The beauty of the two-game aggregate-goal playoff format is that every goal counts. “Garbage time” doesn’t exist when a late “insurance” goal can end a season as easily as a dramatic extra-time tiebreaker.
While there were no draws in the first legs of Major League Soccer’s four quarterfinals last week, the tight nature of each contest so far ensures that the drama will reach a crescendo this weekend, as the playoff field will be whittled down from eight to four. The New York Red Bulls and San Jose Earthquakes kick off the second leg of their opening round match-up tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. at Red Bull Arena in suburban Newark, N.J.
Estonia’s own Joel Lindpere netted the only goal for New York in its 1-0 opening leg triumph in San Jose last Saturday. The Red Bulls, regular season Eastern Conference champs with a 15-9-6 record, now simply have to tie at home in order to move on to the one-game semifinal against the winner of the Columbus-Colorado quarterfinal. The Red Bulls were dominant in their new soccer palace this season, going 10-3-2 and allowing only nine goals in 15 matches.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference bracket, the Colorado Rapids earned a 1-0 decision in Commerce, Colo. Pablo Mastroeni’s first-half blast held up in the Rapids’ first-ever postseason game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which opened in 2007. Winners of MLS Cup 2008 and regular-season champions in ’08 and ’09, the Crew will look to turn the tables on the Rapids Saturday at 4 p.m.
The spirited fans of Seattle’s Qwest Field were silenced along with their second-year Sounders in Los Angeles’ 1-0 win last Sunday in a Western Conference quarterfinal. Edson Buddle’s highlight-reel volley provided all the offense for the Galaxy, winners of the Supporters’ Shield for best regular-season record (18-7-5). Seattle keeper Kasey Keller kept all the rest out after Buddle’s stunner, giving Sounders FC a chance in Sunday night’s return leg in southern California.
Finally, the first leg of the FC Dallas-Real Salt Lake series seemed destined for a 1-1 draw, but substitute Eric Avila’s late strike stunned the visitors in Dallas’ 2-1 home win at Pizza Hut Park. Real Salt Lake enjoyed an early edge when Fabian Espindola wrote his name on the scoresheet in the fifth minute, but FC Dallas equalized just before halftime courtesy of Jeff Cunningham. Scheduled for Saturday night, the second leg will test Real Salt Lake’s incredible home field advantage – they went 11-0-4 at Rio Tinto Stadium, outscoring opponents 31-7.
If any of the four quarterfinal match-ups are tied in aggregate goals after the second leg, extra time (30 minutes) will be added to determine a winner. If teams are still knotted after 120 minutes, a penalty shootout will determine who advances to the conference championship round, set to begin next Thursday, Nov. 11.
About the Author
Written by Matt Gajtka
A graduate of Marshall University's School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Matt earned his bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism in December of 2007. While at Marshall, Matt served as reporter, columnist and sports editor of MU's student newspaper, The Parthenon. Matt was the A/V intern and No. 2 radio broadcaster in the summer of 2007 for the West Virginia Power, the one-time Class A affiliate of MLB's Milwaukee Brewers. He served as media relations interns for the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL for the 2008-09 season, then worked full-time for the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms as Director of Broadcasting and Media during the 2009-10 campaign.