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Los Angeles, Houston in MLS Cup

The 2012 MLS Cup is déjà vu! The Los Angeles Galaxy, the fourth seeded team in the Western Conference will host the Houston Dynamo, the fifth seeded team in the Eastern Conference, at Home Depot Center in Carson (CA) in the 2012 MLS Cup final on Saturday, Dec. 1. The MLS championship game is a rematch of last year’s final, when the Galaxy came out winners.

The matchup, for the second straight year, underscores the idea that the play-offs signal a new season where there are no guarantees for success for those clubs that played well in the regular season. In fact, lowly seeded teams like Los Angeles and Houston, which sort of sneaked into the play-offs, grasp the second life to achieve what was lost during the regular season. The Galaxy is now the Western Conference play-off champion, and the Dynamo is the Eastern Conference champion.

Los Angeles went through the Vancouver Whitecaps, defeated highly-favored Western Conference winner San Jose Earthquakes, before turning back the Seattle Sounders by an aggregate score of 4-2 in the home-and-away Conference final series, on Sunday, Nov. 18 in Seattle. The Galaxy went into Seattle last Sunday night with a 3-0 win in the first leg, hence the burden was on the Sounders to score three goals just to force overtime.

The host scored within 12th minutes of each half to go ahead, 2-0: Eddie Johnson tallied the first goal for Seattle in the 12th minute and Zach Scott in the 57th, but although much time was left in the game for the tying goal to even the aggregate score at 3-3, a controversial hand ball in the penalty area by Seattle defender Adam Johansson sent Galaxy forward Robbie Keane to the penalty spot in the 67th minute to make the score 2-1 and forced Seattle to have to score two goals in the final 23 minutes of play. The task turned out to be too much for the home team despite the vocal support of the 44,575 sell-out crowd in CenturyLink Field. It meant that the Sounders would have to wait another year for the chance to make an initial appearance in MLS Cup.

Battle-tested Houston Dynamo stormed into RFK Stadium in Washington DC after a 3-1 defeat of DC United in the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals. Houston pressured the ball from the outset and in the 33rd minute of play, Boniek Garcia put the visitors ahead, 1-0, off a pass from Brad Davis. DC United equalized in the 82nd through Branko Boskovic but it wasn’t enough. The 1-1 draw signaled Houston’s fourth Eastern Conference play-off title in the last seven years. Houston also defeated the Chicago Fire, then overcame Conference regular season champion Sporting Kansas City, on the way to the Conference title.

Caribbean Championship

The eight-team field for the 2012 Digicel Caribbean Cup Championship in Antigua and Barbuda is now complete and the games will go on for a week in mid-December. The last two groups completed play on Sunday, Nov. 18 to complete the final field.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the host and Cuba qualified from four-team Group 8, which also included St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Surinam. Trinidad (2-0-1, 7 pts.) finished atop the group with Cuba (1-1-1, 4 pts.) second. Suriname (1-0-0-2, 3 pts.) and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (0-2-1, 2 pts.) were eliminated.

In Group 6, Haiti’s (2-1-0, 6 pts.) two wins helped it win the group with six points, while French Guyana (1-1-1, 4 pts.) advanced by scoring more goals than Grenada (1-1-1, 4 pts); the French scored five goals in its three games, while host Grenada managed only three. Grenada will miss out on the finals after it had qualified for the last two Caribbean Cup championships and CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments.

The eight teams in the 2012 Digicel Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua and Barbuda in mid-December are in two groups. Group A will consist of host Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic. In Group B, defending champion Jamaica will do battle against Martinique, French Guyana, and Cuba. The top four teams will qualify for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup in the USA.

MLK wins

Martin Luther King Jr. High School, located in Manhattan, won its 14th PSAL, Class A title in the last 17 years. MLK captured the New York City Public Schools championship by defeating Aviator High School, 2-0, on Sunday at Randall’s Island.

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