LOS ANGELES GALAXY 3-1 REAL SALT LAKE (Western Conference Final)
Bruce Arena’s Galaxy side were given a run for their money by Real Salt Lake before pulling away in the second half.
The visitors were unlucky not to go ahead when Robbie Russell’s volley in a congested penalty area hit Josh Saunders in the midriff – either side of the goalkeeper and the ball would have gone in.
Instead it was the hosts who struck first blood after referee Jorge Gonzalez awarded them a soft penalty for Andy Williams’ shove on Omar Gonzalez - Landon Donovan slotting home the spot-kick.
RSL’s reply was instant, the returning Jamison Olave heading a Javi Morales corner goalward and Alvaro Saborio reacting quickly to divert the ball beyond Saunders and into the back of the net.
Both teams then went in search of a half-time lead and both struck the woodwork, first Robbie Keane firing against the near post from a Gonzalez knockdown and then, on the stroke of half-time, Kyle Beckerman’s 20-yard drive coming back off the inside of the post.
It would not be a Galaxy play-off game without a goal for Mike Magee, and sure enough the forward netted for the third time in post-season action when he flung himself at a devilish David Beckham delivery to head home.
Jason Kreis’ side almost found a quickfire leveller for a second time on the hour mark but while Fabian Espindola’s first touch to escape Sean Franklin was immaculate, the shot which followed cruelly bounced down and out off the underside of the crossbar.
That would prove a turning point as midway through the second period Keane tested the tired legs of Olave before cutting inside the Colombian and sliding a low shot out of the reach of Nick Rimando for the clinching third goal.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY 0-2 HOUSTON DYNAMO (Eastern Conference Final)
Houston stunned LiveStrong Sporting Park to move on to the MLS Cup Final, but they may be forced to face LA Galaxy without star-man Brad Davis after he hobbled off injured.
Calen Carr had a great chance to follow his strike in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semi-final when he was played through by Davis but the former Chicago striker went for height and Jimmy Nielsen managed to bat the ball away to safety.
League assist leader Davis then saw his afternoon come to an end when he overstretched trying to toe the ball away from Graham Zusi, and he will face a race against time to be fit for the showdown in California on Sunday week.
However, any fears that Dominic Kinnear’s side would struggle without his dead-ball prowess were dispelled in the 53rd minute: Adam Moffat’s floated free-kick was met by Jermaine Taylor at the back post and, while Nielsen kept out the Jamaican’s effort, Andre Hainault was on hand to tap home his second goal of post-season.
Luiz Camargo missed a golden chance to double the lead seconds later, taking too long to get his shot away and allowing Matt Besler to make a crucial recovery challenge, and Besler almost made the Brazilian pay only for his goalbound shot to hit team-mate Kei Kamara.
With Peter Vermes’ side pushing for an equaliser the visitors hit them on the break three minutes from time, Camargo playing a brilliantly weighted pass from inside his own half for Carlo Costly to run through and slot home off the far post to send the Dynamo through.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY 2-1 NEW YORK RED BULLS (Aggregate 3-1)
Mike Magee scored his second goal in as many games to send Bruce Arena’s side to the Western Conference Final.
New York had faced an uphill task going into the game but they began as well as they could have hoped as Luke Rodgers got goalside of Omar Gonzalez to collect a Thierry Henry pass and slot coolly past Josh Saunders.
The home side responded in kind with David Beckham firing over from range and Robbie Keane hitting the post from a tight angle, before Frank Rost was forced into a desperate double-save from Chris Birchall and Keane in the 38th minute.
And they would not have to wait much longer for a goal, Magee rising unchallenged to head home Beckham’s corner and restore the Galaxy lead going into the break.
Rodgers continued to pose a threat after half-time and it needed a last-gasp interception from Landon Donovan to deny the Englishman after a quick break involving Henry and Dane Richards, and shortly after Rodgers put arguably the Red Bulls’ best chance into the side-netting after once again getting the better of Gonzalez.
Hans Backe will undoubtedly be frustrated with the avoidable nature of the game’s final goal, Roy Miller needlessly clattering into Beckham from behind and giving referee Hilario Grajeda no choice but to point to the spot. Donovan converted the penalty to wrap up what was ultimately a fairly comfortable progression.
HOUSTON DYNAMO 1-0 PHILADELPHIA UNION (Aggregate 3-1)
Brian Ching scored a captain’s goal to give Houston the perfect send-off in their last game at Robertson Stadium.
Danny Mwanga was the visitors likeliest scorer as they looked to spoil the party, but after his early sighter sailed over it was the home side who looked to seal the tie, with MVP candidate Brad Davis at the centre of most of their attacking play.
After heading home a free-kick from the winger in the first leg Andre Hainault almost repeated the trick only to nod just wide, while Davis went close three minutes before half-time with his weaker right foot.
Mwanga again found space for a shot as the interval approached, this time dragging wide of the near-post, and the youngster was left ruing that missed chance as Ching headed home another Davis delivery in first-half stoppage time to all but kill off the encounter.
Calen Carr could have wrapped things up nine minutes into the second period but was unable to beat Faryd Mondragon after showing great control to bring down a long ball from Tally Hall, but with the Union lacking a cutting edge in the final third the victory was Houston’s.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS 2-3 REAL SALT LAKE (Aggregate 2-3)
Real Salt Lake soaked up a barrage of pressure and managed to sneak through despite a two-goal defeat in the Pacific Northwest.
It had seemed as though Ned Grabavoy’s third goal in Utah could prove vital, but that did not stop the hosts going all out from the off and they nearly took a seventh-minute lead only for top scorer Fredy Montero to slice a volley wide at the back post.
Roger Levesque fired over on the turn and it required a remarkable diving headed clearance from Tony Beltran to deny Jeff Parke as Sigi Schmid’s side ramped up the pressure towards the end of the first period.
Montero thought he had opened the scoring in the 42nd minute but he was penalised for a foul on RSL keeper Nick Rimando in the build-up, and the Colombian went close two more times before referee Jair Marrufo blew for half-time.
The Sounders finally got one goal back 10 minutes into the second period, as Beltran dragged Mike Fucito to the ground and Ozzie Alonso’s unconvincing penalty just about evaded Rimando.
Then on the hour mark, with several players bunched up on the edge of the visitors’ box, Montero showed great vision to pick out Lamar Neagle who fired a measured low shot into the far corner to set up a grandstand finish.
Alonso volleyed over from 15 yards but the elusive third goal would not come, and only a smart one-handed stop from Kasey Keller prevented Fabian Espindola from ending the contest, but the veteran’s heroics would be in vain as Jason Kreis’ side moved on to face LA Galaxy in the Conference final.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY 2-0 COLORADO RAPIDS (Aggregate 4-0)
Sporting Kansas City cruised into the Eastern Conference Final after a professional performance to see off reigning MLS Cup champions Colorado.
Teal Bunbury, who scored both goals in the first leg, looked to add to his personal tally early on after evading Wells Thompson but Matt Pickens was equal to his shot from a narrow angle.
However the game was over as a contest when Pickens came a long way to meet a Graham Zusi free-kick only to be beaten to the ball by Aurelien Collin who headed in the opener.
Peter Vermes’ side looked in little danger throughout the game, and Collin could have netted again from a Zusi corner but the French defender’s volley glanced away off the post.
Rookie f the Year contender CJ Sapong got more into the game as the visitors tired, and he forced another save from Pickens following a swift counter-attack led by Zusi.
And the 22-year-old clinched victory for the hosts 14 minutes from time, towering above Thompson to head another Zusi delivery into the top corner.