Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy/Forward) – Landon Donovan completely dominated the Salt Lake defense in Carson to push his Galaxy into the MLS CUP Semifinals. His three goals and one assist turned the game on its head and buried Real, ending their hunt for the league championship. This game was just another chapter in the amazing career of Donovan, the best player in MLS and USMNT history. With his career on the line, he not only stepped up, he excelled. This is the trait that has marked his entire career. When Donovan is in the spotlight, he fine tunes his game and becomes nearly unstoppable. This was his third career MLS Playoff hat-trick. If the Galaxy continue playing like this, Donovan might just go out a champion.
Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution/Midfielder) – Lee Nguyen has had arguably the best season of any player in MLS. He is not only in contention for MLS MVP, he should also be in contention for MLS Comeback Player of the Year because his level of play this season has been so much higher than anything he has ever produced. He has become a true leader for a team that desperately needed one to step up if they wanted to make a run in the playoffs. The addition of a solid defensive presence behind him in midfield, Jermaine Jones, has helped Nguyen get more involved in the attack. He tallied the games first goal in the 43rd minute when he received a flick from teammate Teal Bunbury. Columbus let a free running Nguyen get to the ball first and he buried it in stride. The Revolution will now face rivals New York Red Bulls to determine the Eastern Conference participant in MLC CUP 2014.
Real Salt Lake – Real Salt Lake were totally out of sorts in their matchup against LA. They came into the game looking unprepared for the inevitable Galaxy attack, which ended the night scoring five unanswered goals. The Galaxy were not only the best defensive team in MLS this season, they were also the best offensive team this season. Real had to know they would be facing an onslaught, yet they looked like they didn’t know how to respond when that moment occurred. Real looked like Brazil when Germany started picking them apart. No answers, blank stares and nothing but embarrassment to show for their trip to SoCal. This was a sad ending for a team that performed very well in their first season without their club leader Jason Kreis.
Oscar Pareja (FC Dallas/Head Coach) – Oscar Pareja has done a wonderful job turning FC Dallas around this season. He has given the team energy and a game plan they performed very well in stretches throughout the year. Early in the year Dallas was the leagues hottest team and looked to be true championship contenders. Heading into their second leg game against Seattle he knew they had to score at least one goal to win the series and advance. The team had some chances, and a few possible penalties, yet were never able to convert and ended the night scoreless. He even took out possibly his two best offensive players late in the game, Blas Perez and Michel, putting on less accomplished players. This was an odd move considering the team had to score to advance. For everything good he did throughout the year, he made some odd moves late in this game that seemed very counter intuitive to what the team goals were.
Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls/Defender) and Fabian Espindola (DC United/Forward) – Both Miller and Espindola committed ridiculous fouls in their meeting in Washington DC on Saturday afternoon. Roy Miller got a yellow card late in the first half for dragging Chris Pontius to the ground. Pontius, who was on a on a minor breakaway opportunity, had 30 yards and two defenders between him and the goal. Miller, who was beat earlier in the play, still felt the need to drag Pontius down causing a free kick opportunity and a needless yellow card. Later in the game, Miller once again made a horrid attempt at the ball and in the process kicked United defender Sean Franklin in the upper body. Miller was in a very bad position to make a play on the ball and had little to no control of his body during the clearance attempt. He was shown an immediate red card for serious foul play and was sent off, leaving his teammates to finish out the game down a man. The Red Bulls went on to win the series regardless but Miller will have to sit out the opening game of the next series because of his poor mistakes. Fabian Espindola on the other hand showed a red hot temper through much of the match. He became incensed at an assist referee for not calling a ball out of bounds which would have given United possession deep inside the Red Bulls side of the field. He berated the assistant referee for minutes after the incident, and had to be calmed by the officiating referee and teammates on the field. A replay confirmed the call made on the field was correct and that the whole ball never crossed out of bounds. Espindola, like Miller, was also shown a red card deep into second half stoppage time for a fighting incident.
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