry F 6.5
His late goal completely iced the match.  Also did a great job in surprise defensive duty covering Daniel Hernandez all night.
Medhi Ballouchy RM: 6.5
His heads up assist on the game winner must be commended.  He did have some shaky moments as the watch went on though.
Carlos Mendes RB: 6
Helped ice the game, subbing in for Richards after Solli was sent off.
Backe seems to be figuring out what to do with this team at exactly the right time.  His calling on Henry to harass Daniel Hernandez was a masterstroke that put a fine veneer on his performance on the entire night.

Red Bulls Have Dallas’ Number

 Posted by on October 26, 2011 at 2:54 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 262011
Red Bull nation, o ye, of little faith, fear not the formerly fearsome FC Dallas.  The Red Bulls are walking into one of the best possible playoff scenarios they could get as the 10th seed.  The paths taken by former MLS squads from last seed to the lifting the MLS Cup have little to no bearing on what happens with the Red Bulls.  However, very much in recent history of the two clubs, puts most of the chips in New York’s corner as they travel to Dallas for tonight’s wildcard match up.
First of all, FC Dallas is tired.  They have been playing non stop with the MLS regular season and the CONCACAF Champions League, in which they gave their all, and still failed.  That has to take a lot out of a team.  The Red Bulls come into the match relatively well rested getting their crowded schedule out of the way well before the fall.  The teams’ respective schedules have a lot to do with Dallas limping to the finish line and the Red Bulls finishing on a hot streak.  By the way, when did that hot streak start….
The Red Bulls have Dallas’ number.  Not only have the Red Bulls beaten Dallas already in Dallas this season, they are undefeated in the last five games against the Texas side going 3-0-2.  There’s nothing to suggest that the Red Bulls won’t keep that momentum going.  But what of the daunting task of playing away…
The FC Dallas fans don’t like showing up.  Dallas, despite being one of the better MLS sides for most of the season, only averaged 12,861 fans a game, third worst in MLS.  Their Champions League attendances were abysmally worse.  The latter is particularly telling considering the added weight of the tournament and shorter time frame to sell tickets.  With that timeframe in mind, what makes anyone think Dallas will be able to come remotely close to  selling even 10,000 tickets.  That would leave the 20,500 seat Pizza Hut Park half empty. Hardly an intimidating cauldron for the away side.  Not good considering…
The Red Bulls are firing on all cylinders.  Call it the advent of cynical soccer or whatever, but the Red Bulls are playing very well even if it isn’t pretty.  Luke Rodgers maybe hurt, but Dane Richards has provided many of the same characteristics as Rodgers.  McCarty is serviceable on the right and Juan Agudelo is a wildcard who could also possibly see time on the wing, a position he performed well at on the youth national team.  To an extant the Red Bulls are finally living up to the hype they carried into this season.  Is it enough to get them to the MLS Cup like everyone thought it would, time will tell.  But it certainly should get them through Dallas.

Problems You Like Having

 Posted by on October 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 142011

Sunday the LA Galaxy will be taking on their “rivals” from across the hall, Chivas USA, in the final home game of the 2011 MLS regular season. And with the Supporter’s Shield already wrapped up and the Galaxy’s survival in the CONCACAF Champions League riding on a match the following Thursday in Honduras, it’s very likely this match means next to nothing, even if it is the Home Depot Center “SuperClasico”.

Traditional wisdom says that a match like this is of no consequence to a team that’s already claimed the league’s top-spot, and therefore, not worth fielding a top-rate side. And while I would generally agree, especially considering the must-win match in Central America on Thursday, there are reasons to the contrary.
First, it is the last home game of the season, and a rivalry or derby, you could say. While I’d argue a match against a squad that has failed to register a victory against you in years is not a rivalry, the fact remains LA shares the building with Chivas, and like a good sibling rivalry, it’s always nice to put a younger brother in his place.
Also, being the last home match, it is a chance for the Galaxy to complete something they started all the way back on March 20th: a season unbeaten at home.
Going into their 17th and final home game of the season, LA is 11 – 5 – 0 with 27 goals for and a paltry 7 against. To put that into perspective, the next lowest goals against at home is FC Dallas with 11, but FCD have only 18 goals for at home. Clearly, the HDC is a fortress for the Galaxy, and it must be nice for supporters to come to the HDC each and every match knowing a win is likely, a draw is maybe but a loss is unprecedented in 2011.
But all this is one of those nice problems you have when you are a great team.
Wrapping up the season early gives you the luxury of resting players heading into the MLS playoffs (though historically the playoffs have favored teams on form and playing at the highest level clear to the end of the season), even though the Galaxy will be idle in the playoff’s first weekend (probably busy finding a place to display their second straight Supporters’ Shield).
So, for all you Sounders and Timbers fans giddy and quick to point out the atmosphere of your ground blows LA’s HDC out of the water, Sunday we’ll be looking to add more points at home, while you can look back on your 8 – 4 – 4 and 9 – 3 – 4 records respectively at home and wonder how you could have chanted louder.