MLS PLAYOFFS: The champ is dead … the East is dead
November, 6, 2010
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
A look at Saturday's postseason action:IN BRIEF: The reigning champs are dead, and it's an all-Western final four. … FC Dallas scored an early goal and held off 2009 MLS Cup champ Real Salt Lake's late onslaught for a 1-1 draw, enough to send the Hoops into the Western Conference final -- against the Galaxy or Seattle -- with a 3-2 aggegate triumph. … Colorado knocked off the East's No. 2 side, rallying to force overtime, then winning on penalty kicks in Columbus, and will be home against Western rival San Jose in the, yes, Eastern Conference final.
BEST PLAYER: Before his bizarre knee injury, Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and UCLA) was getting his share of MLS MVP talk. He reminded us why with a masterful performance in the nets for FC Dallas, making two game-saving stops and parrying balls from danger throughout the second half to make Dax McCarty's 17th-minute goal (from a great Brek Shea chest pass) stand up for the Hoops.
BEST GOAL: Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS) finished beautifully in the 70th minute to give Columbus a 2-0 lead (and 2-1 edge on aggregate), running onto Emmanuel Ekpo's ball into space, positioning himself between the ball and Rapids defender Anthony Wallace, taking it into the box and left-footing past Matt Pickens. Bigger, and just as good, was Conor Casey's emblematic one-touch finish in the box from Omar Cummings' cross in the 84th to even aggregate at 2-2.
BIGGEST STOP: Take your pick from Hartman's collection. We'll go with two, both on Fabian Espindola, both foot saves as he dove one way and Espindola shot the other way. The second, a stoppage-time stop after Espindola redirected Andy Williams' blast from outside the box, ended RSL's comeback hopes.
FROM THE SPOT: It was going to take a miss rather than a save to decide the Columbus-Colorado shootout. All five Rapids shooters were on target, four of them with hard-hit, well-placed shots -- Macoumba Kandji's poor attempt should have been stopped by Andy Gruenebaum, who fumbled the ball off the post and in -- and Columbus made its first four just as impressively while Pickens looked well out of sorts. Brian Carroll, shooting fifth for the Crew, skied his well over the crossbar, igniting Colorado's celebration.
WORTH NOTING: Hartman, not fully fit following six weeks' absence after Thierry Henry's ill-advised goal celebration left the former Galaxy keeper with a sprained right medial collaterial ligament, did not take his own goal kicks. … Previous MLS Cup appearances for the five remaining clubs: Galaxy 6 (1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2009, with triumphs in 2002 and 2005), San Jose 2 (2001 and 2003, both triumphs, both with the team that moved to Houston after the 2005 season), Colorado 1 (1997, lost to D.C. United), FC Dallas and Seattle 0. ... Real Salt Lake's home MLS unbeaten streak, dating to May 2009, remains intact.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We said before the game we are not so sure that many people care about us, but we care about each other. We definitely fight for each other. At this point, we have come together and there is real cohesion.” -- Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz.
at Columbus, Ohio
Columbus 2 (Gaven 22, Rogers 70), Colorado 1 (Casey 84)
(aggregate 2-2; Colorado wins on penalties, 5-4)
Penalties: Colo -- Casey G, Kandji G, Larentowicz G, Lopez G, Smith G; Clb -- Schelotto G, Garey G, Gaven G, Brunner G, Carroll H
at Sandy Utah
Real Salt Lake 1 (Findley 80), FC Dallas 1 (McCarty 17)
(FC Dallas wins on aggregate, 3-2)
SUNDAY'S SECOND LEG
L.A. Galaxy vs. Seattle at Home Depot Center, 6 p.m., ESPN and ESPN Deportes. First leg: Galaxy, 1-0
West: Galaxy/Seattle vs. FC Dallas, date, time and site TBA, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes
East: San Jose at Colorado, Nov. 13, 6:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes