Houston pulled out a 1-1 tie against New York on a Kei Kamara goal in the 85th minute, Real Salt Lake stunned Chivas USA when Yura Movsisyan struck the only goal with just seconds remaining in regulation; and Columbus shocked Kansas City with a Stephan Lenhart equalizer in the 92nd minute to tie the Wizards, 1-1.
Combined with the 0-0 tie that New England and Chicago played on Thursday, that left only RSL holding an advantage when it goes on the road for the second game. Kansas City and the Red Bulls came agonizingly close to beating the conference leaders, but instead, Columbus and Houston head home dead even on goals and certainly riding on the momentum of those late scores.
Chicago hosts the second leg of its conference semifinal series with New England at Toyota Park Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET. The other three matches are scheduled for the weekend.
DYNAMO DRAMA. Houston fell behind at the Meadowlands in the 48th minute when Juan Pablo Angel escaped long enough to head home a John Wolyniec cross. Wolyniec got the start in place of Mike Magee, who was a late scratch due to illness, and for much of the match Coach Juan Carlos Osorio's selections and tactics held off the two-time defending champion.
Osorio fielded the same back four - Chris Leitch, Andrew Boyens, Diego Jimenez, Kevin Goldthwaite -- that had blanked Houston, 3-0, on Aug. 24. Houston hadn't lost since then in league play but needed some time to adjust to the frosty artificial surface, and New York nearly added a second goal five minutes after Angel scored when a Dane Richards shot got past keeper Pat Onstad but defender Richard Mulrooney got back to clear it.
Kamara replaced Nate Jaqua midway through the second half, and he and fellow sub Stuart Holden sparked an inspired Houston revival in the final 20 minutes. Wade Barrett set up the goal with a run up the left flank; he drove a low ball to the near post, and the subs traded one-touch passes in front of Jimenez for Kamara to blast the shot home.
Onstad saved from Wolyniec to complete a frustrating night for the Red Bulls.
The second leg is at Robertson Stadium Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
REAL LATE. Chivas USA, missing four regulars due to suspension and injuries, scrambled and scrapped to blunt repeated waves of attacks from RSL, which held an incredible 21-3 edge in shots yet nearly came away with nothing.
Stand-in keeper Zach Thornton, replacing the suspended Dan Kennedy, parried a bad-angle shot from Chris Wingert in the opening minutes, and three minutes apart early in the second half saved twice. He lunged low to turn away a skidding shot by Clint Mathis before deflecting a Nat Borchers header that Ante Razov cleared from the goalmouth.
Yura Movsisyan threatened throughout the match both with his shooting and passing; it was his back heel that sent in Mathis, who in the 63rd minute floated a ball that Movsisyan chased in tandem with Carey Talley. Movsisyan barreled over Talley to put the ball in the net, but his foul nullified the goal.
RSL coach Jason Kreis brought on three subs and switched to a 3-5-2 formation out of a 4-4-2. The strategy paid off when Javier Morales reached Robbie Russell's throw-in near the end line, and cut a low ball that Movsisyan re-directed just inside the post with the inside of his right heel.
Chivas USA hosts the second leg at Home Depot Center Saturday at 10:30 ET.
LAST CALL. A tight game of only 15 shots and four saves nearly finished 1-0 to Kansas City, which took a 53rd minute lead with a Davy Arnaud goal, and went a man down in the 75th minute when a straight red card dismissed Herculez Gomez.
Prior to Gomez's ejection, the Crew nearly equalized but twice hit the crossbar. Guillermo Barros Schelotto hit a shot from nearly 30 yards that struck the horizontal, and a few minutes later Wizards keeper Kevin Hartman tipped a sharp shot by Frankie Hedjuk onto the bar.
Lenhart scored during a stoppage-time scramble as Kansas City defended desperately. Tyson Wahl blocked a shot but Alejandro Moreno poked the loose ball to Lenhart, who slammed it past Hartman to silence most of the 10,385 fans at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
The teams meet again in the second leg at Columbus Crew Stadium at 7:30 ET.
MLS PLAYOFFS, Quarterfinals, 1st Leg
Oct. 30 in Foxboro, Mass.
New England 0 Chicago 0.
New England - Reis, Albright, Parkhurst, Heaps, Tierney, Nyassi, Joseph, Larentowicz, Castro (Thompson, 86), Mansally, Dube.
Chicago - Busch, Prideaux, Conde, Soumare, Segares, Rolfe (Banner, 85), Pause, Thorrington, Mapp, Blanco, McBride.
Yellow Cards: New England - Mansally 42, Castro 73; Chicago - Soumare 16; Chicago - Pause 59, Blanco 69.
Referee: Alex Prus.
Nov. 1 in East Rutherford, N.J.
New York 1 Houston 1.
Goals: Angel (Wolyniec) 48; Kamara (Holden) 85.
New York - Cepero, Boyens, Leitch, Goldthwaite, Jimenez, Richards, Sassano, Ubiparipovic (Pietravallo, 77), van den Bergh, Wolyniec, Angel.
Houston - Onstad, Mulrooney, Boswell, Robinson, Barrett, Mullan (Holden, 71), Clark, De Rosario (Cameron, 83), Davis, Jaqua (Kamara, 66), Ching.
Yellow Cards: New York - Richards 29, Angel 37; Houston - Mullan 29.
Referee: Kevin Stott.
Nov. 1 in Sandy, Utah
Real Salt Lake 1 Chivas USA 0.
Goal: Movsisyan (Morales, Russell) 90.
Real Salt Lake - Rimando, Wingert, Borchers, Olave (Espindola, 84), Joy (Russell, 63), Williams (Findley, 67), Beckerman, Morales, Johnson, Mathis, Movsisyan.
Chivas USA - Thornton, Talley (Burling, 68), Bornstein, Thomas, Mendoza, Zotinca, Marsch, Nagamura, Kljestan, Braun (Nurse, 86), Razov (Dejair, 79).
Yellow Cards: Real Salt Lake - Williams 29, Beckerman 42; Chivas - Razov 66, Thomas 75.
Referee: Ricardo Salazar.
Nov. 1 in Kansas City
Kansas City 1 Columbus 1.
Goals: Arnaud (Lopez) 53; Lenhart (Moreno) 92+.
Kansas City - Hartman, Leathers, Conrad, Wahl, Harrington, Gomez, Arnaud, Jewsbury, Souter (Espinoza, 92+), Thompson (Wolff, 69), Lopez (Trujillo, 89).
Columbus - Hesmer, Hejduk, Marshall, O'Rourke, Padula, Gaven (Lenhart, 83), Carroll, Evans, Rogers (Ekpo, 88), Schelotto, Moreno.
Yellow Cards: Kansas City - Jewsbury 41; Columbus - Padula 84, Carroll 93+.
Red Card: Kansas City - Gomez 75.
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez.