Monday, November 05, 2007

2007 MLS Playoffs - Week 2 recap - First always loses to worst

Without a doubt, leg 2 of round 1 was a lot more fun then leg 1. However, after both number one seeds were knocked out by the bottom seeds, one has to wonder if the league needs to take some sort of action to give the teams that proved themselves during the whole season an advantage in the playoffs. But that is a discussion for another day.

Here is the playoff table after the first round:
PlayoffsWeek 2
Att per game17,04119,838
Goals per game1.6252.5
Ties3 (37.5%)2 (50%)

FC Dallas 1-4 Houston Dynamo
Houston wins series 4-2 on aggregate
It is a real shame this match was not on national television because it is exactly the sort of game that could convert casual fans. The atmosphere was amazing, the game was physical yet had great flow and the goals were all fantastic.

FCD just needed a tie to win the series and early on it looked like they were going to do that, but then one stupid reaction turned this game. Two minutes into the second half, Arturo Alvarez allowed the intensity of the match to get the better of him and got sent off for giving Brad Davis a knee to the groin. Alvarez, a Houston native, sank his team and should be deeply ashamed of his actions.

Up a man with 30,000 fans roaring them on, the Dynamo attack, which has been mighty cool for most of the reason, flared to live as Houston cut through Dallas's lines again and again. Passes that had early been a little off where now finding their marks as Dallas was overwhelmed by the push.

Sure enough, 20-minutes almost to the second after Alvarez was sent off, Houston go their first to tie the game and bring them within one on aggregate. Five minutes later, the series was tied after come great passing in the box setup a reborn Brain Ching who slotted the ball home.

Houston kept pushing to get the third and kill the game in regular time, but FCD had just enough in them to stop it from happening.

But then came overtime and Dallas fell to pieces. They were dragging all over the pitch and when Joseph Ngwenya again setup Brian Ching for the goal ahead goal, there was not a shocked fan in the house. The Dynamo were rolling and the fans were going crazy.

The death nail would come in the 100th minute when Brad Davis stepped up to take a free kick just outside of the box. He delivered a perfect shot into the upper corner of the goal and the series was over.

The teams played on for another 20-minutes but it was mainly time filled with the Dynamo killing off the game as FCD tried desperately to make anything happen (usually resulting in fouls).

This was exactly the sort of game we have come to expect from Houston as they controlled it without any doubt. Still, they were having a lot of trouble with a full 11, which should give Kansas City at least a little hope heading into the 'conference' final.

On a different note, how big of a bouquet of flowers do you think the Dynamo sent Alvarez to think him for going all Ricardo Clark on Davis?

Goals: FCD: Carlos Ruiz (1) 14',
HD: Stuart Holden (1) 67', Brain Ching (1) 72', (2) 97', Brad Davis (1) 100'
Attendance: 30,088 (way to go Houston!)

New York Red Bulls 0-1 New England Revolution
New England wins series 1-0 on aggregate
Much like the Houston match, it took a side going down a man to turn this one. However, unlike the showdown in Texas, the man advantage was due to an injury. The Revs found ways of breaking New York's line, but they never really applied constant pressure. But when Juan Pablo Angel went out after taking a hard knock to the chin that resulted in a concussion, the Revs saw their opening.

NY coach Bruce Arena took a gamble in allowing his doctors to check on Angel before replacing him and it did not pay off. With the extra man to push forward, the Revs finally had that little extra opening they needed to get the final pass perfectly in place for Taylor Twellman.

With NE up a goal and NY without Angel or Reyna (who was injured in the first 20-minutes), the Bulls needed something amazing to have a chance, and they almost got it as John Wolyniec had a perfect chance in front of goal, but he headed the ball just over the bar, thus ending the Red's run for MLS Cup.

The Revolution should be happy returning to the Eastern Conference championship match for the sixth straight time, but they have a lot of work ahead of them. New York was able to crack their defense and should have got at least one goal and their offense still is not full strength. To beat Chicago on Thursday night, they are going to need to find a way to open up a tougher backline.

And who is getting the big of a bouquet of flowers from the Revs, probably Bruce Arena. I can't really fault the Bruce for giving his staff as much time as possible to figure out the extent of Angel's injury, but it was still the thing that turned the match.

Goal: Taylor Twellman (1) 64'
Attendance: 10,116 (there were be no tropical storm on Thursday)

Kansas City Wizards 0-0 Chivas USA
Kansas City wins series 1-0 on aggregate
Chivas didn't have much attack, but they threw everything possible against KC on Saturday night and if it weren’t for the goal frame, Chivas would have won this series.

Chivas put pressure on the Wizards for a majority of the match, but they could not get the lucky bounce. KC give the goats a number of chances, thanks to some weak passes that resulted in breakaways by Chivas, but none could be converted. In the final 10-minutes of play, Chivas had three shots that either knocked off the frame or hit the side netting.

The Wizards applied some pressure of their own thanks in large part to Eddie Johnson who actually turned in a decent night. However, Eddie's shots are still more likely to go over the bar then between the posts, but he did apply enough of a push to force Chivas to hold their line back.

In the end, injury, much like every other series, was the key factor in this one. With Ante Razov, Chivas did not have enough options to exploit the holes KC presented. The bad news for the Wizards, Houston has Brian Ching, Dwayne De Rosario, Stuart Holden, Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya ready to make them pay. If they hope to escape Texas still breathing, they are going to need to sharpen their whole game.

Without question, the bouquet of flowers from Kansas City goes to the goalposts that made more meaningful saves then Kevin Hartman did on the night.

Attendance: 19,711 (much improved over the regular season)

Conference Finals
Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
Thursday (8 Nov) - 7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT

Kansas City Wizards vs. Houston Dynamo
Saturday (10 Nov) - 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, HDNet, FSE

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