November 6, 2012
Narrowing the field, three series will be decided
Three of the four conference semifinal series wrap up on Wednesday night, with top-seeded Sporting Kansas City (East) and defending champions the LA Galaxy (West) fighting for their postseason lives. All of the semifinals are two-game, aggregate goal affairs. Ties at the end of regulation will be resolved by two 15-minute overtime periods and, if necessary, penalty kicks.
DC United @ New York Red Bulls, 8:00 pm ET (NBCSN)
The Eastern Conference semifinal series between second-seeded DC United and the third-place New York Red Bulls, already uprooted once by Hurricane Sandy, wraps up on the storm-tossed turf at Red Bull Arena under the cloud of a predicted Wednesday night nor-easter.The teams certainly don’t need Mother Nature or anything else threatening to throw the players any further off their stride. They traded own goals on their way to a 1-1 draw last Saturday, and DC lost dangerous outside back Andy Najar to a red card after he tossed the ball toward referee Jair Marrufo in a fit of temper. Robbie Russell is expected to fill Najar’s slot, but cannot replace the converted midfielder’s attacking potential out of the back. Kenny Cooper, benched in favor of Sebastien Le Toux for most of game 1, is expected to return to the starting lineup for game 2. The Red Bulls lost only twice at home during the regular season.
Houston Dynamo @ Sporting Kansas City, 9:00 pm ET (FSH, KSMO)
The Houston Dynamo, who started the postseason fifth in the MLS East an survived a midweek knockout round match against Chicago before the start of the semifinals, stunned top-seeded Sporting Kansas City 2-0 last weekend at BBVA Compass Stadium. Sporting, who lost to the Dynamo in last year’s conference championship match, needs to score at least three goals to advance to the conference championship series, something they did only three times during the regular season. A two-goal win would leave the aggregate-goals series tied, forcing two 15-minute overtimes and, if necessary, penalty kicks. The Dynamo turned the tables on defensively-minded Sporting in the series opener, neutralizing offensive catalyst Graham Zusi and while putting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen on his heels early with a stunning long-distance strike from Adam Moffat in the 18th minute. Will Bruin gave Houston a little late breathing room with his third goal of the postseason, in the 75th. Sporting meanwhile put only one shot on goal. Injuries have thinned the ranks in the Sporting midfield, and early indications are that defensive-minded Brazilian Julio Cesar will be unavailable after suffering a quad injury in the series opener. The Dynamo will be playing for the third time in eight days.
LA Galaxy @ San Jose Earthquakes, 11:00 pm ET (ESPN2)
The San Jose Earthquakes were at less than their best in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal series against the LA Galaxy last Sunday. But as they did five times during the regular season, they found a way to pull out a win in stoppage time, leaving the defending champions sputtering after a 94th-minute free kick from defender Victor Bernardez found its way through the wall and into the net. It was San Jose’s third win in four games over the Galaxy this year, and has to leave them brimming with confidence going into Wednesday’s return match at Buck Shaw Stadium. The explosive Galaxy attack had their chances on Sunday, with defender Sean Franklin forcing ‘keeper Jon Busch into a clutch one-handed save and Robbie Keane cracking a late shot off the crossbar, but could not finish, and will be taking the field for the sixth time in 17 days, and the third time in the last six.