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Major League Soccer

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER

November 18, 2012
MLS ROUNDUP
MLS Cup rematch on tap


Robbie Keane created and converted a second -half penalty kick to derail a Seattle comeback attempt as the LA Galaxy won the MLS West championship Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Robbie Keane created and converted a second -half penalty kick to derail a Seattle comeback attempt as the LA Galaxy won the MLS West championship Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HOUSTON DYNAMO 1, DC UNITED 1 (Houston advances to MLS Cup Final, 4-2)
WASHINGTON, DC—The Houston Dynamo brought all the cushion they needed with them to RFK Stadium on Sunday, trading goals with D.C. United and taking the Eastern Conference championship by an aggregate score of 4-2.

Houston, who began the postseason seeded fifth in the East and defeated second-seeded DC 3-1 in the first leg of the conference final last Sunday, will travel to face the LA Galaxy for the MLS Cup on December 1 at the Home Depot Center. Dynamo headman Dominic Kinnear becomes only the second coach in MLS history (after New England’s Steve Nicol) to take the same team to four MLS Cup finals.

Despite a basically defensive game plan, the Dynamo padded their aggregate advantage by a goal in the 34th minute. Brad Davis beat Marcelo Saragosa deep on the right side and chipped a pass back to the top of the six-yard box for Boniek Garcia, whose sharp rising shot went off goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s hands and into the roof of the net.

Injuries and suspensions left DC thin in both front and back, including the loss of scoring leader Chris Pontius to a hamstring injury, and Sunday’s frontline pairing of Maicon Santos and Lionard Pajoy never developed much chemistry. In the second half, 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario, DP striker Hamdi Salihi and versatile M/D Lewis Neal added some spark off the bench, and Branko Boskovic slipped an 83rd-minute shot between Houston netminder Tally Hall and the right post, but the damage was already done.

SEATTLE SOUNDER FC 2, LA GALAXY 1 (LA advances to MLS Cup Final, 4-2)
SEATTLE—A clutch bit of gamesmanship by canny Irishman Robbie Keane defused a promising comeback attempt by Seattle Sounders FC and helped the LA Galaxy win the MLS Western Conference championship by a 4-2 aggregate margin despite losing Sunday’s second-leg match 2-1 at CenturyLink Field.

In the 66th minute, after Seattle had scored two unanswered goals and had a third called back, Keane played the ball off the hands of helpless defender Adam Johansson, drawing a penalty kick that left Seattle once again down by two goals with time running out.

The win means the Galaxy will host Eastern Conference champs the Houston Dynamo – who defeated DC United by a 4-2 aggregate margin earlier on Sunday—in a rematch of MLS Cup 2011 on Sunday, December 1 at the Home Depot Center.

Seattle’s lightning-fast attacking trio of Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson put LA’s defense on their heels early and kept them there for most of the first half. In the 11th minute, an errant assistant referee’s flag robbed Johnson of what appeared to be a good goal. But he was back on the attack within a minute, turning past defender Omar Gonzalez at the top of the penalty area, taking one step in and beating netminder Josh Saunders to the lower right corner. Zach Scott got the assist, turning a ball initially cleared by Gonzalez back into the box for Johnson.

In the 57th minute, however, Scott darted past LA’s Edson Buddle and dove forward to drive Christian Tiffert’s right-side corner kick past Saunders to cut LA’s aggregate lead to 3-2.

Seattle’s excitement was short-lived however, as a promising attack turned sour starting in the 65th minute. Juninho, who entered the match for Christian Wilhelmsson in the 62nd minute, fouled Oswaldo Alonso 22 yards from goal. Montero sent the free kick off the wall, and after pingponging out to midfield and beyond, the ball ended up with Keane deep in the Sounders’ penalty area. The Irish forward launched a cross from near the endline that hit Johansson in the left hand, then the right, prompting a penalty call from Geiger. Keane put a low spot kick into the left side of the net as ‘keeper Michael Gspurning went the other way.

The Sounders kept pressing, but Saunders held fast, including making a point-blank stop on David Estrada in stoppage time, setting up the MLS Cup rematch.
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