MLS Conference Finals Recap, Highlights: Galaxy, Revs advance to MLS Cup

IMAGE, REVOLUTIONSOCCER.COM

For the third time, the LA Galaxy will meet the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup Final. Neither team won the second leg of their respective conference finals, but both managed to get through thanks to first leg victories. The Galaxy will host next Sunday’s final on the basis of their regular season record.

New England Revolution 2-2 (4-3 agg.) New York Red Bulls

It was frantic and at times feisty, but in the end the New England Revolution did just enough to advance to the MLS Cup Final. Charlie Davies became the latest player to step up for the Revs, scoring both of their goals in a 2-2 draw against the Red Bulls.

New England set a franchise record for their largest playoff crowd in the conference semifinal against Columbus, but they shattered it on Saturday. More than 32,000 fans were at Gillette Stadium, one of the largest crowds the Revs have ever drawn outside of a doubleheader. A sizable and noisy contingent of Red Bulls fans made the trip to see what would be their team’s final game of the season.

The Red Bulls were without Bradley Wright-Phillips, who was suspended for picking up two yellow cards in the playoffs. Tim Cahill took his place as the lead striker, and he rewarded Mike Petke’s faith with a 26th-minute goal. Cahill was the target of a lobbed pass from Thierry Henry, and as the ball bounced in the box, the Australian out-muscled Jose Goncalves and poked the ball past Bobby Shuttleworth.

At 1-0, the Red Bulls still needed another goal to advance,  but New England scored the next goal in the 41st minute. Davies just got enough on a Chris Tierney cross, possibly with his arm, to get it through a crowded box and into the side netting.

Early in the second half, Peguy Luyindula pounced on a loose ball in the box to bring the Red Bulls level on aggregate. Lloyd Sam’s cross was intended for Cahill, but bounced off of Andrew Farrell and Luyindula was quickest to it. The scoreline set the game up for extra time, but neither team seemed to want that. Cahill had a chance to give the Red Bulls the lead, but volleyed it over the bar.

Tierney and Davies combined again for the Revs’ second goal, this time with Davies heading in a cross from the left. The goal followed a chaotic sequence in which Luis Robles was forced to make a save. The Red Bulls had 20 minutes to change the scoreline, but Shuttleworth came up big on a couple occasions to deny New York the goal that would have put them through. Shoving matches broke out in stoppage time as the Revs saw the result out.

It’s the fifth time that the Revs have reached MLS Cup Final, and the first since 2007. Along with DC United, that’s the most for any eastern conference team; LA holds the league record for most final appearances. However, the Revs are still seeking their first title, having lost each of their previous four finals.

While the Revs have a young core of talent and a seemingly bright future ahead, Saturday’s loss may mark the end of an era for the Red Bulls. Thierry Henry is not expected to return to the club for next season, and may retire altogether. Rumors have also swirled around the future of Tim Cahill, and of Red Bull’s ownership entirely. The team that takes the field in March may be very different than this one.

Seattle Sounders 2-1 (2-2 agg.) LA Galaxy

Landon Donovan’s final game will be played in front of his home fans at the StubHub Center, as the LA Galaxy earned yet another berth in MLS Cup on Sunday night. For the second time in three years, the Sounders won the second leg of the conference final at home, but again it wasn’t enough to overcome their first leg deficit.

 After a sloppy opening 25 minutes, the game was set alight when chaos created Seattle’s first goal. Obafemi Martins and Leonardo brought each other to the ground in LA’s box, Clint Dempsey took the ball past Jaime Penedo, and Brad Evans was there to finish off the blocked shot. It was an uncharacteristic bit of confusion for LA’s back line, but it wouldn’t be the last one.

The goal spurred Seattle forward. Obafemi Martins fired a big chance wide soon after, and the Sounders found their second goal in the 32nd minute. A DeAndre Yedlin cross bounced out towards Dempsey at the top of the box; his shot took a deflection and trickled out of Penedo’s grasp and over the line. The series completely flipped on its head in a six-minute span.

LA retook the edge in the series on Juninho’s goal in the 54th minute. Donovan’s corner found its way to Juninho, who lasered his shot through the crowd and into the inches of space between Stephen Frei and the post. With the edge in away goals, the onus shifted again to Seattle.

The Sounders did not do enough over the final forty minutes to move on. Penedo went mostly untested, with only a couple near misses threatening his goal. A Gonzalo Pineda free kick in the 72nd minute just deflected over the bar. Dempsey’s scissor kick attempt in stoppage time bounced comfortably wide. The final whistle blew with the ball in Penedo’s arms.

The Sounders grabbed two trophies this season, but the failure to even reach the final will leave a sour taste in supporters’ mouths. Again it’s LA standing in their way; the Galaxy have eliminated the Sounders in three of the last five years.

For the LA Galaxy, it’s their ninth trip to the MLS Cup Final, and third in the past four seasons. They’re seeking to become the first club to win five MLS Cups. Donovan has a chance to go out on top, with what could be his sixth championship.

  • john

    So premier match of MLS playoffs SEA v LA, gets…. drumroll…..

    0.3 TV rating

    Whilst early morning EPL between two mid teams #THFC v #EFC (11am ET) draws a 0.28 (325,640 HH)

    More than

    #MLS #NERevs v #RBNY (3pm ET) a 0.23 (267,490)

    AGAIN ANOTHER REASON TO MOVE THE MLS PLAYOFFS TO THE SUMMER OR SCRAP THEM ALL TOGETHER.

    Midseason Portland v Seattle got better
    426,000
    http://www.sounderatheart.com/2014/7/16/5904009/mls-ratings-on-the-rise-seattles-audiences-powered-by-gen-x

    Amend season to have long winter break, and playoffs in June or July depending on WC/GC, with short Summer break before new season, allowing for WC or Gold Cup break.

    Playoff can be shortened to 3 weeks (midweek and weekend games) instead of 5 weeks.

    • john

      Also summer MLS can draw bigger World TV audience when other leagues are off-season.

      MLS cup final on at 3pm EST Dec 7th, when 8 nfl games are in 3rd/4th quater!

      2nd half of MLS cup played when 4 nfl games start!