[MLS PLAYOFFS] The conference semifinals included a postgame melee between the Red Bulls and the Galaxy that prompted harsh words from Landon
Donovan, a Real Salt Lake romp over Seattle, a loss by defending champ Colorado to K.C., and a Philly fall to Houston. Ridge Mahoney explains how the new
playoff system is working out and looks at the weekend's highlights and lowlights. ...
THE SYSTEM WORKS. One facet of MLS revising its playoff format, that of rewarding the conference winners by pairing them with wild-card opponents in the conference semifinals, worked well.
Both teams that advanced out of the wild-card rounds, New York and Colorado, lost their first legs despite playing at home. The Red Bulls fell to Los Angeles, 1-0, and the defending champs looked nothing like their 2010 selves while losing to Kansas City, 2-0.
By compressing the entire playoff schedule into a 12-day window (last Wednesday to next Sunday) as to avoid the mid-November FIFA dates, MLS placed an especially tough burden on the wild-card teams. They must play four games to reach MLS Cup, the other six teams play a maximum of three.
No team will find it easy to get through the conference finals. Both matches are scheduled for next Sunday (Nov. 6), and since four teams – Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia and Kansas City -- began their playoff runs Sunday, if they advance out of the conference semifinals they will play three games in eight days.
RSL and Seattle, which opened their series Saturday night, will get a bit more rest. The point may be moot, since RSL pounded the Sounders, 3-0, at Rio Tinto Stadium, but a desperate Seattle team on artificial turf in front of its howling fans will be a severe test no matter what the series scoreline.
“It’s not an ideal situation, again, it is what it is,” RSL coach Jason Kreis had said during a conference call prior to the game. “I do believe that our players have been faced by the same circumstance on multiple occasions throughout the season.
“The one consideration that you have to make is that any time you’re going to play three matches in a week, and you have the potential of moving on after the first round and playing again on the weekend, that’s three matches in one week and one of them being on an artificial surface. You’ve got to question yourself and question some of the players who have lingering injuries as to whether or not they can make it through and be fully effective in all of those matches.”
RSL ROMPS AT RIO TINTO. Kreis also said during the week he wasn’t concerned that RSL failed to win any of its last six regular-season games. His players responded with one of their best performances of the season, and an especially impressive victory given the loss of defender Jamison Olave to a first-half injury.
Kreis was able to field his strongest lineup, and his attacking trident of Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola and Javier Morales gashed the Sounders’ back line repeatedly. Saborio scored with a goal-line tap-in and brilliant back-heel, Espindola threw himself into the goalmouth to fire several threatening shots at Kasey Keller, and Morales displayed enough class and poise to confirm he’s nearly all the way back after missing five months with a broken leg.
The third goal came from substitute Ned Grabavoy, who barreled into the penalty area to snag a weak clearance and drill a low shot underneath Keller that drops the Sounders into a deep hole. No team in the MLS playoffs has ever overturned a three-goal deficit after the first leg.
As good as the RSL attackers were, their Seattle counterparts weren’t nearly good enough. Smothered by Kyle Beckerman and Co., in midfield, and closely hounded by centerbacks Jeff Parke, and Olave’s replacement, Chris Schuler, the Sounders’ strike force of Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez and Sammy Ochoa usually struck out. Subs Erik Friberg and Mike Fucito added a little spark but RSL snuffed it out.
PHILLY FALLS. In addition to Los Angeles and Kansas City winning on the road, Houston – which unlike RSL finished the season strongly – came out of PPL Park with a 2-1 defeat of Philadelphia secured with goals by Adrian Hainault and Calen Carr.
The Dynamo carried the momentum of its 7-2-4 record over the final third of the season by punching home a goal in the fourth minute on a Brad Davis free-kick serve to Hainault, and then regaining the lead with a sharp finish by Carr from a superb Brian Ching chip.
Luiz Camargo, Bobby Boswell and Geoff Cameron all contributed, and keeper Tally Hall came of age under extreme conditions. He flew left to tip away a Roger Torres free kick for one of his 10 saves and got a bit of luck when Jack McInerney’s late header came back off the crossbar.
As second-half subs, Torres and Freddy Adu injected life into the Philly attack, opening the question as to Coach Peter Nowak’s decision to start Brian Carroll and Stefani Miglioranzi in the middle. Miglioranzi often dropped deep to shield the back line; this left much of the attacking burden on Sebastien Le Toux, who scored Philly’s equalizer with a clinical volley of Michael Farfan’s diagonal cross.
Still, the Union managed 25 shots. As the home team in the playoffs, more than one of those shots has to go in.
LANDON LASHES OUT. Hall’s fine game followed an excellent display by Galaxy counterpart Josh Saunders, whose stab save of Joel Lindpere’s close-range shot won’t soon depart the Estonian’s tortured nightmares. The keeper also thwarted Dane Richards and Rafael Marquez to frustrate the Red Bulls, especially Marquez, who triggered a post-match melee by throwing a ball at Landon Donovan that hit him on the foot.
Juninho entered the fray and was red-carded along with Marquez, who attempted a head-butt and threw a punch that missed before going to the ground along with teammate Stephen Keel. Juninho was led off the field by assistant coach Dave Sarachan. Marquez and Juninho will miss the second leg Thursday unless the punishments are reduced.
The Red Bulls had plenty of time to match or surpass Mike Magee’s goal in the 15th minute, but despite Richards’ raking runs and the usual rugged bustling of Luke Rodgers, New York ended the game in a petulant display.
“There a few plays where they took some cheap shots at us,” said Donovan after the match. “In all my years in this league, I’ve not played against a cheaper team, and they’ve been doing it all year. We saw it a few weeks ago with [Thierry] Henry kneeing someone in the back. We’ve seen that stuff all year. You just deal with it, and at the end of it, the cream rose to the top, and the better team won.”
Red Bulls-Galaxy postgame melee:
I used to be a great fan of Thiery Henry. Not anymore, as far as I'm concered he can take his dirty plays back to France. It's unfortunate that a tremendous player with incredible skills has to resort to cheap ass display of what you don't want to see on the pitch. Have some friggin dignity, and don't be so jealous of Beckham. Give us a reason to respect you, not wish you gone.
Lindpere is Estonian, not Finnish.
worry about the game not the nationality!!!!!
Yes Henry is a cheap shot artist. But Marquez is an absolute disgrace to opponents and his teammates. Can the league quantify how much they have made from having the Mexican captain? No amount of money would be enough. After his red card against Cobi Jones in Korea he should have been banned from playing in MLS for life.
I love Rafa Marquez when I am rooting for Mexico but you have to admit the guy grabs his face and falls over for nothing. Not to mention that I seem to remember him crotch kicking a certain US national team member/now ESPN commentator a few years ago. He and Henry seem well matched.
Both Rafa and Thierry should show some class.
The Sounders had problems, but Jeff Parke hounding them was not one of them.
Now I remember why I dislike the playoffs. Not the timing or the crazy selection process--it's the bad football. Second leg will be hacking, defensive, and ugly.
MLS should suspend Marquez for the LA return game...as usual, Rodgers & Richards did their goat-wandering on the pitch.
so marquez throws the ball at donovan after the whistle, then when confronted throws a ridiculous haymaker, then pretends to get hit and flops down....what a complete fool this guy is.
I am glad that we have professional soccer in the USA but we have a long way to go. First of all the refs need a lot of work. I am sorry but most of them are not top notch. The Coaching and playing is too predictable and boring to watch. There are some moments of good play but only moments. Usually the games are a kick fest instead of a game of art and elegance. I have spoken to several people about this. Some want to blame the players for the ugliness of the games. Others say it is the coaching. My feeling is that it is a combination. We need to get rid of the playoffs. It is not the answer. Make the season longer with more games if the goal is to make more money but crown a league champion and call it a day. My fear is that we are going to be flooded with foreign players but these players are not what the MLS needs. We need to develop a national style that reflects who we are as a nation. The problem is as a nation we still have not determine who we are. Our country is so divided by calling ourselves Mexican-Americans, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans and every other kind of American. I am sorry to say but that is the main problem of our nation. We don't know who we our. Well I will tell you who we are. We are USONIANS. People of the United States of America. No more no less. And until we all dicover this we will continue to be a divided nation under GOD or no GOD!!!! Our soccer is a reflection of our nation. Helter Skeltor. We need to come together and become one nation one people. Not Mex, Ital, afro, the 1% or 99% American but instead proud USONIANS. We need a soccer revolution but we also need a social revolution to create a positive nationalistic society and not negative nationalistic world of Nazi Germany of the 30's and 40's. Sorry about going off but the reality is we need big changes not only in soccer but in our society as well. They both work hand in hand. If you get a chance read this book call The Globalization of Soccer. It really does a great job in describing how each individual country and soccer are a reflection of each other.
You me. It is about cause!!! It is better to die standing than to live on your knees.-- Emiliano Zapata 1915. There are approximately 20 to 25 Americans playing in Mexico. We need to bring them back and send Marquez and Henry and rest of the retirees back to there homeland. Then we have at least another 30 Americans in Europe and bring them back home. But we must pay these guys a good living. In 1975 Willie Mays was the highest paid baseball player and he was making $125,000 per year. Come on. A professional athlete career is usually short. Pay are boys well and give them a chance to shine. Forget about these over the hill guys. They were once the real deal but now their done. I am sorry call me a nationalist but I am first for my people before any other nation. I am a USONIAN. I am and not French or Mexican. Even though my mother is Mexican and my father is Greek I am still 100% USONIAN. An about Agudelo. In Colombia there is a rule that every team in their premier league must start a player 18 or under. That is how you make your players better. Then don't pick them. Let them go to college and play. There no good on the bench.
The Marquez flop illustrates the real problem with soccer. Many soccer players use this tactic (cheating) throughout the world and think it is part of the game.
Americans are one of the few nations that seem to think this is not "manly" and is cheap. Their sense of "fair play" does not allow them to use this cheating tactic. Americans are at a disadvantage when the rest of the world accepts it as normal.
The flopping on phantom contact (cheating) needs to be fined by the leagues involved to stop it.
The "Usonian" stuff mentioned in these comments is crap. American soccer will define itself over time. I suspect it will emulate English Premier soccer because that is perceived as the best brand of soccer in the world by Americans and Americans always want to be number one at everything.
If American soccer is defined by anything, it is by unregulated capitalism. Only in America will parents pay people to coach their little kids.
All these guys grabbing their faces and legs, and falling down writhing in pain are all fakers and sissies. Even in women's soccer they don't cry like they do in men's soccer. I think they should be given more cards for faking.
I have frustrated over the years with the propensity of Meto/Red Bull players lashing out at opposing players and officials rather than getting on with the game. I agree with Donovan, my team has a habit of lacking class. It had better change since the prospect of a second NY team may mean a change in allegiance.
Juan Agudelo should be starting
Did anyone notice that coach Hans Backe had Juan Agudelo warming up and when he needed a forward he used a midfielder instead. Did you know that Juan has 6 goals vs Rodgers with 9 and probably 1/4 the playing time? I like Rodgers but come on, Red Bulls desperately need a new coach. Jim R not Olga. PS, I agree with you Zack Bird and so do many other coaches.
Although I was hoping for a better showing from the NY Red Bulls, but I am glad that they have lost because of that idiot and prejudice coach Hans Backe. His tactics, formation and line up are has been and passe' "went out with Dick Clark". He also refuses to play Agudelo to spite and confront Paul Gardner, the media and us the fans.
Rodgers missed so many opportunities and he was running around like a fart in a pants, he should have been substituted already at half time. NY and the MLS must get rid of a coach like Backe " a back of our A..". He doesn't belong in the US send the moron, hard headed bum to Siberia. He is detrumental to US Soccer and youth. As for Donovan while I am a great fan of his (althoughh for remarks like that less and less)but his remark was uncalled for, a true pro does not criticize the opponents in that manner. There is an uncalled respect between players we had it when I played. As for Marquez, while I do not condone his actions but tempers do flare at crucial losses. In my eyes it showed that he truly cared and was frustrated at the loss. However that does not justify his actions, thus proper reprimend and restrictions should apply.
Henry has had some cheap and dirty moments during his time at Red Bulls, but the post-game melee on Sunday wasn't his doing. Indeed, while the all-but-useless Rafa Marquez was busy firing a ball at Landon Donovan and throwing a roundhouse right at Adam Cristman, Thierry Henry was applauding the crowd at Red Bull Arena (as was David Beckham). So what was a terrific match with Josh Saunders stealing the show with his goalbox acrobatics, Marquez was instigating a scuffle which leaves the Red Bulls without him for the return leg; but FAR WORSE, the Galaxy will play without Juninho, who may well be the Galaxy MVP this year and certainly is what Marquez used to be.
Mexicans, Canadians, Brazilians are also Americans. We are not just Americans we are USONIANS first than Americans. Just ask a Mexican what they are. They will tell you that they are Mexican. The word American is losely used and many times incorrectly. What are you Superman and Amos Annon. Are you proud USONIANS or proud something else.