MLS – Seattle and Houston head to the Semis
MLS – Seattle and Houston head to the Semis avatar

Seattle and Houston advanced to the Conference semifinals with home wins on Wednesday for the Sounders and Thursday for the Dynamo. Both were clear winners with Seattle topping Colorado 2-0 and Houston beating Montreal 3-0 in a game that ended up 11v 8, when a classless Montreal side lost their poise in the games waning moments.

Dempsey is finally finding his form and just at the right time for Seattle.(ISI Photos/Nick Turchiaro)

Dempsey is finally finding his form and just at the right time for Seattle.(ISI Photos/Nick Turchiaro)

Seattle dominated play in the first half with Clint Dempsey looking the best he has looked since his big move back to MLS. Dempsey was playing centrally, behind Eddie Johnson and Lamar Neagle and Colorado’s new look defense had trouble with the fast paced Sounder play from the start.

Rapids coach Oscar Pareja shook up his back four for this game bringing German Mera into the center of his defense and moving Shane O’Neill out to fullback, while dropping Marvell Wynne.

Shane O'Neill (L) in acto for the U.S. at   U-20 World Cup earlier this year. (ISI Photos/OSVALDO AGUILAR)

Shane O’Neill (L) in acto for the U.S. at U-20 World Cup earlier this year. (ISI Photos/OSVALDO AGUILAR)

 

It didn’t work, although O’Neill did pose some danger going forward. Seattle also benefitted from an outstanding first half from DeAndre Yedlin. The fullback was aggressive both getting forward and in his personal duel with Colorado speedster Deshorn Brown.

Brown had given Yedlin fits in Colorado’s recent 5-1 thrashing of the Sounders and Yedlin wasn’t having that again. Unfortunately for Seattle Yedlin went down hard on his ankle while battling Brown for a high ball and after struggling to finish the half, had to retire after the break. Seattle are listing both Yedlin and Obafemi Martins as day to day.

The second half was tough and tense with the rain not helping the players control the ball on CenturyLink’s slick artificial surface. Seattle keeper Michael Gspurning has struggled to find his game recently and only good fortune saved him a couple of times Wednesday, before a final blunder got the keeper red carded.

In an astonishingly inept reaction to Colorado pressure, Gspurning caught a high bouncing ball well outside his goal box, drawing a red in the 87th minute. U.S. MNT veteran Marcus Hahnemann was on hand to deputize and with Gspurning suspended for the opener with Portland, Seattle should happily to turn the keepers job over to the former Reading man for the rest of their season.

Seattle’s win sets up a delicious two game series with Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers, with Real Salt Lake facing L.A. in another enticing drama in the West.

Will Bruin was the star of the show. (Getty Images)

Will Bruin was the star of the show. (Getty Images)

Houston punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference semi’s with a thorough beatdown of the ill disciplined Impact, whose performance Thursday night mirrored their season. Montreal started well, before fading badly. On Thursday Marco Di Vaio was making dangerous runs behind the Dynamo backline in the opening stages. Only the offside flag kept the veteran Italian striker from inflicting some damage on the home team.

Houston rode out the early storm and turned the game their way with a 16th minute goal from Will Bruin. Bruin has been in a serious goal scoring slump, but he took his chance nicely off of a sublime back heel assist from Ricardo Clark.

Clark and Honduran international winger Boniek Garcia were excellent in leading the Houston effort and Montreal never came to grips with the pair. Garcia added to Houston’s lead with a 26th minute penalty that he had earned after intercepting, and running at the Montreal defense.

Montreal's forward Marco Di Vaio was kept quiet during the game.(ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Montreal’s forward Marco Di Vaio was kept quiet during the game.(ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Di Vaio was increasingly isolated up top as Houston continued to tighten their grip on the game, with only the occasional incisive run from Justin Mapp to trouble Houston’s back line. Montreal defender Nelson Rivas escaped with a yellow card in the 35th minute for a blatant elbow on Houston’s Giles Barnes, that was a clear red card foul.

Rivas would get that red card when he earned a second yellow in the 70th minute for another, less egregious elbow. Will Bruin struck for a second goal just minutes after Rivas took a seat, apparently his slump is over. A heartening thought for Houston coach Dom Kinnear.

Then it was all over bar the shouting, or in this case the fighting. With the game, and their season winding down Montreal chose to go out in thuggish fashion. Substitute Andreas Romero fouled Kofi Sarkodie in the 89th minute and with Sarkodie down, Romero couldn’t resist putting the boot in. Romero sparked a melee that saw Di Vaio draw red along with Romero, and Montreal ended their season with eight players on the field.

Houston were fortunate that Corey Ashe was given only a yellow for his part in the fracas, and so Houston head to the Conference semifinals against New York intact.

Houston have a history of playoff runs, they get a chance to start a fresh one Sunday when they host the Red Bulls at 3:30. Hopefully Houston can draw better than Thursday night when the Dynamo beat Montreal in a half full stadium.

Eastern Conference Semifinals
First Leg (Home teams listed first):
· New England Revolution vs. Sporting Kansas City – Sat., Nov. 2, 8:00 pm ET (NBCSN; RDS2; Local TV)
· Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls– Sun., Nov. 3, 3:30 pm ET (NBC)

Second Leg (Home teams listed first):
· New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo – Wed., Nov. 6, 8:00 pm ET (UDN; Local TV )
· Sporting Kansas City vs. New England Revolution – Wed., Nov. 6, 9:00 pm ET (Local TV)

Western Conference Semifinals
First Leg (Home teams listed first):
· Seattle Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers – Sat., Nov. 2, 10:00 pm ET (NBCSN)
· LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake – Sun., Nov. 3, 9:00 pm ET (ESPN; TSN2; RDS2)

Second Leg (Home teams listed first):
· Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy – Thurs., Nov. 7, 9:00 pm ET (ESPN2; TSN2)
· Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC – Thurs., Nov. 7, 11:00 pm ET (NBCSN; UDN; TSN2)

Conference Championships
First Leg (Home teams listed first):
· Eastern Conference – Sat., Nov. 9, 2:30 pm ET (NBC; UDN; RDS2)
· Western Conference – Sun., Nov. 10, 9:00 pm ET (ESPN; RDS2)

Second Leg (Home teams listed first):
· TBD – Sat., Nov. 23, TBD
· TBD – Sun., Nov. 24, TBD

MLS Cup 2013
Saturday, December 7 (hosted by finalist with best regular season record)
4:00 pm ET (ESPN, UniMas, TSN2, RDS) Site TBD

About Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is a staff writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, covering MLS and other US leagues, He's GotSoccer's chief National Team Correspondent.
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