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2. MLS PLAYOFFS: First XI of the first weekend
October 24th, 2006 12:41AM

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By Ridge Mahoney

Four MLS playoff games last weekend featured eight goals, many dramatic moments, and several outstanding performances. Here are the top performers for the conference semifinals, first legs:

GOALKEEPER. Dario Sala (FC Dallas).
Sala stoned Thiago Martins and Nicolas Hernandez several times in a superb display. Coach Colin Clark wisely chose Sala over Trinidad & Tobago goalie Shaka Hislop, whose games have been more shaky than Shaka since he joined MLS.

DEFENDERS. Michael Parkhurst (New England), Craig Waibel (Houston), Jeff Parke (New York).
The speed and savvy of Parkhurst blunted many a Chicago attack. Waibel started Houston's scoring play with a ball up the right flank and held his corner of the back line secure. Parke defended solidly and clanged a stoppage-time header off the crossbar.

MIDFIELDERS. Brian Carroll (D.C. United), Jesse Marsch (Chivas USA), Brian Mullan (Houston), Kyle Beckerman (Colorado), Justin Mapp (Chicago).
For a D.C. team still trying to regain its best stride, Carroll ran down numerous balls and got forward a few times to jar the Red Bulls defense. Marsch covered acres of ground and thwarted attacks with tackles and clearances in his own penalty area. Mullan buzzed down the flanks, crossed consistently, and set up a goal with a ball to the near post. Beckerman anchored the middle while also sparking the Rapids attack. Mapp scored on a free kick and his mobility forced the Revs midfield to work hard.

FORWARDS. Christian Gomez (D.C. United), Brian Ching (Houston).
Gomez began and finished a sweet one-two for United's goal and threatened a few other times. Ching volleyed to score from a tight angle and although he failed to convert other chances, breached the Chivas USA back line often.



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