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West is Best as MLS Playoffs Reach Semifinal Stage

Posted By Matt Gajtka On Nov 10 2010 @ 2:56 pm In Soccer | No Comments

Four teams remain alive in the quest for Major League Soccer’s postseason crown, and they all hail from the Western Conference.

The intricacies of the two-game aggregate goal format were on full display last week as the MLS Cup quarterfinals reached their conclusions. The Eastern Conference’s top two finishers, the New York Red Bulls and the Columbus Crew, were both dramatically upended at home in the second leg of their quarterfinal series by Western wild cards.

In the best match thus far in MLS Cup Playoffs 2010, the San Jose Earthquakes overcame a 1-0 loss at home in the first leg of their quarterfinal against New York by pouring on the offense in a 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena last Thursday. Two goals from midfielder Bobby Convey, who was recently named the league’s Comeback Player of the Year, staked the visitors to a 2-1 lead in aggregate goals by the 76th minute.

Just two minutes later, New York’s Juan Pablo Angel headed in a Juan Agudelo cross to knot the aggregate at two goals apiece and temporarily unleash the rabid crowd in suburban Newark, N.J., but the celebration was extremely short-lived. Convey once again played a key role in the turnaround, sending an accurate ball to the head of regular-season goal-scoring champion Chris Wondolowski in the 81st minute. Wondolowski finished the play, and the ‘Quakes had vanquished the East’s No.1 seed in stunning fashion.

The events were just as thrilling in Columbus, Ohio, as the Crew tried to overcome a 1-0 road defeat in Colorado with some hometown magic last Saturday. Columbus took control 2-1 in aggregate goals when Robbie Rogers netted one in the 70th minute, adding to Eddie Gaven’s first-half marker, but the Rapids would soon ruin the night for Crew fans.

Colorado forward Conor Casey nodded Omar Cummings’ feed into the side netting with six minutes to go in regulation time, and following a scoreless overtime session, the quarterfinal would be decided in a penalty shootout. After the first nine shooters all converted, Columbus’ Brian Carroll sailed his attempt high in the bottom of the fifth round, sending Colorado to the Eastern Conference Final.

In the West, top seed Los Angeles took care of business at home, vanquishing Seattle 2-1 last Sunday and 3-1 in aggregate. David Beckham registered two assists from set pieces to lock up the series in the first half at the Home Depot Center. The Galaxy will host FC Dallas, which outclassed Real Salt Lake 3-2 in aggregate with a 1-1 draw in the second leg, Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern time in the Western Conference Final. The match will be televised on ESPN2.

The Eastern Conference Final, oddly featuring two teams from the West, will pit Colorado at San Jose. Tune into Fox Soccer Channel at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday to catch all the action. The winners of each one-game conference final will square off Nov. 14 at Toronto’s BMO Field in MLS Cup 2010.

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