Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Football Americana Week 30: Regular season finale

So that's that then. Another Major League Soccer season done and dusted, and another barnstorming playoffs bracket ahead of us. Here's all the information you'll need from Week 30.

Before the final round of games got underway, there was one 29th game to deal with. San Jose Earthquakes headed into the final weekend of the regular season on the back of a 3-0 win courtesy of three second half goals by Chris Wondolowski against Chivas USA. He was fouled in the 54th minute and converted the penalty himself before squeezing in the second and deftly turning in the third. That put Wondo level with Edson Buddle at the top of the goalscoring charts with 17 for the season.

New York Red Bulls faced New England Revolution at Red Bull Arena with the Eastern Conference regular season title in their sights. Juan Pablo Angel's excellent pass found Dane Richards in the 17th minute, and he smashed his fifth of the season into the net from the edge of the box to give New York the lead. Joel Lindpere's composed finish confirmed the Red Bulls at the top of the East in stoppage time, completing an impressive turnaround from 2009 for the club.

Houston Dynamo ended a disappointing season with a win over Seattle Sounders. The visitors took an early lead through James Riley, who thumped in a 12th minute strike to open his account for the season. But Houston equalised through Geoff Cameron on his return from suspension and got away with a blatant penalty and sending off when Steve Zakuani was booked for diving after getting absolutely clobbered by Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric. The home side took advantage when Cam Weaver headed in Mike Chabala's cross in the second half.

DC United said goodbye to the legendary Jaime Moreno at RFK as the Bolivian played his last match against Toronto FC - and it was some game. Santino Quaranta took just 59 seconds to give DC the lead, pouncing on some good goalkeeping from Milos Kocic. Maicon Santos drilled the equaliser low past Troy Perkins but United regained the lead before half time and you-know-who bagged the goal. Julian De Guzman handled in the area, and Moreno stepped up to take his all-time MLS goal tally to 133, re-taking the record ahead of Jeff Cunningham. But a second half brace from Dwayne DeRosario took TFC to three points. The skipper headed in his first and capping a fine counter-attack for his second.

Playoff qualifiers San Jose Earthquakes were given a bloody nose by Kansas City Wizards, who beat them 4-1 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. The Wizards signalled their intentions by hitting the crossbar in the second minute, and got their breakthrough thanks to Birahim Diop's header in the 36th minute. He got his second after an hour, reacting fastest to head the Wizards further in front. The Earthquakes goal came courtesy of Chris Wondolowski, who put himself ahead of Edson Buddle in the race for the Golden Boot with the easiest goal of his 18 this season. Diop went on to get his hat-trick with a lovely left-footed lobbed volley, and a stoppage time own goal from Eduardo made it 4-1.

Real Salt Lake travelled to Colorado Rapids with Supporters Shield in their sights, but they almost let it get away from them by going 2-0 down, and two stoppage time goals kept them in with a chance but left them hoping for a defeat for LA. The deadly duo did the business again for the Rapids, Omar Cummings and Conor Casey finding the net to give their team a solid lead. But a final push from RSL yielded two Alvaro Saborio goals outside the 90 minutes, the first thanks to a shambolic comedy of errors by goalkeeper Matt Pickens and the second a penalty after Jamison Olave was dragged down in the area.

Like Moreno, retiring Brian McBride got on the scoresheet in his last game for Chicago Fire, who beat Chivas USA 4-1. McBride's goal was a delicate flick set up by Freddie Ljungberg and got the Fire's scoring underway. Ljungberg got a goal of his own just after the break but Giancarlo Maldonado's header brought Chivas back into the game. McBride's replacement Calen Carr restored Chicago's two-goal cushion by rolling the ball home after ghosting past Zach Thornton in the Chivas goal, and Baggio Husidic put the icing on the cake with Chicago's fourth in stoppage time.

With the Eastern regular season title already out of reach, Columbus Crew had little to motivate them against Philadelphia Union, but they romped to a 3-1 victory against the 2010 expansion club nevertheless. Guillermo Barros Schelotto got the first from the spot after 15 minutes following a foul on Eddie Gaven. Emilio Renteria took advantage of a high defensive line to make it 2-0 and give him an excuse to make a quick call on his boot (don't ask). Andres Mendoza made it 3-0 late on, but Sebastien Le Toux was again on target for the Union in the dying minutes.

In the final game of the regular season, LA Galaxy came from behind to secure first place in the single table and, of course, Supporters Shield. Goals from David Beckham and Juninho sent LA back to the top after Atiba Harris had given FC Dallas a first half lead.

And so we move to the playoffs. Six teams qualify from the West (all four wildcards plus the top two from the conference), so Colorado and San Jose go into the Eastern playoffs and will have two-legged semi-finals against Columbus and New York respectively ahead of the single match conference final. In the West proper, it's Salt Lake v Dallas and Seattle v LA. It all kicks off this week, so have a look at the final table, watch the Week 30 highlights and get ready for business.

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