The Houston Dynamo won a see-saw match against Sporting Kansas City, while the Los Angeles Galaxy demonstrated their dominance in the league with a convincing victory over Real Salt Lake. Galaxy will now have the good fortune of hosting the MLS Cup Final against the Dynamo on Sunday, November 20.
Sporting 0:2 Dynamo
Two of MLS' most physical teams duked it out on the rough pitch at Livestrong Sporting Park. The first half saw action at both ends of the pitch, with both teams putting pressure on in the attacking third, but neither really creating the finishing touch needed to put a ball past the opposing keepers. Referee Mark Geiger was lenient on both sides, but Houston's physical style of play seemed to benefit more. That is, until Brad Davis attempted a hard slide tackle and went down with a torn quadriceps in the 38th minute. With the playmaker on the sidelines and half the game left to play Sporting looked to take the initiative.
At the start of the second half Sporting went on the attack and had a couple of close chances but again failed to put any of them away. Then, in the 53rd minute former Portland Timbers midfielder Adam Moffat took over Davis' free kick taking role and sent a ball into Jermaine Taylor. His header was parried by Jimmy Nielsen, but the ball went right to Andre Hainault for the score. Two minutes later Graham Zusi had a set-piece chance of his own, but a scrum in the goal area failed to produce a goal. Sporting kept pressing but grew increasingly frustrated with Houston's rough play. Unfortunately, the home side also started diving, and Geiger was having none of it. Houston's Carlos Costly put the nail in the coffin with an 88th minute breakaway, perfectly slotting a shot inside the post.
Though they only won two away matches during the regular season, Dynamo won their second consecutive playoff match away from home in getting the win at Livestrong. They did it with their usual physical play, keeping their opponents from finding a rhythm or getting a break. But they will likely have a tough time duplicating that strategy against the Galaxy in the final, as Beckham and company have a penchant for winning sympathy from referees.
Galaxy 3:1 RSL
The first half at the Home Depot Center was exciting but balanced, with RSL doing their best to maintain possession and wait for their chance. Galaxy got the first one, though, after a questionable foul in the box was called on Andy Williams. (Questionable, I should say, only after watching Houston get away with much worse.) Landon Donovan converted the penalty, but just two minutes later RSL scored the equalizer on a Javier Morales corner kick and a pair of headers from Jamison Olave and Alvaro Saborio. Galaxy nearly went ahead in the 32nd and 43rd minutes, Robbie Keane narrowly missing two shots, hitting the post with one (as HikinGDub put it, "Keane is Irish for Alhassan"). Then Kyle Beckerman hit the post at the other end in the 2nd minute of first half stoppage time.
The balance tipped heavily toward the Galaxy in the second half, though. David Beckham twice found himself wide open on the right side early on, the first one missing the mark, the second one, in the 58th minute, getting drilled into the back of the net by Mike Magee. As RSL started to force the issue and push forward, Galaxy created one breakaway after another, taking apart an RSL defense feeling the absence of injured Nat Borchers. In the 68th minute Keane made a run down the left side, outplayed Olave and put the Galaxy up by two. Keane provided all the offensive pressure the Galaxy needed to wear out Salt Lake at both ends of the pitch, and RSL just couldn't muster the energy to get back into the match.
The Galaxy have not lost at the Home Depot Center all season. Robbie Keane was as dangerous as I've seen him this year, David Beckham seems to be playing up to his current potential in these playoffs, and Mike Magee is suddenly a goal scoring machine. All this on top of being one of the best overall teams in MLS history. As much as I would love to see it happen, I can't see them losing this MLS Cup Final.