The New York Red Bulls was eliminated for the 2011 MLS playoffs Thursday night when it suffered its second straight defeat at the feet of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Los Angeles won the second leg of the home-and-away Western Conference playoffs series, 2-1, at Home Depot Center in Carson (CA); the Galaxy won the first leg, 1-0, four days before at Red Bull Arena in Harrison (NJ). The defeat marked the culmination of an underachieving season for the New York team, which promised much in 2011.
For a moment early in the game, it seemed as if New York would strike goal in the West. Four minutes into the game on Thursday night, New York was ahead, 1-0, when Thierry Henry split the Galaxy defense with a superb pass for Luke Rodgers, who only had to run onto the ball and slip is past Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders. The play seemed to inspire the Red bulls, who displayed accurate passing and good combination plays to keep possession of the ball.
Again, as it did all season long, New York’s defense was consistent in giving up goals to unmarked opponents; David Beckham curled a corner kick from the left side with his right foot, which Mike Magee, the smallest player on the pitch, leapt unmarked to head past Red Bulls goalkeeper Frank Rost to tie the game at 1-1 just before half time.
The second half was the last we would see of the Red Bulls this season. Beckham, who it seemed got the benefit of the doubt on calls by the referees in the series, was pushed to the ground in the penalty area by Red Bulls defender Roy Miller in the 74th minute and was awarded a penalty kick, which Landon Donovan scored to give Los Angeles the 2-1 victory in the game.
Los Angeles Settles
The Los Angeles Galaxy went on to win the Western Conference with a 3-1 victory against Real Salt Lake on Sunday night at the Home Depot Center. The Conference finals are one-game affairs. Real Salt Lake defeated the Seattle Sounders 3-2 on aggregate on Wednesday night in the other semi-final.
Los Angeles got off to an early start when Andy Williams was whistled for a foul on Omar Gonzalez in the penalty area in the 22nd minute, and Landon Donovan registered the penalty kick; Real Salt answered two minutes after when Jefferson Olave headed a corner kick from the back post back into play for Saborio to nod home. Mike Magee’s header from a David Beckham cross in the 50th minute, his third goal in as many playoff games, and Robbie Kean’s goal in the 58th sealed the victory for the Galaxy. Los Angeles is headed for the MLS Cup final for a record seventh time.
Houston Wins The East
In the Eastern Conference final, which is another one-off game, the Houston Dynamo defeated hosts Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, on Sunday to win the East title. Houston, last Thursday, topped Philadelphia, 1-0, and took the two-game semifinal series, 3-1, on aggregate. Sporting Kansas City knocked off defending champion Colorado Rapids, 2-0, in last Wednesday night’s second leg of their semifinal, to win the series, 4-0, on aggregate.
Houston outplayed Kansas City. The Dynamo, which had not won a road game in its first 15 MLS regular season games, is undefeated so far in its two road games. On Sunday, goals from Andre Hainault (53rd minute) and Carlos Costly (88th) paved the way to the MLS Cup championship game for Houston.
Playing without its top midfielder, Brad Davis, who went down in the first half with a muscle injury, Houston hung tough under early pressure from Kansas City, which was had not lost a home game all season; but when Davis went down, his substitute Jamaican Jermaine Taylor was at the far post of head a lofted free kick back towards the goal for Hainault to scramble into the goal from close range.
Costly was a late substitute for Brian Chin and he found himself steaming down the middle of the park for a one-on-one with Kansas City goalkeeper; Costly, the Honduras striker, struck a hard, low left-foot shot to seal the win. Houston and Los Angeles Galaxy will play in MLS Cup at Home Depot Center in Carson (CA) on Sunday, Nov. 20.
CONCACAF World Cup qualify second round play is into the final series of games on Friday, Nov. 11 and Wednesday, Nov. 15.
Trinidad and Tobago is on the ropes going into its Group B qualifying series against group leader Guyana. Trinidad’s Soca Warriors (9 pts.) must win one of the two games remaining against Guyana (10 pts.) to move to the semifinal round.
The Guyanese host the Trinidadians on Friday, and then travel to Trinidad and Tobago for the final game on Wednesday. Guyana only has to win one game to advance and kick Trinidad out of the World Cup. In the other matchup in Group B, Bermuda hosts Barbados and then travel to Barbados for the final game.
In other qualifying matchups over the next few days, in Group A Suriname hosts El Salvador and Dominican Republic entertains Cayman Islands and then both host teams travel to El Salvador and Cayman Islands, respectively, for the return legs. In Group C, Panama travels to Dominica, and then Dominica hits the road on Nov. 15.
In Group D, St. Kitts and Nevis hosts Canada and St. Lucia hosts Puerto Rica; Canada and Puerto Rico will host their opponents in the return legs. Group E will see St. Vincent and the Grenadines travel to Belize and Grenada to Guatemala and then the host teams travel to St. Vincent and Grenada, respectively. In Group F, Haiti goes to group leader Antigua and Barbuda and Curacao to U.S. Virgin Islands. Haiti and Curacao will host their respective opponents four days later.