The New York Red Bulls played to a goalless draw with Sporting Kansas City (17-7-9, 60 pts.) in front of a sell-out Red Bull Arena crowd last Saturday night. The one point put the Red Bulls (15-9-9-, 54 pts.) in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, good enough for its third straight play-off appearance.
As it stands now, the Red Bulls will meet fifth place Houston Dynamo (14-8-11, 53 pts.) in a one-off game to advance to the Conference semi-finals. The winner of this game will play Eastern Conference leader Sporting Kansas City, while the second-place DC United (17-10-6, 57 pts.) will play third-place Chicago Fire (17-11-5, 56 pts.) in the other semi-final. Chicago lost to New England Revolution, 1-0, last Saturday. Conference semi-finals and finals are two-game, home-and-away events.
The big play-off surprise in the Eastern Conference is the late surge by DC United which was lingering below fifth place most of the season; the surge, which lifted United to fourth place and then into third, continued surprisingly despite of the absence of top player Dwayne De Rosario, who is on the injured list. DC rallied to beat Columbus Crew, 3-2, last Saturday night to push it into second place, ahead of Chicago Fire, and knock the Crew out of playoff contention. Houston meanwhile helped its cause by defeating Philadelphia, 3-1, to stay in the fifth spot. All teams have a game in hand, but there could only be slight positional changes depending on the last-game results.
The Red Bulls-Sporting Kansas City game was a ho-hum event as neither team seem to able to muster a sustained attack to wrest the game. Opportunities to score were sparse and player on either side was able to step up and make a difference. The Red Bulls’ best opportunity came when Thierry Henry found himself in front of the left side of the goal and fired a point-blank shot at visiting goal keeper Jimmy Nielsen, who parried the ball down in front of his goal and had to make another stop to save the day; Kei Kamara could have put away the game for Sporting when his header just moments from the final whistle went straight to home-side goal keeper Luis Robles for an easy save. New York plays at Philadelphia on Saturday, Oct. 27, in its final regular season match.
In the Western Conference, host Seattle’s defeat of FC Dallas, 3-1, last Sunday night helped second-year franchise Vancouver Whitecaps (11-13-9, 42 pts.) clinch the fifth and final play-off spot in the Conference. The Whitecaps and the fourth-place Los Angeles Galaxy (15-12-6, 51 pts.) will meet in the one-off match to determine the semifinal opponent for Conference winner San Jose Earthquakes (19-6-8, 65 pts).; second-place Seattle Sounders (15-7-11, 56 pts.) will clash with third-place Real Salt Lake (17-11-5, 56 pts.) in the other semifinal.
In other MLS news, the San Jose Earthquakes won the 2012 Supporters’ Shield by virtue of having the best regular season record. The annual award gives the winner home-field advantage throughout the MLS Cup Playoffs. San Jose Earthquakes previously won the Supporters’ Shield in 2005.
CONCACAF World Cup qualifying semi-final round is now complete and the six-team final group is now set to kick off on Feb. 6, 2013. In the final round, the teams will play each other twice in a home-and-away series for a total of 10 games each. A draw, modeled after the FIFA process, will determine the schedule.
The USA and Jamaica advance from Group A, Mexico and Costa Rica from Group B and from Group C, Honduras and Panama. The top three finishers automatically qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, while the fourth place team will play a home-and-away series against the winner of the Oceana Confederation to determine a final berth.
Group Two, the final group to be determined in the 2012 Digicel Caribbean Cup Championship qualifying play got under way on Sunday and in St. Lucia. St.Vincent and the Grenadines defeated Guyana, 2-1, and St. Lucia knocked off Curacao, 5-1. The teams will play each other once and winner and the runner-up will advance to a 12-team semifinal round to be played in Grenada, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago.