We're off and running in the race for the MLS Cup, and on Halloween night, you knew the team in Orange had to prevail.
The Houston Dynamo did just that, with a well-deserved 2-1 win over Chicago at Toyota Park in the Eastern Conference Knockout Round, as striker Will Bruin emerged as Houston’s hero after netting both goals (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS).
Head coach Dominic Kinnear led his side to yet another wily and disciplined road display in the playoffs, and Kinnear was delighted with the display: “It was a great win. We came to a tough place and got a great result. I think especially in the first half, that was the best we've played in a while.”
While the opposite could be said for Chicago, Patrick Nyarko cut a disappointed figure postgame: “I think the mentality of what we were about dropped a little bit. We stopped playing soccer, mistakes really cost us. Tonight, two mistakes, we got punished and against a good team like this, it's always hard to climb back from two goals down."
Bruin, the man who grabbed those two goals, felt his side got what they deserved: “We had the feeling this was our game. We felt we were playing well under pressure, and getting that first goal was a reward for our good play.''
His second strike was the killer blow, coming just 18 seconds into the second half. Chicago switched off and Bruin dispatched a perfect through ball from Calen Carr, doubling the lead and giving the Fire an even tougher task.
See what MLSsoccer.com’s editors thought of the Knockout Round game, here. As they catch up on a Google + hangout.
And Andrew Wiebe gives you his three thoughts on why Houston prevailed on a chilly night in Chicago.
So with the MLS Cup playoffs off and running — watch this awesome NBC promo video via The Original Winger to get you in the playoff spirit — the games continue to come thick and fast with a monster matchup out West on Thursday evening.
The LA Galaxy host Vancouver at the Home Depot Center (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN, TSN/RDS2) with the ‘Caps making history as the first-ever Canadian side to appear in the playoffs. Does that render their season a success no matter what? ‘Caps president Bob Lenarduzzi believes so: “There's no doubt how we perform on Thursday will determine the outlook on this season, so we want to put in a good performance and regardless of the outcome, it's something people will have a positive feeling about."
Head coach Martin Rennie is expecting a close game, so much so he’s been preparing for penalty-kicks all season long: “We feel confident we have guys that can take care of this if we get to that point."
The New York Times breaks down the playoff clash between LA and the ‘Caps, read more here.
The Galaxy are heavy favorites, as they take the first step in defending their MLS crown. But plenty of interesting vibes came from the LA locker room on Wednesday, with two of their superstars speaking out.
David Beckham caused quite a furor with his comments when asked about his plans to play on next season: “I’m going to enjoy being in the playoffs again this season and then we’ll see – see how this body feels after the playoffs.”
Beckham also spoke about his love for new LA Lakers (and Whitecaps minority owner) Steve Nash, with Beckham planning to dress up as Nash for Halloween, but, “In his Lakers kit, not his Vancouver kit."
And another LA player often casting doubt on his soccer future this season, Landon Donovan, highlighted how Vancouver can become the second Canadian side to cause LA a big upset on Thursday night: “If we don’t do those things, we’re vulnerable, and we’re very beatable. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. Vancouver is a much better team than Toronto is. And if we’re not ready to play, they could easily beat us.”
You’ve got to love Donovan’s honesty. And speaking of Toronto, they announced German stalwart Torsten Frings will be fit for the start of the 2013 preseason.
Back to LA and Bruce Arena spoke out to the Los Angeles Times about Robbie Keane’s impact in his first full season for the Galaxy: "He's had an outstanding year. He's been as good as any player in the league."
Soccer By Ives worked out the stats, and only Chris Wondolowski has scored more goals against playoff teams than Keane in the regular season. See who else fared well, here.
The Republic of Ireland have left Keane out of their latest squad, giving the Galaxy yet another boost for what they hope is a long and fruitful playoff run.
Speaking of goals, don’t forget to keep voting for the AT&T MLS Goal of the Year, see the latest candidates here.
Ahead of the weekend’s Conference Semifinal matches, big news was announced yesterday by MLS Commissioner Don Garber in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. D.C. United have agreed to switch venues with New York, as power is still out at RBA with the first-leg fast approaching on Saturday. The first leg will now be at RFK on Saturday night.
Winning home-field advantage, United gave that up with Garber thankful they were so accommodating: "We understand that and deeply appreciate their support. And also understand that it will impact their fans and we will try to do things to minimize that impact."
There are no weather related issues for Seattle and RSL to battle, as Jason Kreis joked about mirroring RSL’s MLS Cup 2011 success over Seattle: “Yeah, a 3-0 win, 5-0 even better.”
The Salt Lake Tribune take a look at what RSL can expect from their perennial playoff foes, here.
Sigi Schmid didn’t seem quite as laid back as Kreis as he feels his sides season shouldn’t be judged just by the playoffs: “We want to advance in the playoffs – let me say that. … But sometimes I also feel there’s this thing of, ‘Well, without that, we’re not a good team.’ I don’t think that’s entirely an accurate statement either.”
Away from MLS action and across the pond, Clint Dempsey’s decent start to his Spurs career stalled on Wednesday night. Deuce missed a last minute penalty that would’ve taken Tottenham Hotspur’s match with Norwich to extra time. Instead, they were dumped out of the cup by the Canaries. See how the other US players in Euro action got on in midweek, here.
Chelsea and Manchester United clashed for the second time in four days, in another see-saw battle at Stamford Bridge, with the Blues eventually advancing to the League Cup quarterfinals after an exhausting 5-4 victory in extra time.
And finally former Chelsea player — and an often reported MLS target —Michael Ballack, has bizarrely claimed he can’t afford to pay a speeding fine, after the former German national team captain was caught traveling at 131 mph on a 75 mph road in Spain.
His lawyer said: “Just because he is a famous footballer doesn’t mean he has any money coming in.”
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