LA Galaxy 5 (5) – Real Salt Lake 0 (0)

In the first leg, these teams played to a scoreless draw. This could have been Landon Donovan’s last game.

Major League Soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer – in the both regular and post season – had that on his mind, as he told the press after the game.

“There are a lot of things that were out of my control tonight, and one of the things that was in my control was how I played. So I wanted to make sure that when I went home tonight and looked in the mirror that I knew I gave everything regardless of the result.”

Donovan gave everything and then some. He scored three goals and assisted Robbie Keane on a fourth. With his hat trick and fifth playoff game with more than one goal, Donovan now has the most multi-goal playoff games in MLS history. It seems like every game Donovan breaks a new record.

The Galaxy put up five goals on the night to ease by Real Salt Lake and into this year’s Western Conference finals.

The Galaxy stymied Salt Lake’s midfield duo of US International Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales. L.A. midfielder Marcelo Sarvas explained why his team’s pressure was so effective after the game.

“I think when you play at home you feel more confident and you’re not afraid to leave your defense alone with another player. So we were able to press Morales and Beckerman, and keep the ball, look for the goal, and be dangerous. Every ball we had, we were dangerous.”

But the night was all about Donovan. As Adrian Healey called him on the ESPN broadcast after the first goal, he’s “a goal scorer and a game changer.”

Seattle Sounders 0 (1) – FC Dallas 0 (1)

The Seattle Sounders knew they didn’t need to score in order to advance. They didn’t score. They still advance.

Thanks to an away goal in the first leg, the Supporters’ Shield winners will play the L.A. Galaxy in the Western Conference finals. No team has ever won both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in the same season.

Clint Dempsey and Chad Marshall had good looks in the first 45 minutes. Dempsey had a two-on-two with Obafemi Martins in the middle of the field, but elected to keep the ball and after a couple step overs, his shot was saved by Chris Seitz. Marshall’s header off a corner kick was nudged over the crossbar by Dallas midfielder Michel. Seitz was beat, caught looking, but the goalkeeper did come up with plenty of nice saves throughout the night.

Even with Mauro Diaz back in the lineup, Dallas couldn’t generate enough possession on the ball.

In the second half. Fabian Castillo missed a window at goal but Dempsey again had the best chance. His blast in the 68th minute took a slight deflection and whizzed by the net.

Detractors of the away goal rule can point to this game as a reason to count all scores equally, but the other three games had tons of action.

Seattle will have their hands full in the second leg and will travel to the StubHub Center for the first leg against L.A. on Nov. 23rd. The Galaxy haven’t lost at home in MLS since March 8th.

D.C. United 2 (2) – NY Red Bulls 1 (3)

A 2-0 lead is the most dangerous in soccer. Surrender one goal and the equalizer can feel almost inevitable.

Try playing with one for 90 minutes.

D.C. United won the game, but the New York Red Bulls were able to hold on and advance to the Eastern Conference finals, 3-2 on aggregate.

United trailed 2-0 heading into the game, and sorely needed to score twice. They pressed and pressed.

Nick DeLeon’s header off a Taylor Kemp cross broke the deadlock in the 36th minute. United had their first, and the pressure mounted for the Red Bulls.

Fabian Espindola’s diving header early in the second half flew wide of the goal by mere inches. Minutes later, Thierry Henry dribbled towards the touchline on the left-hand side. He floated a ball into the box and Peguy Luyindula directed it by Bill Hamid. The Red Bulls had their decisive away goal and could exhale.

United would have had to score four goals in order to overcome the deficit. They didn’t.

Could this be Henry’s final chance at MLS Cup glory? The future of the club could be very much in doubt after the postseason run ends.

This sets up what should be a high-scoring Eastern Conference finals with the New England Revolution. New York will host the first leg on Sunday, Nov. 23rd.

New England Revolution 3 (7) – Columbus Crew 1 (3)

For years, the Revs sat at the bottom of the MLS totem pole. They still play on turf in an NFL stadium (that only Seattle can fill), and lack the star power of their fellow conference finalists. Yes, Jermaine Jones is as good a player as any in America, but he lacks the pizzazz of a Donovan, Dempsey or Henry. Their head coach doesn’t have the same pedigree as the others. (That’s OK. He played for the Revs from 2001-09 and knows what it’s like to reach the MLS Cup – he did it four times in a row as a player.)

All that matters now: The New England Revolution are returning to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2007.

In fact, New England scored more goals over two legs than any team in the playoffs.

Lee Nguyen continues to stake his case as league MVP (I know it’s only a regular season award, but he’s stepping up in the postseason now, too). He scored the first goal running into the box, and finishing a bouncing ball from Teal Bunbury, which gave him 20 goals on the season. Not since Taylor Twellman in 2007 had a New England player scored at least 20 goals in a season.

Even the defense is making big plays. Jairo Arrieta nearly tied the game in first half stoppage time with a header from point blank range. Bobby Shuttleworth was in perfect position to deny the ball and punched the attempt over the cross bar.

Nguyen continued his great play and setup what would be the game-winner as well for Jose Goncalves. Nguyen’s play just earned him a call-up with the USMNT.

His MLS dream season continues in the conference finals against the Red Bulls.

New York vs. Boston for a berth in a league final. How fitting.

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