Monday, November 08, 2004

MLS Playoff Update II

Well, MLS Cup 2004 is set, and will see the Kansas City Revolution v. DC United. KC is seeking its first MLS Cup since 2000 when they surprised the league with a dominating defensive performance leading them to the only MLS Cup in club history. DC is seeking their first Cup since 1999, after the United dynasty opened MLS with three titles in the first four years of the league.

The Wizards defeated the LA Galaxy 2-0 at home in Arrowhead Stadium, Friday night. Houston native Davy Arnaud scored the brace which was enough to put KC over the top on the evening. More of the typical suffocating defense from the Wizard back-line make the two goals stand up and send the team to the Home Depot Center in LA for the Cup Final on Sunday.

United held on to defeat the New England Revolution 4-3 on penalty kicks after seeing the score leveled at 3-3 after full time and a thirty minute 'golden-goal' overtime period. Regular time saw an exciting, attacking match for 90 minutes, with the Revs pulling back from a goal down three times. Alecko Eskandarian opending scoring in the 11th minute, with a cracker of a goal - and the DC home crowd was still celebrating when poacher Taylor Twellman found the back of the net to level the match at 1-1 on 17. DC United stuck back quickly themselves behind their two grizzled veterans - Earnie Stewart assisting on Jamie Moreno's goal in the 21st. Just before the halftime break the Revs caught a break, with a DC defender caught with a handball in the box. Steve Ralston coolly buried the penalty kick for an even 2-2 half-time score. In the second-half, Argentinian Christian Gomez sent United to thier third lead with a beautiful header across the goal mouth in the 67th minute. And with time winding down - and the DC crowd wild in anticipation of the chance at the Cup - Pat Noonan scored off a corner kick to draw up the match with only 5 mintues to full time. No goals were scored during the extra time, so the match would be decided by penalties. Rev 'keeper Matt Reis saved the first United effort from Ben Olsen, to give the Revs the immediate advantage, but Ralston, who had buried a penalty earlier in the match, hit the crossbar after beating the goalkeeper to earase the advantage. A series of goals followed - including a beautiful bending shot to the corner by 15-year-old sensation Freddy Adu - until on the sixth round of kicks. DC's Brian Carroll hit his penalty, and rookie-of-the-year candidate Clint Dempsey (whose dad I met about a year ago over breakfast in an English pub here in Houston watching the English Premier League, before he was drafted by MLS) saw his strike saved by Nick Rimando - which sent DC on to their first shot at the Cup in five years. It was a bit undeserved for Dempsey - whose energetic play had led NE for much of the match.

So - on Sunday, November 14th at 2:30 Central (LIVE on ABC) - the MLS Cup will see KC v. DC. Both teams are riding hot streaks, both teams closed the season strong, both teams will be playing at full strength. Both teams play an attractive 3-5-2 creating numerous chances, combined with solid defense. Neither team 'should' have made it this far (KC with injury concerns, and DC with such a young team and a first year head coach). I have felt for some time the the Wizards are the team of destiny this season, having overcome so many obstacles yet retaining such a high level of play. KC are also the 2004 US Open Cup champion. DC will battle, and Adu will get a goal - but the Wizards will come away with the Cup. Prediction: KC 2:1 DC

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