November 3, 2012
Top seeds KC, SJ get in the fray
Eastern Conference Semifinal:
#1 SPORTING KANSAS CITY (18-7-9, 63 pts) @ #5 HOUSTON DYNAMO (14-9-11, 53 pts), 3:30 pm ET (NBC)
Last year’s Eastern Conference finalists, Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo, begin a postseason rematch on Sunday, with the first leg of a semifinal series at BBVA Compass Stadium. The two teams met three times during the regular season, and the Dynamo had the better of things, playing to a pair of draws at Livestrong Sporting Park and handing Sporting their last road loss of the season, 2-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium in July. The Dynamo are on quick turnaround after a 2-1 knockout round win over Chicago on Wednesday night, and have yet to lose at their home stadium. Will Bruin scored both goals against the Fire. Sporting ride a 12-game unbeaten streak into the postseason and are exceedingly well-rested, having had a ten-day break since a season-ending 2-1 win over Philadelphia on October 24. Sporting led Major League Soccer this season with a 0.79 goals against average and boasted the best road record in the League with a .618 winning percentage. Captain Jimmy Nielsen’s 18 victories during the regular season matched the most for a goalkeeper in the non-shootout era and his 15 shutouts were one shy of the League’s all-time mark. Graham Zusi led all MLS players with 15 assists and forward Kei Kamara posted personal career highs with 11 goals and eight assists.
Western Conference Semifinal:
#1 SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (19-6-9, 66 pts) @ #4 LA GALAXY (16-2-6, 54 pts; 1-0-0 playoffs), 11:00 pm ET (ESPN2)
So far this season, the LA Galaxy have had few problems scoring goals against the San Jose Earthquakes. Holding a lead, however, has been more problematic, and is a problem the reigning MLS Cup champions will have to address if they hope to get past the MLS regular season champions and into the Western Conference finals. In three regular season games, the Galaxy took and lost two two-goal leads over the Quakes, losing one of those games and tying the other. And the LA defense is thin to say the least against the league’s most productive attack. Starting center back AJ DeLaGarza is out, and defenders Sean Franklin and David Junior Lopes are questionable with injuries. The Quakes, meanwhile, are near full strength, although former Galaxy forward Alan Gordon, who is San Jose’s second leading scorer behind Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski with 13 goals, is nursing a sprained ankle. The Galaxy earned their way into the semifinals with a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Vancouver in last Thirsday’s knockout round match at the Home Depot Center. Mike Magee scored the 1-1 equalizer, and Landon Donovan won the game from the penalty spot. The Quakes are unbeaten in nine straight, outscoring their opponents 24-11 over that stretch. There’s little love lost between the Galaxy and Quakes, and matches between them tend to be highly physical as well as high scoring.