MLS playoffs remain tight after first-leg games

The three away teams conceded just two goals yet scored none in the conference semifinal first legs played on Saturday. Dallas and Kansas City took narrow 1-0 leads against defending champion Houston and Chivas USA, respectively, and New England heads home after playing a goalless tie with New York.

SERIOUX BUSINESS. About a year ago, Coach Steve Morrow traded midfielder Ronnie O'Brien to Toronto to get the toughness, experience and tenacity of Adrian Serioux into his lineup. His long throw-in, though, is how FC Dallas created the goal by which FC Dallas beat Houston, 1-0, at Pizza Hut Park.

Midway through the first half, Serioux's towering throw from the right touchline bounced untouched at the edge of the six-yard box and after it struck defender Ryan Cochrane, Clarence Goodson slammed it past keeper Pat Onstad. The Houston defense, which contained Carlos Ruiz so completely he was substituted in the 65th minute, and Onstad had fallen asleep for a split-second and Goodson punished the moment of indecision.

Houston outshot FC Dallas, 15-9, but seldom tested keeper Dario Sala, who had been benched for the last three games. Left back Chris Gbandi also came back into the lineup for the first time since being sent off in a loss to the Galaxy Sept. 23.

Bobby Rhine played right back, defender Drew Moor moved into the middle alongside Goodson, and for one of the few times this season, Morrow used Serioux and Pablo Ricchetti in midfield together. Denilson stayed on the bench.

Sala saved the victory in the 89th minute. Nate Jaqua, who had replaced Joseph Ngwenya in the 70th minute, headed down a long ball to Brian Ching, who fired a first-time, point-blank shot that Sala blocked. Dwayne DeRosario, who took six of Houston's 15 shots, drilled the rebound wide.

FCD didn't shut down the Houston attackers, but did shut them out.

Brian Mullan, Eddie Robinson and DeRosario all squandered opportunities by either missing the target or hitting balls Sala handled easily. Two other good chances were deflected as FCD dug in determinedly to fend off a team that had outscored it, 6-1, in four regular-season meetings.

The second leg is at Robertson Stadium on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET).

ARNAUD ON THE MARK. Missing forwards Ante Razov and Maykel Galindo, who combined for 23 goals during the regular season, because of injury, Chivas USA came out against Kansas City in a 4-5-1 formation designed to defend and perhaps steal a goal.

A tight battle at Arrowhead Stadium boiled down to goalkeeping, and a momentarily screened Brad Guzan let a Davy Arnaud free kick from more than 30 yards skip past him inside the post 10 minutes before halftime for a 1-0 Wizards win.

Earlier, Guzan had tipped a Scott Sealy shot over the crossbar during a spell of Kansas City pressure, and at the other end of the field, Francisco Mendoza dragged a low shot wide of the Kansas City goal. A foul on Eddie Johnson provided the decisive free kick. Arnaud drove a shot over a three-man defensive wall and the ball bounced sharply past Guzan’s desperate lunge.

Hartman preserved the lead late in the first half by batting away a shot by Alex Zotinca and smothering the follow-up attempt by Laurent Merlin, who played much of the match as the lone forward up front.

Kurt Morsink and Kerry Zavagnin anchored the Kansas City midfield in the absence of Carlos Marinelli, out with a sprained ankle. Sasha Victorine and Arnaud provided the offensive thrust but were often second best to Chivas USA playmaker Sacha Kljestan, whose touches and passes opened up the Wizards several times without reward.

Passes by Kljestan led to chances for Mendoza and John Cunliffe. Kansas City pressed hard for a second goal after halftime but were denied by a series of blocks that prevented shots from getting through to Guzan. Cunliffe came on a sub for Zotinca to spark the Chivas USA attack, and met a square ball from Jonathan Bornstein with a fierce first-time shot that glanced off the crossbar.

The second leg is Saturday at Home Depot Center (10:30 p.m. ET) and Galindo, who is suffering from an abdominal strain, is expected to be available.

ZERO HOUR. The Red Bulls boast one of the more potent attacking lineups in MLS, but failed to score against New England because of some static play up front, tepid finishing, and ineffective service as much as tough defending by the Revs.

Francis Doe and Jozy Altidore are dangerous one-v-one, but their inability to link up with midfielder Dane Richards and striker Juan Pablo Angel often led to attacks breaking up at the edge of the attacking third. Altidore started the match at left mid with Doe and Angel partnered up front.

On one of the rare occasions they did get through, keeper Matt Reis charged out to block a shot by Doe. Angel volleyed an attempt wide, couldn't get a shot off after controlling a corner kick, and nailed a long-range diving header off-target. Richards got a free a few times on the right flank, but his serves to the far post were headed away by Jay Heaps, and seldom did Doe or Angel offer him an option with a hard run to the near post.

Defender Michael Parkhurst cleaned up numerous loose balls and might have got away with a push on Angel as he twisted inside two opponents with ball at his feet. Parkhurst also stopped a threatening counter with a midfield foul that earned him a caution.

In the second half, New England looked the more dangerous team. Vital clearances by Jeff Parke and Seth Stammler repelled promising crosses out of the goalmouth. Taylor Twellman took six of the Revs' eight shots, only three of which required handling by Red Bulls' keeper Jon Conway.

The final tense moment came in the 90th minute, when Richards uprooted Avery John and the ball struck John's arm as he tumbled to the ground. Referee Jair Marrufo, correctly, called a foul on Richards.

The decision infuriated Coach Bruce Arena, who was already steamed at the non-PK decision when Angel went down as well as his team's continuing frustration against New England, which hosts the second leg Saturday at Gillette Stadium (7:30 p.m.).

Oct. 27 in Frisco, Texas
FC Dallas 1 Houston 0.
Goal: Goodson 23.
FC Dallas - Sala, Rhine, Goodson, Moor, Gbandi, Alvarez, Ricchetti (McCarty, 76), Serioux, Toja, Ruiz (Oduro, 65), Cooper (Thompson, 83).
Houston - Onstad, Waibel, Cochrane, Barrett, Robinson, Mullan, De Rosario, Mulrooney, Holden (Davis, 63), Ngwenya (Jaqua, 70), Ching.
Yellow Cards: FC Dallas - Ruiz 19, Ricchetti 58, Oduro 79; Houston - Cochrane 26.
Referee: Kevin Stott.
Att.: 12,537.

Oct. 27 in Kansas City
Kansas City 1 Chivas USA 0.
Goal: Arnaud 35.
Kansas City - Hartman, Jewsbury (Raybould, 89), Conrad, Garcia, Harrington, Arnaud, Victorine, Zavagnin, Morsink (Pore, 72), Sealy, Johnson.
Chivas USA - Guzan, Hernandez, Suarez, Thomas, Bornstein, Zotinca (Cunliffe, 57), Kljestan, Marsch, Nagamura, Mendoza, Merlin (Nunez, 70).
Yellow Cards: Kansas City - Harrington 44, Garcia 54, Zavagnin 88; Chivas USA - Zotinca 46+.
Referee: Alex Prus.
Att.: 12,442.

Oct. 27 in East Rutherford, N.J..
New York 0 New England 0.

New York - Conway, Freeman, Parke, Stammler, van den Bergh (Leitch, 78), Altidore, Richards, Reyna (Mathis, 86), Kovalenko, Doe (Ubiparipovic, 68), Angel.
New England - Reis, Heaps, Parkhurst, John, Thompson (Riley, 90), Joseph, Larentowicz, Ralston, Smith, Twellman, Noonan (Cristman, 87).
Yellow Cards: New York - Parke 83; New England - Parkhurst 73, John 85.
Referee: Jair Marrufo.
Att.: 14,165.


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