San Jose Earthquakes v Portland Timbers

Quest for the Cup: 2013 MLS Semifinals underway

The 2013 MLS Playoffs continue this week after the first leg of semifinals on Saturday and Sunday.  Here’s a recap of this weekend’s matches:

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders
Saturday’s match between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders was full of firsts.

In the first leg of their Western Conference series, the Portland Timbers beat the Seattle Sounders 2-1 for their first MLS victory in Seattle.

This is also the first time the Timbers have led a match at CenturyLink Field. Portland’s Ryan Johnson flicked a quick header in the 15th minute to give the Timbers the lead. Darlington Nagbe scored his first goal against the Sounders in the 67th minute to give Portland a decisive lead. Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso responded with a goal in the 90th minute, his first of the season.
The Timbers need a win or a draw on Thursday to advance to the Western Conference finals. If the Sounders outscore the Timbers by one goal in Portland, overtime play will determine the series’ outcome.

Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy
The LA Galaxy defeated Real Salt Lake 1-0 in their first playoff leg on Sunday in Los Angeles.

Sean Franklin
scored a 27-yard screamer just after halftime (48′) to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead against Real Salt Lake. This gorgeous goal turned out to be the decider in a crucial first game for the Galaxy, a team on the hunt for its third consecutive MLS Cup and fifth franchise title. Real Salt Lake came into Saturday’s match on a four-game unbeaten streak and ample rest, and needs a win at home on Thursday to progress to the Western Conference championship.

Sporting Kansas City vs. New England Revolution
In a hard-fought game at Gillette Stadium, the New England Revolution beat Sporting Kansas City 2-1 on Saturday to claim the first match in their two-game series.

In the Revolution’s first playoff appearance since 2009, Andy Dorman (55′) and Keyln Rowe (67′) scored to give the Revs a convincing 2-0 lead. SKC’s Aurelien Collin answered Rowe’s goal in the 69th minute. Now, Sporting will play the second leg of the semifinals with their backs against the wall, and need a win on Wednesday to advance to the Eastern Conference championship.

New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo
Wednesday’s match is a must-win for the New York Red Bulls and the Houston Dynamo.

On Sunday, the Houston Dynamo staged an impressive rally at home against a 10-man Red Bulls squad to keep their MLS Cup hopes alive. The Red Bulls, who were recently awarded the Supporters’ Shield for the best record in the league, were ahead in the first half before giving up two goals in the last 45 minutes.  Tim Cahill started the scoring parade with a goal in the 22nd minute on a Thierry Henry cross, and Eric Alexander made it 2-0 in the 32nd minute. Dynamo midfielder Riccardo Clark put Houston on the board in the 51st minute. Then, NYRB defender Jamison Olave was sent off in the 65th minute for a reckless tackle.  Dynamo striker Omar Cummings capitalized on the numerical advantage and knocked in the equalizer in the 92nd minute. Wednesday’s deciding match will be played at Red Bull Arena.

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Who will emerge from the Conference Semifinals and why? Discuss.