Visiting the Yankee Stadium for a second time in four days, the Philadelphia Union got an eerie sense of dejavu as they searched for their first ever playoff win.
Sadly for the Union, David Villa got his fourth goal in four to send Philly home 0-4 in knockout games, as the two sides repeated Sunday’s scoreline. Spanish legend Villa has been vocal about his love for the club and the city but has remained mum on the status of his expiring contract. This is something that seems to have motivated the boys in blue to step up their game. They had managed just one win between August and Sunday.
Domenec Torrent’s men showed everyone just how dangerous they can be, especially at home, when less than ten minutes in Maxi Moralez send a lovely ball through the middle from the left flank. Villa dummied trickily for Libyan youth international Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to volley home spectacularly from outside the box.
Moralez turned provider again just 16 minutes later. The diminutive Argentinian play-maker laid a ball of for David Villa, who touched it away from his man and pea-rolled it into the far corner. Villa almost doubled his tally just before half time as he looped a free kick over the wall. Alas, he was denied by a great save from Union keeper Andre Blake.
Form goes out of the window for the Union
Philadelphia Union were on paper the in-form side heading into this fixture whilst NYCFC were in a major slump. However, the Pennsylvanians just couldn’t enforce themselves onto the game. Haris Medunjanin gave Fafa Picault a good chance but despite his best efforts he struggled to lose Maxime Chanot. As a result, he could only force Sean Johnson to make a save for a corner.
It would be that man again Maximiliano Moralez who sealed the game, as he ran onto a long ball from fullback Anton Tinnerholm before looping the ball over the on rushing keeper with a gorgeous chip to cap a fantastic win for the home team. Corey Burke did pull on back after some absolutely brilliant dribbling from Ilsinho to create the chance, but it wouldn’t be enough to stop City from booking their place in the Eastern Conference semi finals.
The Blues will now hope to ride this new wave of form into the Western Conference final, a round they’ve never reached in their four year history. After what seemed to be a late season resurgence, the Union will be asking themselves questions. They seem to have crumbled the moment the going got tough. This is something that the leagues of jaded Union fans would have no doubt seen coming a mile off.
Timbers cut down Dallas’playoff hopes
Another team out of form at the wrong time is FC Dallas, who’s lack of goals have been costing them dearly in the run up to the post season. One goal in their last three games was not a good omen as they welcomed the Portland Timbers for the first knockout game in the East.
Texan hopes would be boosted in the 11th minute however as Reto Ziegler tapped in a Matt Hedges header to put the home side one ahead. However, a short video review showed the former Juventus man clearly offside and the goal was overturned. Breathing a sigh of relief no doubt, Diego Valeri breathed life back into the game for the Oregonian side as he scored a glorious free kick, looping it over the wall and past Jesse Gonzalez at his near post to put his side one goal to the good from 25 yards out.
Dallas almost replied immediately, with Michael Barrios doing very will to hit the bar just minutes later, but no goal would come before the half time whistle went. Dominic Badji looked like he may be goal-bound for the Cowboys just after halftime, but he was recklessly clattered by Larrys Mabiala as the last man and the red card was promptly issued to the Timbers’ Congolese number 33.
A way back for Dallas?
Dallas tried their best to push their newfound numbers advantage, with Roland Lamah forcing a save from Jeff Attinella after a good team move just after the hour mark. It would be Portland that struck next though as a combination of Jeremy Ebobisse’s pace and a miscommunication between would-be goalscorer Ziegler and his keeper allowed the young American to lay off captain Diego Valeri for his second of the game.
Midway through extra time the home team did finally manage to get a rare goal as Roland Lamah sent his man to ground with a lovely feint before looping a cross far post, which Santiago Mosquera nodded on for big centre back Matt Hedges to poke home. Ultimately however it just wasn’t enough, and as the Timbers celebrated a road win in the rain at the Toyota Stadium, FC Dallas have a lot of questions to answer going into the off season.
The Timbers now look to the Western Conference semi final they’ve set up at home at Providence Park, which could be against perennial rivals the Seattle Sounders. Whilst Portland dream about what would no doubt be one of the loudest games of the year, Dallas must quietly find themselves a source of goals before next year starts. The loss of Mauro Diaz has affected their end product severely and they need to find a way to remedy this quick or they may not make the playoffs at all.
DC United v Columbus Crew @ midnight tonight
Los Angeles FC vs Real Salt Lake @ 2:30am