New England and Portland take 1st Leg advantages in MLS Conference Semi Finals
New England Revolution 2 Sporting Kansas City 1 2 November
The Revs took their fine run of recent results, which had seen them win three in a row and four of their last six regular season games, into their first playoff encounter for four years. The visitors had the better of a scoreless first-half with a shot from Teal Bunbury deflected just wide and then moments late Chance Myers sent a header on target that was cleared off the hosts line by Lee Nguyen. 11 minutes before the interval and a third chance came Sporting’s way. Bunbury latched on to a ball over the top from Graham Zusi, but having controlled the ball well shot weekly straight at Matt Reis in the home sides goal. In the second-half the momentum changed and New England got themselves in front after 55 minutes. Kelyn Rowe played a ball out to the right for Diego Fagundez, he sent in a cross that Juan Agudelo directed goal-wards, the visitors goalie Jimmy Nielsen managed to keep it out but offered up a rebound that Andy Dorman tucked away from two yards out. 12 minutes later and the Revs had doubled their advantage. Agudelo powered through the midfield before feeding Nguyen, he then sent the ball onto Kelyn Rowe who had positioned himself on the right side of the penalty area and he finished neatly with the outside of his foot. Sporting gained a lifeline when they halved the deficit 2 minutes later. A header back across goal from Jacob Peterson caused panic in the hosts defence and after two players had not being able to get decisive touches to clear it the ball fell to Aurélien Collin at the far post and he made no mistake from close range. The visitors had one final chance to level the scores up at the death, but Reis was able to keep out a near post effort for substitute Dom Dwyer, who had replaced Bunbury after 77 minutes, to make sure his side took a slender advantage to Sporting for the 2nd Leg on Wednesday night.
Seattle Sounders 1 Portland Timbers 2
In their first ever playoff match a goal in each half saw Portland home, despite having to whether a few nervous minutes at the end. With only 15 minutes showing on the clock the visitors found themselves in front. Diego Chará sent a ball out to Jack Jewsbury and he was able to supply a precise cross from the byline between the Sounders defenders and goal-keeper Marcus Hahnemann, who was starting in place of the suspended Michael Gspurning, who was sent-off in the Knockout Round game midweek and Ryan Johnson managed to shake off his marker with a well timed near post run to glance a header home. After 67 minutes the visitors had doubled their lead. Kalif Alhassan, who had only being on the pitch 6 minutes after taking over from Diego Valeri, sent in a cross from the right wing and Darlington Nagbe made a lung bursting run to meet it. Defender Djimi Traore jumped as high as he could to try and deflect it away but he just could not reach it and Nagbe was able to touch it round him before finishing low under Hahnemann’s body. The Sounders were creating chances, most of which were involving Clint Dempsey in some way. In his one effort of the first-half the visitors keeper Donovan Ricketts denied him with a fine diving save. 4 minutes into the second stanza and a Dempsey free-kick fell to Eddie Johnson but having got free he blazed his shot wide. A further opportunity came Dempsey’s way after 87 minutes, but his downward header bounced to high off the pitch and smacked off the crossbar. The hosts finally got what could prove to be a decisive tally right on 90 minutes. Brad Evans hurled in a long throw that Shalrie Joseph, who had replaced Adam Moffat 13 minutes earlier, flicked on and after the ball had fell at the feet of Osvaldo Alonso he despatched it clinically. With the tie neatly balanced the action moves to Oregon for the 2nd Leg on Thursday, though if Seattle are to make a come-back they will have to do without Lamar Neagle who picked-up his second yellow-card of the playoffs and must now serve a one game suspension.
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