Boy, how about that start to the conference finals in each series? The quick and dirty of it all shows that we may be headed to our second straight MLS Cup in LA with the Galaxy hosting the Houston Dynamo. But more on that in a moment.
I have a few thoughts from each match as we move towards the second leg of each series. Inch by inch we can see the MLS Cup in out future.
1. Houston gets lucky, then pours it on
Was it a foul on Houston defender Andre Hainault when he dragged down United attacker Raphael Augusto? Absolutely. In any form of it that was a red card offense and Hainault and the Dynamo got away with a big one right before the half time whistle.
MLS and Peter Walton, the general manager of the Professional Referees Organization have already released a small statement on the matter to their website.
“From the angle I saw in the stadium I thought it was a foul,” Walton told MLSsoccer.com following the match. “Speaking to Ricardo afterwards, he didn’t have the angle I had. He thought it was two players coming together and not a foul.”
“Had there been a foul called, and of course it wasn’t, I would’ve expected a yellow card,” Walton said. “Looking at it in real time, I thought the tracking defender [Houston's Luiz Camargo] could have influenced the outcome of that particular play and the benefit of the doubt would go to the defending team in a situation of a denial of a goal scoring opportunity. That’s my opinion from seeing it in real time.”
But in every sense, it’s a foul and the Dynamo were lucky.
A red card to Hainault would have changed the game dramatically, especially before halftime. Houston went on to pour three goals in the back of United’s net in the second half. The Dynamo looked like a different team while D.C. looked like a team that was just too banged up to continue. Losing guys like Chris Pontius didn’t help either. Without him on the field United lost a lot of their forward motion in the midfield and the attack weakened.
United now return home banged up, beaten and in a massive 3-1 hole. Not a good place to be in.
2. LA storms forward thanks to Keane
How about Robbie Keane everyone? He’s been a beast in these playoffs, no other way to put it. If you could vote on a MLS MVP through the playoffs, he may have done enough in these last couple of games to over throw Chris Wondolowski. But thankfully for Wondo, that is a regular season award.
Keane scored two last night and Mike Magee (who else!) added another to give LA a big 3-0 lead over the Seattle Sounders.
LA looked like the championship team that we saw from them last season. Just dominant on all aspects of the ball. In a way this may have been one of the few matches I’ve seen out of this this season where everything was just clicking at the right moments for them.
Seattle just fell apart at the wrong times last night though. To go down 3-0 in the first leg is always a tough thing to do but in the manner of how they did it last night, makes you wonder how much the RSL series took out of this team.
3. LA and Houston on a collision course again
Last year this matchup in the MLS Cup came out of no where. LA was expected but Houston found a way to sneak in. It looks like the two sides are going to do the same again this year given Sunday’s two results. Hard to believe that these were the 8th and 9th best clubs, respectively this season in MLS.
Houston is just playing as good of soccer as anyone these days and they are reminding me of a club I saw a few times earlier in the season. Back in the early-to-mid part of the summer the Dynamo were the second best team in MLS in my opinion, behind San Jose. They looked great on all parts of the ball and right now they are looking that way again.
But as for LA. Man, this latest run is starting to become real impressive. Everyone in form, everyone doing their part and the big names are producing in the right moments. Say what you will about most Designated Players in this league, LA certainly has three of the very best and they prove it each game. Last night’s game with Seattle could have easily been a four of five goal game too.
4. Seattle may be broken…really broken
Winning a game four to zip is never easy to do and Seattle may be kidding themselves if they think they can return home this week and do it to advance to their first MLS Cup. Seattle has one again got nothing out of Fredy Montero. Naturally he’s a better player with someone like Eddie Johnson is 100%, but he’s not. Then you have Mauro Roslaes who is banged up for a second straight playoffs.
Even if those guys all get on the same page as one another and fellow DP Christian Tiffert finally injects some life into the attack as well, I still believe four goals in one game is too much to ask for against a LA squad that is in such great form at the moment.
Seattle needs to hope LA throws up a stinker of a game and then some.