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East takes three of final four places
by Ridge Mahoney, November 10th, 2008 7AM

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[MLS] For the first time, one conference will provide three members of the final four MLS playoff teams, and might yet supply both MLS Cup finalists. Form held in the East, with both of the higher seeds winning, yet in the West, neither of the top two survived. Eastern conference champion Columbus defeated No. 4 Kansas City, 2-0, Saturday to complete a 3-1 aggregate win and on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET ESPN2) hosts the No. 2 Fire, a 3-0 aggregate winner over No. 3 New England. The Red Bulls, fifth-place finishers in the East, travel to Utah for a Saturday (9:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel) showdown with Real Salt Lake, which won the first playoff series in its history by tying Chivas USA, 2-2, to prevail on aggregate, 3-2. New York stunned Western Conference champion Houston, 3-0, Sunday for a 4-1 series victory.

RED BULL REVIVAL. New York stormed forth from the opening kickoff as if to prove its 1-1 first-leg tie in the Meadowlands was no fluke, and the 30,053 fans in attendance at Robertson Stadium didn't bother them one bit.

Whether because of fatigue or complacency Houston failed to match New York's early intensity, and once Red Bull weathered a furious assault in the second half leading, 2-0, it duly closed out the match. Dane Richards scored the first goal and set up the third for John Wolyniec; in between, a Richards' cross caromed off the arm of midfielder Ricardo Clark to supply a penalty kick for Juan Pablo Angel to drive home the vital second goal.

Rather than revamping his lineup, as he's usually done this season, Coach Juan Carlos Osorio started the same XI as in the first leg. In this case, continuity melded with consistent effort prevailed.

In the 25th minute, Richards veered into the middle to reach a through ball from Sinisa Ubiparipovic that Angel let run for Richards to smash a close-range shot into the top corner. Ten minutes later, Richards raced down the right flank to hit a cross that Clark's flailing arm knocked out of play. Angel pounded the penalty kick past Pat Onstad to double the lead.

A few heroic saves by Danny Cepero and several desperate blocks held off Houston, which had changed to a 3-5-2 formation at halftime by inserting Corey Ashe and later brought on Nate Jaqua and Stuart Holden to turn up the pressure. But the one good bounce that could have restored its hopes never came for the Dynamo, and it conceded a third goal when Richards ran free on the right yet again in the 81st minute and cut a ball back from the byline for Wolyniec to re-direct into the net.

REAL DEAL. The only lower-seeded team to win its home leg maintained that advantage on the road, and thus Real Salt Lake's fourth game at its brand-new Rio Tinto Stadium is a chance to reach MLS Cup.

Midfielder Javier Morales played another wonderful game for Western Conference No. 3 RSL, hitting a near-post cross for a Dema Kovalenko headed equalizer, and scoring a second goal himself from a Robbie Findley feed that moved RSL into a two-goal lead that No. 2 Chivas USA couldn't erase.

Chivas USA did tie the aggregate, 1-1, when Sacha Kljestan converted a penalty kick whistled for a clumsy Morales challenge on Ante Razov in the 30th minute.

RSL needed just nine minutes to take back the advantage on Kovalenko's wicked header from a sharp angle, and rode out anxious moments when Kljestan and Razov narrowly missed the target before delivering a crushing blow with 13 minutes left. Findley controlled a ball near the byline as keeper Zach Thornton came out, and evaded a tackle to slip a pass to Morales, who touched it past Kljestan and drilled a low shot through the legs of defender Shavar Thomas and a yard inside the far post.

Justin Braun made it interesting with seven minutes left on a 18-yard strike that tore through Nick Rimando's extended left glove but nothing else tested the keeper as RSL inked its date with history.

CREW CALL. After it had trailed for nearly 40 minutes in the first leg before equalizing in the second minute of stoppage time to earn a 1-1 tie, Columbus did what home teams should do: score early and push for a second goal without being careless.

Brad Evans struck in the seventh minute for a 1-0 lead. Midfield linchpin Brian Carroll released him with a chip over the back line that Evans coolly lobbed over goalie Kevin Hartman. Abe Thompson could have equalized in the 15th minute, but he couldn't control or shoot Kevin Souter's pass first time, and by the time he got to the ball keeper Will Hesmer had smothered the chance.

With Josh Wolff limited to substitute duty because of injury, few options were available to spark Kansas City's attack. Michael Kraus replaced Thompson in the aftermath of a second Crew goal, scored by a wide-open Robbie Rogers at the back post in the 58th minute on passes by Alejandro Moreno and Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

Needing two goals, the Wizards tried to free up Claudio Lopez with limited success. He whipped a swerving cross that sailed a yard wide of the post as several teammates crashed the goalmouth in the 83rd minute, and later fired a free kick on frame that Hesmer cradled.

GAME SUMMARIES, Quarterfinal, Second Leg (Nov. 6-9)
Nov. 6 in Bridgeview, Ill.
Chicago 3 New England 0. Goals:
Rolfe 47+, Conde (Mapp) 49, Segares (Rolfe) 74.
(Chicago wins 3-0 on aggregate.)
Chicago - Busch, Prideaux, Conde, Soumare, Segares, Rolfe (King, 86), Pause, Thorrington, Mapp (Woolard, 77), Blanco, McBride.
New England - Reis, Albright, Igwe (Badilla, 73), Parkhurst, Heaps, Nyassi, Joseph, Larentowicz (Phelan, 39), Castro, Mansally, Dube (Thompson, 81).
Yellow Cards: Chicago - Thorrington 36, Busch 62; New England - Albright 7, Igwe 47, Joseph 53.
Red Card: New England - Albright 83.
Referee: Jair Marrufo.
Att.: 17,312.

Nov. 8 in Columbus
Columbus 2 Kansas City 0. Goals:
Evans (Carroll) 7, Rogers (Moreno, Schelotto) 58.
(Columbus wins 3-1 on aggregate.)
Columbus - Hesmer, Hejduk, Marshall (Iro, 93+), O'Rourke, Padula (Hendrickson, 92+), Gaven, Carroll, Evans, Rogers, Schelotto (Ekpo, 85), Moreno.
Kansas City - Hartman, Leathers, Conrad, Wahl (Wolff, 68), Harrington, Arnaud, Espinoza (Marquess, 77), Jewsbury, Souter, Thompson (Kraus, 59), Lopez.
Yellow Cards: Columbus - Evans 63, Rogers 66, Hejduk 87, Ekpo 90; Kansas City - Arnaud 39, Wahl 49.
Referee: Ricardo Salazar.
Att.: 11,153.

Nov. 8 in Carson, Calif.
Chivas USA 2 Real Salt Lake 2.
Goals: Kljestan pen. 30, Braun (Mendoza) 83; Kovalenko (Morales, Russell) 39, Morales (Findley) 77.
(Real Salt Lake wins 3-2 on aggregate.)
Chivas USA - Thornton, Talley (Braun, 56), Curtin (Eskandarian, 46), Thomas, Bornstein, Kljestan, Marsch, Nagamura, Mendoza, Harris (Zotinca, 86), Razov.
Real Salt Lake - Rimando, Olave, Borchers, Russell, Wingert, Kovalenko, Beckerman, Morales (Espindola, 87), Johnson, Mathis (Findley, 72), Movsisyan (Williams, 80).
Yellow Cards: Chivas USA - Nagamura 22, Bornstein 60, Razov 86, Thomas 91+; Real Salt Lake - Mathis 10, Borchers 30, Kovalenko 42.
Referee: Michael Kennedy.
Att.: 19,265.

Nov. 9 in Houston
Houston 0 New York 3
. Goals: Richards (Ubiparipovic) 25, Angel pen. 36, Wolyniec (Richards) 81.
(New York wins 4-1 on aggregate.)
Houston - Onstad, Mulrooney, Boswell, Robinson, Barrett (Ashe, 46), Mullan, Clark, De Rosario, Davis (Holden, 67), Ching, Kamara (Jaqua, 54).
New York - Cepero, Leitch, Boyens, Jimenez, Goldthwaite, Richards (Kandji, 84), Sassano, Ubiparipovic, van den Bergh (Mendes, 87), Wolyniec, Angel.
Yellow Cards: Houston - Robinson 62, Onstad 69, Mullan 73; New York - van den Bergh 5, Goldthwaite 28, Sassano 47+.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo.
Att.: 30,053.

 



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