November 17, 2012
Do-or-die for DC, Seattle
Eastern Conference Finals:
Houston Dynamo @ DC United (Houston leads series, 3-1), 4:00 pm ET (NBCSN)
D.C. United know they have their backs to the wall. But they take some comfort at least in knowing that that wall is in creaky old R.F.K. Stadium, where the team will host the Houston Dynamo in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday.
The Dynamo hold a 3-1 aggregate lead after scoring three times in the second half at BBVA Compass Stadium last Sunday. Although the Dynamo have struggled on the road all season, winning just three of 17 regular season games away from home, United must win by two on Sunday just to send the series to overtime, and will need to outscore Houston by three in order to win without a penalty-kick tiebreaker.
What kind of shape United will be in is one of the big question marks for Sunday. Leading scorer Chris Pontius is the biggest question mark after he was forced off after just 12 minutes of last Sunday’s match with a groin injury. Midfielder Marcelo Saragosa and defender Brandon McDonald also were forced off as United head coach Ben Olsen used all three substitutes before the hour. There is a chance Dwayne De Rosario, who has been out since Sept. 11 with a knee injury, could be ready to return for the second leg. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, suspended for last weekend’s opener, will return, although explosive right back Andy Najar remains ineligible.
Like United, the Dynamo were hit by injury in the first leg. Andre Hainault stepped in again at center back for Jermaine Taylor (knee sprain), and Luiz Camargo came into the midfield for Ricardo Clark (groin strain). Giles Barnes came on before halftime after Adam Moffat went down with a concussion and chest contusion. United and their fans are still smarting over the fact that Hainault, who scored the 1-1 equalizer last Sunday for his third career postseason goal, was still in the match after dragging DC substitute Rafael Augusto down by the arm at the top of the penalty area just before halftime, and will be available again this weekend.
Western Conference Finals:
LA Galaxy @ Seattle Sounders FC (LA Leads series, 3-0), 9:00 pm ET (ESPN)
Perhaps the best word of advice for the Los Angeles Galaxy as they head into Sunday's second leg of the MLS Western Conference Championships series with a commanding 3-0 lead is, “don't blow it.”
That's really all the Galaxy needs to do in order to advance to a second straight MLS Cup. Just don't give up three goals to the Seattle Sounders, who will be playing in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd at CenturyLink Field.
Last Sunday's loss was the first of the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs for Sounders FC, as the team's postseason shutout streak was snapped at 317 minutes. Robbie Keane scored twice and added an assist as the Galaxy has now scored three goals in consecutive playoff games.
This is the second straight year the Sounders are starting a playoff series with a 3-0 loss in the first leg. A year ago, they lost to Real Salt Lake 3-0 in a semifinal first leg, and lost the series 3-2 on aggregate.
That the Sounders were able to close the gap in 2011 should be a warning sign for the Galaxy. That plus the fact that, so far this season, the Sounders have outscored the Galaxy 6-0 in games played in Seattle. However, the Sounders’ attacking options have been limited by injury. Playmaker Mauro Rosales will probably see time against the Galaxy on Sunday, but is far from match fit, and regular-season scoring leader Eddie Johnson has been in and out of the lineup with injuries, and managed only 25 minutes in the first leg of the series last Sunday.