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3. MLS QUARTERFINALS: Four fight to overcome one-goal deficits
October 26th, 2006 11:03PM



MLS's 2006 semifinalists will be determined this weekend with the second-leg games of the quarterfinal series, which are decided on aggregate goals. Here's Soccer America Senior Editor Ridge Mahoney's take on the four clashes this Saturday and Sunday.

New England-Chicago
(Chicago leads, 1-0)
Saturday, 7:30 pm ET. TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Direct Kick.

The Revs are only one goal down but are also two players short, give or take a sprained ankle. Shalrie Joseph is suspended and Clint Dempsey is hobbling from the effects of a crunching C.J. Brown tackle in the first match in Chicago.

Andy Dorman is being justifiably ripped for turning away from Justin Mapp's free kick as it zipped into the net, yet had Taylor Twellman put away a header from a Dorman chip the teams would probably be tied, 1-1. Dorman's incisiveness can decide this match; he glided into good positions last weekend only to hit poor crosses or shoot weakly.

Without Joseph patrolling midfield, the task of tracking Chicago's busy attackers is difficult. Andy Herron, Ivan Guerrero, Chris Rolfe and Mapp will cause problems, as will 6-foot-3 Nate Jaqua.

Dallas vs. Colorado
(Dallas leads, 2-1)
Saturday, 8:30 pm ET. TV: Direct Kick.

None of the omens look good for the Rapids, who deserved at least a tie last week but were victimized by a few tough officiating decisions and their own ineptitude.

Thiago Martins terrorized the Dallas defense last week, but he's been suspended for throwing an elbow. Pablo Mastroeni replaced the suspended Mike Petke in the back line, and midfielder Kyle Beckerman responded with a solid two-way game. Somebody, though, needs to score goals or set up Nicolas Hernandez.

Without Martins, Coach Fernando Clavijo has few options up front, with Clint Mathis sadly ineffective, Jovan Kirovksi out of form, and Fabrice Noel extremely inexperienced. FC Dallas has more firepower, efficient goalscorers in Kenny Cooper and Carlos Ruiz, and on its home surface at Pizza Hut Park should be able to control the midfield.

D.C. United-New York Red Bulls
(D.C. leads, 1-0).
Sunday, 6 pm ET. TV: ESPN2.

First goal wins, if it's the home team, because if United gets the lead and goes into management mode, it's over.

United's Alecko Eskandarian's finishing looked rusty in the first leg; he'll be sharper in game two and should get chances to redeem himself.

The former Metros' magic triangle of Youri Djorkaeff, Markus Schopp and Amado Guevara is capable of a breakthrough, but not playing from two goals down. They have the talent to get the goals yet front-to-back don't have the personnel hold off a D.C. United playing for keeps unless the likes of Marvell Wynne and Seth Stammler play the best game of their young professional lives.

If the Red Bulls tie the series, 1-1, United should buckle down and squash the annoying pest, except that last year it was bounced out of the playoffs by Chicago, 4-0, at RFK. A team that misfired during the last month of the regular season could also seize up enough to keep the outcome in doubt. That isn't likely with Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez on the field.

Houston-Chivas USA
(Chivas USA leads, 2-1)
Sunday, 8 pm ET. TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Direct Kick, HDNet.

The Dynamo should have come out of Home Depot Center with a tie, irrespective of one penalty kick not called and a dubious one that was called being saved.

Coach Dominic Kinnear has a tough call up front. Paul Dalglish is not a bad player but has yet to forge a consistent understanding with Brian Ching. Alejandro Moreno may not be as talented, yet he's quick, dangerous and aggressive, and has played several seasons not only with Ching but also with playmaker Dwyane DeRosario, who is due for a monster performance.

Brian Mullan's game last week conjured images of him scything past defenders and drilling balls into the box as he did a few years ago. If he repeats that effort, and left-sided Brad Davis stops hitting pretty balls and launches effective ones, Chivas USA's defense will be punctured.

The wild card is Jonathan Bornstein, a bit rattled perhaps in his first playoff game aside from a few good moments. He also had to chase Mullan for much of the game, a dynamic - no pun intended - that favors Houston.

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