Kick Off: Houston and LA advance, deliver MLS Cup repeat

LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo in an MLS Cup final at the Home Depot Center. Wait a minute, haven’t we been here before?

That’s right, folks, MLS Cup is heading back to LA as a rematch of MLS Cup 2011 takes place on December 1 (4:30 pm ET, ESPN, TeleFutura, TSN/RDS) after the Galaxy and Houston made their Conference Championship first-leg leads hold up on Sunday (get conference championship gear here.).

LA head coach Bruce Arena was delighted postgame, having a friendly jab at the doubters who wrote LA off after their poor start to 2012.

“You guys called us dead, like we weren’t going to make the playoffs," he said after the win. "... The last 17 games of the season, we had 34 points. Thank God you guys aren’t smart enough to figure that so we could kind of do it quietly and get ourselves going again.”

The wily veteran does it again, but the Galaxy had the breaks go their way during their 2-1 Western Conference Championship second leg loss to Seattle (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS), with a disputed PK call going their way, not to mention an early goal by Eddie Johnson being called off when replays showed the infraction didn't exist.

The pivotal PK call was whistled by referee Mark Geiger less than 10 minutes after Seattle went 2-0 up on the night, needing just one more strike to force overtime.

Seattle’s players and Sigi Schmid had the stuffing knocked out of them by that decision and struggled to kick on late in the game. Star playmaker Mauro Rosales came on for the last nine minutes after training for an hour before the game with Seattle’s reserve squad.

Catch up with ExtraTime After Hours here, as the guys break down Rosales’ absence and all the key factors from both Conference Championship second legs. Meanwhile, MLSsoccer.com managing editor Jonah Freedman shares his three thoughts on #SEAvLA, here.

The Seattle Times called the Sounders effort “close to a miracle,” and with just a smidgen of luck on the Sounders side it could have been oh so different. But with Seattle missing Rosales' creativity, the 3-0 first-leg defeat proved too much to overturn. An emotional EJ summed up Seattle’s feelings postgame.

“We always know how to turn things around, and we couldn't have asked anymore from ourselves," the Sounders forward said. "We did everything right tonight.”

But that wasn’t enough, and LA will now host MLS Cup 2012 against Houston.

The Dynamo’s 1-1 tie with D.C. United (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS) earlier on Sunday eased them into the final and manager Dominic Kinnear was delighted to reach his fourth MLS Cup in the seven seasons of Houston's existence.

“I don’t think we’re the prettiest of teams," Kinnear said. "We’re not glamorous. We don’t hoot and holler and talk about ourselves too much. We just go about our way."

Check out this picture of Kinnear with the Eastern Conference title trophy: a well-deserved drink for Dom.

Boniek García’s first-half strike gave Houston some breathing space, but United gave it everything they had in the second half. Branko Boskovic pulled one back and Dwayne De Rosario jumped off the bench to spark the offense, but it was too little, too late as injuries and suspensions cost a depleted D.C. outfit.

But the future is bright for Ben Olsen and his young squad in the nations capital.

“We talk about laying a foundation here,” Olsen said. “Having something special for years to come. And I believe that it’s here. I really do.”

The Washington Post also believes the future is bright for United. Columnist Mike Wise writes about how United can push on after pride was restored by Olsen’s battlers.

But Houston’s wealth of experience in tight playoff situations proved just too much for D.C. MLSsoccer.com’s Andrew Wiebe, who was down at RFK, gave his views on #DCvHOU here.

And with almost two weeks until MLS Cup in LA, Houston and the Galaxy have time to nurse players back from injury. A.J. DeLaGarza could be back for LA and Landon Donovan will have time to recover from his tight hamstring. Houston will hope the break is enough for Ricardo Clark and Calen Carr to get back to fitness.

One things for certain, Arena isn’t underestimating Houston.  

“Hopefully we can have an improved performance from tonight," he said. "Because the [Dynamo] team I saw play in D.C. today was a damn good team.”

The good teams separated themselves in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, which is in full flow.  

The Sweet 16 field is now set, with some big upsets occurring. Check out the latest bracket as top seeds, UConn, Notre Dame, Georgetown and Maryland all advanced.

In action involving yanks abroad, US starlet Mikkel Diskerud shone as Rosenborg clinched third-place and a Europa League spot in the close of the Norwegian season. See how all the American Exports got on here as exports playing in the EPL had a weekend to forget.

And here's the latest from Juan Agudelo, who is now in Glasgow training with Scottish Premier League champions Celtic.

Rumors are always swirling around David Beckham’s future, with reports in the UK suggesting he may retire from soccer altogether after MLS Cup 2012.

But one of the more outlandish rumors regarding Beckham’s future surfaced over the weekend. When Snoop Dogg’s involved, you know it’s a good one.

Snoop apparently saw highlights of Celtic beating Barcelona and now wants to buy a share in the Glasgow giants… and then talk Becks into playing for the Hoops: “I would try and sign him up for a season, but he is pretty happy over here. LA is home for him and his family now – but I would have to at least make that offer to my boy.”

Meanwhile, another huge club in the UK may be getting a slightly less famous American owner, with Leeds United the subject of a bid from American businessmen Preston Haskell. Read more here.

And finally, WATCH in horror as a paragliding stunt before a crucial Serie A match in Ecuador went haywire. Note to self: Soccer players and paragliders aren’t a good mix, ever. Ouch.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

ExtraTime After Hours: The editors break down the Conference finals

WATCH: Houston lift the trophy and react to making MLS Cup

WATCH, Postgame: Seattle comes so close, suffer more playoff heartache


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