Monday, October 30, 2006

MLS Cup review

Even though my Wizards are out of the playoffs I'm still following the league's playoffs this season, and had some very entertaining games this weekend from a neutral stand point. Of the 4 teams that came into the second weekend of games trailing, 3 of the 4 ended up coming back to take the series. Two of those 3 games went down to penalty kicks, both on Saturday.

First New England overcame an early Nate Jaqua goal that put them down 2-0 on agg and came back to tie it on goals by Twellman and Noonan. On PK's, Matt Reis stopped 2 PK's and made 1 himself to help New England advance 2-2 (4-2 on penalties).

The West's 4 seed, Colorado came into Dallas and were able to force extra time thanks to 2 goals by Niko. A strike in extra time by the man formally know as Clint Mathis channeled the spirit of the old Clint and struck home a beautiful strike to force PKs as well. After 5 rounds saw the 2 teams level at 4, Dario Sala stepped up for Dallas but ended up missing his PK. Pablo Mastroeni put his attempt in the net winning the series for Colorado. Then the drama started, as Pablo and his Colorado teammates were celebrating to the side of the goal, there were expletives and gestures thrown towards the Dallas supporters. This did not sit well apparently with Sala who came over pushing 1 Colorado played and punching another. You can see a video shot by a Dallas fan here. The league has yet to release a statement on this, but you can expect something to come Sala's way in the form of a suspension and likely fine. This though is the second time that Colorado players have been involved in taunting opposing fans. In the last game of the Rocky Mountain Cup against RSL, Pablo was again the center of controversy as he taunted the Salt Lake fans.

The other game where the trailing team came back was down in Houston on Sunday. A Brad Davis penalty put Houston level with Chivas, and a VERY late goal by Brian Ching gave Houston the series and a spot in the Western Conference Finals. Juan Francisco Palencia received his marching orders early in the second half for 2 yellow cards that brought about some tustling between the 2 teams. After this game, more fisticuffs broke out, as right as the final whistle blew, Juan Pablo Garcia tackled Brad Davis right as the final whistle was blown. This led to a second tustle between the two teams, no punches thrown in this one that you can see on the video on MLS's website, but definitly more pushing, and again we will likely see something from the league on this game as well.

The final conference semifinal game was between DC and NYRB. Trailing 1-0, NYRB got a goal from Josmer Altidore that tied it on agg. But in the 85th minute, Christian Gomez sealed the semifinal with his strike that tied the game at 1 but put DC up on agg 2-1. This leads to the conference finals matches set for next weekend. New England travels down to RFK to play DC, and Colorado goes to Houston to play the Dynamo. Look for my preview and predictions on these games later this week.


Tomorrow, the Iowa Conference men's soccer tournament kicks off with the 2 first round games. Buena Vista (4-13-1, 2-5-1), the 6th seed travels to Pella to play the Dutch (12-5-2, 6-1-1), the 3 seed. These 2 teams tied 0-0 back on September 23rd in Pella. The Dutch dominated that game, outshooting the Beavers 28-5 but were unable to find the back of the net. The Dutch have the opportunity to enact revenge on the Beavers, as the draw kept Central from creating a 3 way tie for the conference title in the regular season. Both teams have a strong defense and I'd expect this to be a very tight game. BV has been a thorn for Central the past few years, with Central's only win in the last 3 years coming in 2005. In 2004, the 2 teams tied during the regular season 1-1. The teams then met up again in the conference tournament just like this year, BV came up the winner in that match winning 2-1 in overtime. Last year the Dutch won 1-0 at Storm Lake. This match will prove to be a tough one for Central, but they should pull it out. Quite a few of the starters on the team this year were part of that team that lost in the conference tourney to BV and I doubt they'll want a repeat. Central 1-0

In the other match up, 4th seeded Simpson hosts 5th seeded Luther. Luther is the most storied team in the conference, winning 6 of the first 7 conference tournaments. Since then, Luther has not made it back to the finals, losing in the semifinals twice and the first round once. This year they play Simpson, who won conference the one year out of the 7 that Luther did not. Simpson won the regular season meeting between the 2 teams 2-1 at home on Oct 4. The match was fairly back and forth, with Simpson having 2 first half goals hold up as Luther pressured in the second half. Luther always seems to turn up once tournament time comes around and you can never count against them in the tournament, but they don't seem to have the talent level as years past, and with the final four being held at Simpson this year, I believe the Storm will want to make an appearance on their home field for the semifinals. Simpson 2-1.

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