For all the fuss about home field advantage, it didn’t really factor much into the opening games of MLS playoffs. Right from the start, in the play-in round, Houston took down Chicago 2-1. The L.A. Galaxy did defeat Vancouver 2-1 at home in the other play-in match up, but the Galaxy struggled to dispatch a clearly inferior team.
This weekend saw the the first games of the home and home total goals series’, with the eight remaining playoff teams, and we had only one home winner. Tellingly, perhaps, it was Houston. The Dynamo hosted Eastern Conference table toppers Sporting Kansas City, and beat them handily, 2-0.
A real blast from Scottish midfielder Adam Moffat and a third playoff goal from Will Bruin, were too much for SKC at Houston’s new BBVA Compass Stadium. Sporting will relish getting a shot at Houston in Livestrong Park, but two goals is a lot to spot a team in a two game series. Could this be the start of that Houston run I mentioned after the Chicago match ?
Neither DC United or the Seattle Sounders took full advantage of the home field, with Seattle battling Real Salt Lake to a 0-0 tie, while DC played rival New York to a one all stalemate in a scrappy affair.
The Galaxy fell victim to yet another instance of stoppage time magic from the San Jose Earthquakes. This time it wasn’t one of the goal scoring troika of, Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart, who took center stage. Victor Bernardez struck his 95th minute free kick under the leaping Omar Gonzalez, and past Josh Saunders in goal, who really should have done better.
Seattle had that big, loud home crowd behind them, but they couldn’t put one past Nick Rimando, who was brilliant in RSL’s goal. Seattle keeper Michael Gspurning was sharp also, and the home team missed Eddie Johnson, who could make a difference if he is fit for the return leg.
DC United and New York traded own goals, with Roy Miller, NYRB, and Bill Hamid, DC the gift givers. Red Bulls were given another break, 19 minutes from time, when 19 year old Honduran Olympian Andy Najar, picked up a double yellow. Najar was whistled for a foul, received a yellow card, and fired the ball at the ref, drawing an immediate second yellow. Najar will miss the second match, at Red Bull Arena.
One takeaway from the weekend matches involves the future and depth of the U.S. goalkeeping pool. With Tim Howard and Brad Guzan the worthy numbers one and two, Nick Rimando has gotten most of the reps at the number three spot. Rimando was outstanding versus Seattle, and Houston’s Tally Hall, and New York’s Luis Robles also impressed over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the presumptive U.S. goalkeepers of the future, Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson, were anything but. Johnson got away with a couple of howlers versus Houston in the play-in round, and Hamid was awful on that o.g. against New York. Both keepers are young, but Johnson has a history going back to the Olympic qualifiers. Hall hasn’t seemed to be on Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar, and Robles is just getting his feet wet in MLS, but just maybe it is time to open up that goalkeeper pool a little wider.