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Kick Off - Hans Backe (pensive)
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Kick Off: NYRB's Backe confident of a win in LA

The LA Galaxy have not lost at home this season. Well, that’s about to change, according to New York Red Bulls manager Hans Backe, at least.

Just minutes after his team lost at home in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal series against the LA Galaxy, Backe made like Luke Rodgers and assured a win: “It was a great performance, we totally controlled the game, dictated the game. ... If we just stay on this level, we will win the [return] game.”

LA Galaxy star forward Landon Donovan has also earned the right to speak his mind and he wasn’t holding back on Sunday night.

Following the melee that occurred at the conclusion of the match, which started when NYRB midfielder Rafa Márquez threw the game ball at Donovan on the final whistle, we found out how the US national team star felt about the entire sequence.

“When things like that are instigated by players on their team it’s really disgraceful. ... In all my years in this league, I have not played against a cheaper team. And they’ve been doing it all year.” Watch his comments here. (VIDEO)

For Red Bulls fans wondering why Juan Agudelo didn’t get in the game with the team down a goal in the first leg, Backe has a nice, succinct answer for you: “I always pick the best team. I play the best players. That's the reason.”

Another of the world's young stars was at Red Bull Arena taking in the playoff action. Brazilian Neymar was a guest of Thierry Henry's for the match against LA.

As far as what occurred on the field, New York Times columnist George Vecsey highlights the fact that Mike Magee becomes the first player in MLS history to score a game-winning playoff goal and get a shutout in the same season.

The controversy wasn’t restricted to the LA vs. NY series. In Colorado, Gary Smith was beside himself at Sporting Kansas City’s physical play in a 2-0 first leg loss at home. He says KC’s players reduced the match to a “college game.” While calling out Sporting’s Kei Kamara for throwing a punch, he sent a zinger in KC’s direction: “The challenges didn't befit a professional game.”

When Sporting’s Teal Bunbury scored his goal, he went out of his way to recognize the fans that made the trip to Dick's Sporting Goods Park: “I have all the love in the world for them.”

Meanwhile, back home at Livestrong Sporting Park, it was standing-room only for Sporting’s first-leg watch party.

The Philadelphia Union had as big a celebrity fan as you can have in the city with Philadelphia Phillies star Jimmy Rollins serving as honorary captain. But it didn’t help them much in a 2-1 home loss to the Houston Dynamo in the first leg.

The big controversy in this match was the fact that Union manager Peter Nowak decided to come out with a new 3-5-2 formation, which seemed to throw off his young team in the first half. Even veteran Philly defender Danny Califf was not thrilled with the "experiment." (VIDEO)

A set-piece strike from Andre Hainault and another goal by Calen Carr were enough for the Dynamo to take a slim aggregate-goal advantage back home to Houston. That makes it three wins in a row for the Orange, including regular-season play: “I honestly cannot think back to when it was that we won three games in a row," says Brad Davis. "We definitely didn't win two in a row last year until the end of the season."

The Union’s hole is not as big as what awaits the Seattle Sounders who have to overturn a 3-0 first leg loss at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night. “We've got to score four — it's very simple," says manager Sigi Schmid. Although RSL haven’t lost by four goals since 2007, forward Mike Fucito is confident: “If any team can come back, I believe it's us.”

Just when RSL manager Jason Kreis thought he had his full team ready to go for the first time “since the first Monterrey [CCL] match” in April, he now has to deal with injuries to his two starting center backs, which will prove to be the main story of the week in camp.

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando reveals that his team was “OK with [the result] being 1-0.” But even with a three-goal advantage, they know they’re in for an onslaught at CenturyLink Field: “They’re going to throw everything they have at us and it’s going to take a heroic effort from our team,” Will Johnson says. (VIDEO)

Remember the heroic effort by the US national team in the 2002 World Cup, where a hand ball by current Toronto FC Designated Player Torsten Frings foiled the Americans in the quarterfinals? Here’s what the LA Galaxy’s Gregg Berhalter, who had the shot, recently said about it: “As far as I’m concerned, he did what he had to do. They got to the final of the World Cup. If I was there, probably would have done the same thing.”

Speaking of national team players, with his goal for Fulham against Wigan Athletic on Saturday, Clint Dempsey equaled Brian McBride’s record for most goals by an American forward in the EPL with 36.

We leave you with the People.com story of another prominent figure in American soccer: Kyle Martino, wearing a Brioni tux no less, married his fiancée Eva Amurri in Charleston, S.C. Get all the details here.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Banner day for American Exports with Sacha Kljestan and Brad Friedel leading the way

MLS Cup Top 50 Moments: Tears were flowing in 2009 for RSL’s midfield ace

Playoffs in Profile: Brian Carroll pays his dues for Philadelphia Union

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