Kick Off: Houston, LA on course for 2011 cup final rematch
Home sweet home.
Those will likely be the words uttered by fans of the Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy this morning as both sides find themselves with one foot in MLS Cup thanks to resounding home victories on Sunday.
But the Dynamo may have benefited from a pivotal decision by the referee, according to D.C. United manager Ben Olsen. Houston defender Andre Hainault wasn’t penalized for what looked like a clear takedown of Raphael Augusto on the stroke of half time, when the United attacker broke through on goal.
But Hainault stayed on the field and, of course, scored the equalizer to set Houston on their way to an impressive 3-1 comeback victory in front of a record crowd at BBVA Compass Stadium. Watch Dominic Kinnear's postgame news conference here.
Playing two high-intensity games less than 72 hours apart hampered United in the second half, which was dominated by Houston. A bizarre cluster of injuries didn’t help either. Watch Olsen’s postgame interview.
The rough-and-tumble encounter saw four players leave the field. Chris Pontius, Marcelo Saragosa and Brandon McDonald all fell injured for D.C., while Adam Moffat had to go off for the Dynamo, to join Houston’s already cluttered treatment room.
Which team recovers quickest to be healthy is the winner. That’s according to our very own Andrew Wiebe.
Meanwhile, over in the Western Conference Championship first leg, LA cruised to a 3-0 win over Seattle at the Home Depot Center and barring a catastrophic meltdown in Seattle, could host their second-straight MLS Cup. The star of the show was once again Robbie Keane, as the Irishman scored twice to take his postseason tally to four.
LA manager Bruce Arena hailed his whole team for a dominant display: “This was one of those nights where every player was on form.”
Pegging back LA will be anything but simple for Seattle, with a poor first leg showing once again giving them a mountain to climb. In 2011 they lost 3-0 away to RSL in the Western Conference semis and nearly clawed their way back at CenturyLink Field. They will need similar heroics this season after an uncharacteristic defensive breakdown on Sunday night.
“Obviously we didn’t learn much because we did the same thing this year," said Seattle manager Sigi Schmid. "Because we talked about it at halftime, we said, ‘1-0 is OK. We walk away 1-0, we’re alright.’”
But they didn’t … and they’re not.
Keane pounced and that man Mike Magee notched his third goal of the playoffs, as the postseason specialist piled more pressure on the Sounders.
Rave green defender Jeff Parke said he’s focusing on one thing, recording a historic comeback at a packed CenturyLink: "We've put four up on 'em before, so it's nothing that we haven't done. But we definitely have to be on our game and a lot better than we were tonight.”
See what the lads from ExtraTime Radio had to say about big wins for Houston and LA, on the latest edition of After Hours.
In overseas action, plenty of Americans featured in Europe this weekend. Michael Bradley’s Roma side lost narrowly to Lazio in the Rome derby, while Brad Friedel and Clint Dempsey also tasted defeat after Spurs had led Manchester City for most of the game, but succumbed to a late City comeback.
Jozy Altidore continued his great season for AZ, scoring this golazo. Wow.
And congratulations go to Josh Gatt, as the young winger helped Molde FK to clinch their second-straight Norwegian title.
Speculation is rife that Gatt will be a part of today's USMNT roster announcement, when Jurgen Klinsmann unveils the squad to face Russia in a Wednesday friendly in Krasnodar (10 am ET, ESPN2). Former RSL attacker Yura Movsisyan has spoken about the huge test Russia will give the US, as the Armenian forward now plays for Russian Premier League side Krasnodar.
And Klinsmann was in England over the weekend and popped into the BBC studios to catch up with ex-Spurs teammate Gary Lineker. Watch the full in-depth interview here as Klinsi talks USMNT, Spurs and his views on diving.
While Jurgen gets the USA ready for a tough test against Russia, an MLSer will be heading off on international duty for the first-time. Portland Timbers forward Bright Dike has been called up to the Nigeria squad.
In other news around the league, Bleacher Report speculates who is in line to become the next head coach of the New York Red Bulls. See who they think should be a frontrunner. Not a name many would consider.
And finally, Didier Drogba may be heading to MLS ... but not until 2014.
The former Chelsea striker wants to honor his contract in China and then move to the US, according to France Football: “This is not my last contract. If I’m able to achieve my objectives at the end of my contract with Shanghai Shenhua in 2014, I’d love to attempt another adventure, maybe in the United States."
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