MLS Conference finals set

It’s down to the wire now in another successful MLS season when the Los Angeles Galaxy and Dallas FC tangle in the Western Conference Finals on Sunday at the Home Depot Center in Carson CA, and the surprising San Jose Earthquake and the Colorado Rapids do battle for the Eastern Conference crown at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver on Saturday. Both games are at 9:00 p.m.

For hosts Los Angeles, forward Edson Buddle and defender Omar Gonzalez scored first half goals off David Beckham assists on Sunday night at Home Depot Center to lead the Galaxy to a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal series. The Galaxy won the first leg, 1-0, on an Edson Buddle tally just days before to take series, 3-1 on aggregate. Los Angeles will meet Dallas FC, winner of its Western Conference semifinal series against defending Champion Real Salt Lake, in the Conference finals, a one game affair, next weekend.

Buddle’s second goal of the playoffs and his 19th overall, came in the 19th minute when he headed in a Beckham corner kick from eight yards. Gonzalez made it 2-0 in the 27th when he moved up from his defensive position to head home Beckham’s 32-yard free kick. Meanwhile Jamaican international goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, recently voted MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, was stalwart in goal, coming up with three crucial saves in the match. Steve Zakuani scored for Seattle Sounders FC in the 86th minute, but it was too little, too late for Seattle.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena referred to Beckham’s set pieces as “terrific.” Arena said Beckham’s free kicks were “the difference in the game.” Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid bemoaned his players. “We still have to grow up a little bit,” said Schmid. “For a couple of guys on our team, the game was too big for them. It was too big an occasion for them. They just turned over the ball in bad positions, bad spots.”

Dallas tied hosts Real Salt Lake, 1-1, in Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night to take the semifinal series, 3-2, on aggregate after winning the first leg at home, 2-1. Dax McCarty scored in the 13th minute to put Dallas ahead for most of the match until substitute Robbie Findlay scored in the 79th minute to tie the game. McCarty tallied when Brett Shea headed on a long pass from midfield to the forward and McCarty beat Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando with a low, hard shot from six yards.

In the Eastern Conference semifinals, it took penalty kicks to decide. Colorado Rapids and Columbus Crew were all knotted at 2-2 on aggregate: the Rapids won the first leg at home, 1-0, but lost at Columbus, 2-1, on Saturday night. Eventually, Colorado advanced after winning the penalty kick-shootout, 5-4, at Columbus on Saturday.

The Crew had a 2-0 lead on Saturday from goals by Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers and were on their way to the Conference final, had the game ended with that score, but Conor Casey change all that. Casey scored of an Omar Cummings cross in the 84th minute for the 2-1 result, which tied the aggregate score. Colorado will take on San Jose in the Eastern Conference final.

San Jose reached the Conference final after a stunning 3-1 upset victory over the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena last Thursday night. After winning the first leg at San Jose on Saturday night, Oct. 30 on a Joel Lindpere goal, the Red Bulls were in a strong position to take the second leg at home, but San Jose was positive and took full advantage of its early chances. Goals two goal from Bobby Convey and one from MLS leading scorer Chris Wondolowski ended the Red Bulls season.

Trinidad, Guyana advance

Trinidad and Guyana advanced to the 2010 Digicel Caribbean Championship in Martinique, Nov. 20 – Dec. 5, 2010. The teams join defending champion Jamaica, Martinique, Grenada and Guadeloupe in the finals. To complete the eight-team field two more teams will come from among Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Surinam and Cuba after those teams complete group play from Wednesday, Nov. 10-14 in Antigua.

Host Trinidad and Tobago defeated Haiti, 4-0, in the final match in Group F on Saturday at Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella to complete a sweep of all of its three games and won the group with nine points. The home team previously beat St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 6-2, and knocked off Guyana 2-1. Guyana (4 pts.) advance on goal difference when it beat St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 2-0, also on Saturday; Haiti’s (4 pts.) bad loss to Trinidad and Tobago doomed its chances.

Guyana played to a goalless draw with Haiti in the team’s opening match at the start of the tournament; Haiti went on the defeat St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 3-1, in an ealier encounter. The Vincentians lost all their contests.

Canada, Mexico advance

Canada and Mexico won their semifinal games and are scheduled to play for the CONCACAF Women’s Championship on Monday, Nov. 8, in Cancun, Mexico. Both teams have also qualified for the Women’s World Cup in Germany next summer. The USA and Costa Rica will play for third place and a chance to meet Italy for a final berth in the World Cup.