Portland goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey snuffed out Sporting Kansas City keeper Jon Kempin’s penalty kick shortly after beating the SKC backup from the spot himself to give the Timbers an epic 7-6 (pk) win over Sporting On Thursday night, topping off a thrilling round MLS KO round playoffs.
Portland’s win followed the lone dud (drama wise) of the KO matches, Montreal’s dominant 3-0 win over floundering Canadian rivals Toronto, one day after a pair of exciting, if somewhat sloppy games that saw DC United edge New England 2-1 as Jermaine Jones freaked out, and Seattle prematurely ended the Galaxy’s title defense 2-1 at CenturyLink Park.
The one common denominator amidst the madness was that the home field mattered. All four home teams were winners, a lesson to playoff aspirants to take care of business during the regular season.
Let’s have a quick recap before we turn our attention to the Conference semifinals, which kickoff on Sunday.
DC United 2-1 vs. New England
Revolution coach Jay Heaps surprised onlookers by starting Juan Agudelo over Charlie Davies who has been New England’s most productive striker this season. Agudelo was quick to justify his place when he produced a spectacular bicycle kick goal 15 minutes in. It was the kind of goal that reminds us why we were all so excited about the still just 22 year old striker to begin with, as well as a reminder that we should not give up on him just yet.
DC got goals from Chris Pontius and Chris Rolfe, both well set up by Fabian Espindola, and Bill Hamid was outstanding in the DC net, and you have to wonder how Hamid is behind William Yarbrough on Jurgen Klinsmann’s depth chart, but this game will be remembered for Jermaine Jones’ behavior even more than the Pele-esque Agudelo goal.
Jones was right that referee Mark Geiger blew the late pk call that could have allowed New England to tie the game but Jermaine, get a grip. And not on the referee. You’re 33 years old, act like an adult.
DC move on to face Atlantic Cup rivals New York Red Bulls and New England wait to find out how many games Jones will miss at the start of next season.
Seattle 3-2 vs. Los Angeles
In a wild affair that stood 2-2 after 22 minutes Seattle knocked off the defending champions on a 73rd minute strike from Erik Friberg, prompting the Galaxy’s acerbic coach Bruce Arena to declare on twitter –
Indeed, the Galaxy were generous in presenting Seattle with the opportunity to score all three of its goals. Clint Dempsey gratefully hammered home the first in the 5th minute after L.A. keeper Donovan Ricketts bobbled an easy catch directly into his path.
Sebastian Lletget leveled for the Galaxy just a minute later, but in the 12th minute Steven Gerrard allowed Nelson Valdez to run free in the six yard box, and Valdez’ header put the Sounders back in front.
By his gestures the former Liverpool legend seemed to blame Ricketts for not coming off of his line, although it looked like the L.A.DP was the primary gift giver for not continuing his run.
A Gyasi Zardes deflection tied the game in the 22nd minute, but the Galaxy defense put a bow on this match and neatly placed it under the tree in the 73rd minute when neither A.J DeLa Garza nor Leonardo could clear a ball that had been hopefully looped into the box.
The ball found its way to Erik Friberg at the top of the 18 yard box and the Swedish midfielder connected on a fine shot that found the top corner of the L.A. net, sending 39,000 plus Sounder fans home as happy as kids on Christmas morn while sending Arena into Yuletide reveries.
Montreal 3-0 vs. Toronto
The temptation with this game is to focus on the losing Toronto team at the expense of praising victorious Montreal, and we will try to avoid that pitfall here. But first, a word or two on Toronto.
After coming into the league in 2007 with so much promise TFC has endured a just ended 8 year streak without making the playoff, hired and fired seven full time coaches (2 interim), and brought in numerous executive/savior types, even hiring one Jurgen Klinsmann to sort things out back in 2010.
Now after splashing serious Canadian dollars to bring Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco to Toronto the Reds are one and done.
That TFC’s first ever playoff game became a shutout loss to fellow Canadian club Montreal can only make it worse for Toronto.
Montreal have had some coaching dysfunction themselves, but this is the second trip to the MLS post season for Montreal in its four years in the league.
Montreal began the year with an impressive run to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League Final. The Impact ran out of gas by the championship game but Didier Drogba and new coach (interim) Mauro Biello sparked the team to an impressive third place finish and with Ignacio Piatti joining forces with the force that is Drogba, it is not far fetched to suggest that Montreal could end this season with another push to the finals, and they could even improve on the result.
Portland 2(7) – 2(6) Kansas City
Wow. what a game. Portland took the lead in regulation on a Rodney Wallace goal. Sporting KC tied the game on Kevin Ellis header in the 87th minute. In extra time Krisztian Nemeth put SKC on the road to victory, then Max Urruti sent it to pk’s with a volley two minutes from the final whistle.
Jon Kempin entered the game in the 84th minute when SKC starting Keeper Tim Melia left several minutes after taking a kick to the head from Wallace, who received a yellow card.
The two KC goals had been scored by players that could well have been handed straight red cards before shaking the Portland twines. Some thought Wallace should have seen red, I didn’t, the ball was there to be won, and someone turned Matt Besler’s nose into a bloody mess but no one was whistled, or carded for it.
And then came the peno’s. It is a cruel way to decide a match, cruel but exciting. That it came down to a battle of the goalkeepers underscores both halves of the cruel/exciting thing.
Exciting to see the Portland keeper drill his shot past Kempin, cruel in that the young substitute deserved better after performing heroically in an emergency role.
Here are your MLS Conference semifinal matchups.
Sunday November 1(home teams listed first)
DC United vs New York Red Bulls 3pm. ET
Portland vs Vancouver 5pm ET
Montreal vs Columbus 7pm ET
Seattle vs FC Dallas 9:30pm ET
The reverse fixtures will all take place on Sunday November 8, times to be determined.
Tomorrow we will take a look at the Conference semifinal matchups.