It was a crazy weekend in the MLS playoffs. Only one team that entered Game 2 of their total goals series with a tie advanced. And penalty kicks played a big part in how 3 of the 4 series were decided.
The Revs versus the world
The New England Revolution entered the second leg of their series with the Chicago Fire feeling like the world was against them. Clint Dempsey was out with an ankle injury, Pat Noonan was questionable with a hamstring injury, and Shalrie Joseph was suspended on a play that left Revs coach Steve Nicol very upset with the league's decision.
And things looked worse for New England when Nate Jaqua scored for Chicago in the 18th minute putting the Fire up 2-0 on aggregate.
But, New England refused to give up. Just before halftime, New England was able to get on the board with a goal off of Taylor Twellman's boot. Then in the 58th minute, Pat Noonan leveled the series at two goals apiece. Noonan's goal was created when Joey Franchino had his shot blocked by Chris Armas and Noonan was able to put away the rebound.
There would be no more scoring the rest of the way and the series was decided on penalties.
Matt Reis was the hero for New England in the shootout as he not only converted his shot, but stopped shots by both Thiago and Ivan Guerrero to put the Revs through to the Eastern Conference final.
I thought Pizza Hut Park was a soccer specific stadium?
That was my first thought upon seeing the highlights Sunday morning of the Colorado Rapids at FC Dallas game from Saturday night. There must have been a high school football game held at Pizza Hut Park recently as the lines and numbers were all over the playing surface on Saturday.
It's unfortunate as the game itself was amazing. With fireworks in regulation, overtime, and after the series was decided on penalties.
FC Dallas entered the match up two goals to one after the series opener in Colorado. And like in the Revs-Fire match, FC Dallas was able to get a two goal cushion and was unable to hold it.
This match was scoreless through the first half. And then Carlos Ruiz opened the floodgates with a goal in the 48th minute as Ronnie O'Brien found him on the far post off of a quick restart by Greg Vanney.
Colorado responded with two goals from Nicolas Hernandez in the 57th and 83rd minutes to force overtime. FC Dallas pulled ahead early in the extra sessions as Clarence Goodson scored in the 92nd minute as Vanney swung in a free kick and Goodson nodded it home.
But, the Rapids were far from done as Clint Mathis scored on a cracker of a shot from about 25 yards out in the 114th minute.
In penalties, FC Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala failed to convert in the first sudden death round of PKs and Pablo Mastroeni converted to make the Rapids the second consecutive 4th seed to reach the Western Conference Final.
After the match, Sala caused some fireworks by going after various members of the Rapids. Apparently teams don't like the way that the Rapids celebrate wins on the road as Real Salt Lake also took umbrage with the way Colorado celebrated their regular season series victory in Utah.
The Battle of Bruce
DC United returned home to face their old head coach, Bruce Arena, and the New York Red Bulls with a one goal advantage after taking the first leg in Giants Stadium 1-0 on a Christian Gomez goal.
In the second leg, the NY Red Bulls carried most of the play early on, but neither team had any great scoring chances.
New York was forced to make a substitution in the first half as Markus Schopp suffered a pulled muscle and gave way to Chris Henderson in the 43rd minute.
In the second half, 16 year old Josmer Altidore became the youngest player ever to score a postseason goal in MLS history. In the 69th minute, DC United defender Facundo Erpen was called for a foul just outside the DC penalty area on the right wing. Red Bulls captain Amado Guevara took the free kick and served a beautiful ball into the DC penalty area. Altidore slipped the marking of Erpen and headed the ball just inside the far post to level the series at one.
DC was certainly on the ropes, until MLS MVP candidate Christian Gomez once again saved the day for DC. In the 86th minute, Josh Gros gained the ball on the right side of the New York penalty area and whipped a cross into the box. DC defender Bobby Boswell heard Gomez call him off and dove out of the path of the ball. Gomez then settled the ball and cooly slotted it past Red Bulls goalkeeper Jon Conway to put DC back ahead by a goal.
NY threw numbers forward late, but was unable to get the goal that they needed to force overtime and DC advanced to host New England in the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday at 4pm on ESPN2.
You'll Never Beat Pat Onstad!
Chivas USA was able to get a two goals to one lead at home heading into Houston's Robertson Stadium.
Brad Guzan's penalty kick save on Dwayne De Rosario was the margin of victory in Game 1 and once again, Guzan would be facing a Dynamo player at the penalty spot.
This time it was Brad Davis in the 64th minute as De Rosario was taken down in the Chivas USA penalty area by Tim Regan. Guzan once again guessed correctly, but Davis' shot was too good and the series was level at two.
The series appeared headed to overtime until Brian Ching was able to convert in the 93rd minute. De Rosario sent a cross into the box that was headed down by Houston's Eddie Robinson. The ball hung in the air and Ching was able to head it home to send the Houston crowd home happy and set up another home date as the Dynamo will host Colorado in the Western Conference Final on Sunday at 7pm on Fox Soccer Channel and HDNet.
US to take part in Copa America 2007
In a move that has been rumored about for a while, the US officially accepted an invitation to take part in Copa America next June and July in Venezuela.
The interesting twist to all of this is the fact that Copa America begins only two days after the CONCACAF Gold Cup ends and MLS is none too happy about the thought of losing it's best and brightest for a month or so a year after a World Cup.
It will be interesting to see if US Soccer takes a split squad approach to the two tournaments to both keep MLS as happy as possible and try and minimize the injury risk to the players.
Nick Webster's two cents on Klinsmann
Fox Soccer Channel's Nick Webster feels that US Soccer should do everything within their power to land Jurgen Klinsmann as the next head coach of the US Men's National Team.
The fact that I happen to agree has nothing to do with the fact that I'm providing a link to the article..............
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author,
and not necessarily those of the Rochester Rhinos or SoccerSam.com. Feel free to
send any comments or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. James promises to read
(but not to respond) to all of them.