Monday, November 9, 2015

Final Thoughts on the Conference Semifinals

Wow, what a Sunday! All four games were highly contested and just made for some really exciting soccer. In no particular order, here's a bunch of my observations from an action-packed day:

1) Of the four conference semifinal winners, the Red Bulls are the only ones who won both legs of their respective match-up.

2) Substitutes on Sunday accounted for 2 goals (Tesho Akindele, Walker Zimmerman) and 4 assists (Marco Pappa, Blas Pérez, Gonzalo Verón, Cedrick).

3) Every player to come off the bench for FC Dallas on Sunday (Tesho Akindele, Walker Zimmerman, Blas Pérez) notched either a goal or an assist. Akindele and Zimmerman also both scored PKs during the shootout. During the regular season, Akindele (goal) scored just once in fourteen appearances as a substitute, Zimmerman (goal) did not log a goal or an assist during the entire regular season, and Pérez (assist) did not log a goal or an assist in nine appearances as a substitute.

4) Walker Zimmerman, who hadn't scored since his rookie season in 2013, scored both the goal that forced extra time AND the clinching penalty kick in the shootout.

5) 20 year-old keeper Jesse Gonzalez made a pair of saves during FC Dallas's shootout win against Seattle denying both Andreas Ivanschitz and Chad Barrett.

6) For 83 minutes in the game between FC Dallas and Seattle, neither team scored. Then three goals were scored before the end of regulation including Chad Marshall's goal in the 90th minute to put Seattle ahead on aggregate and Walker Zimmerman's goal to force extra time.

7) Chad Marshall did not score in 29 appearances for the Sounders in 2015 before his 90th minute header against FC Dallas.

8) Clint Dempsey managed just one shot in 120 minutes against FC Dallas as the Sounders were outshot 25-10.

9) Stefan Frei made 8 saves, the most he'd had in a single game since recording 10 in a 3-2 loss to Columbus on May 9th.

10) Injuries forced the Sounders to play without Brad Evans, Leonardo González, Román Torres and Osvaldo Alonso.

11) Gonzalo Verón entered the match for the Red Bulls as a substitute for a substitute, coming on only when Shaun Wright-Phillips (another sub) was forced off with an injury. Verón had just one goal and one assist in 13 appearances during the regular season before assisting on Bradley Wright-Phillips' clinching stoppage time goal.

12) Bradley Wright-Phillips now has six goals in eight career postseason games for the Red Bulls.

13) Luis Robles had just six shutouts in 2014 and nine in 2015, but already has two in this year's postseason. Only once during the 2015 regular season did Robles record back-to-back shutouts.

14) With Adam Kwarasey's shutout of Vancouver in the second leg, both of Portland's top two keepers (Jake Gleeson being the other) have earned shutouts during the 2015 postseason.

15) Portland is the only lower seed to advance to the Conference Finals in this year's postseason.

16) Steve Clark made nine saves for Columbus in their win against Montreal. His previous career high was 7 saves against Toronto FC this May.

17) The Columbus Crew had just six shutouts during the regular season. Among playoff teams, only Toronto FC (5) had fewer.

18) Kei Kamara's playoff goals against Montreal were his first postseason goals since 2008 when he played for the Houston Dynamo. Other members of the 2008 Dynamo include Brian Ching, Dwayne De Rosario, Brad Davis, Stuart Holden, Chris Wondolowski and Ricardo Clark.

19) Cedrick, who played only 233 minutes for Columbus during the regular season, did not record an assist prior to his service that Kei Kamara headed in for the winning goal against Montreal.

20) Jack McInerney, traded from Montreal to Columbus during the regular season, set up Ethan Finlay's equalizer when his close range shot was deflected by Evan Bush and then punched home by Finlay.

21) Seattle's Oniel Fisher and Vancouver's Tim Parker were the only members of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft Class to start a game in the Conference Semifinals.

22) DC United and Vancouver were both shutout in both legs of the Conference Semifinal match-ups. The two clubs ranked 11th and 9th among playoff teams in scoring. Only the Portland Timbers (41 goals) scored fewer goals than both clubs during the regular season.

23) Clint Dempsey is the only American with more than one goal during the 2015 postseason.

24) The top American scorers for each of the remaining teams in this year's postseason are: Mike Grella (New York Red Bulls, 9), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew, 12), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas, 3) and Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers, 5). Of the group, only Finlay has scored in this year's postseason.

25) The following players that will be playing in the Conference Finals have earned international call-ups this week:

For Columbus - Tony Tchani (Cameroon)
For New York - Matt Miazga (USA), Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica), Karl Ouimette (Canada)
For FC Dallas - Je-Vaughn Watson (Jamaica), Moises Hernandez (Guatemala), Tesho Akindele (Canada)
For Portland - Darlington Nagbe (USA), Alvas Powell (Jamaica), Will Johnson (Canada)

26) Following this weekend's goals by Walker Zimmerman and Chad Marshall, a total of four players that did not score during the 2015 regular season have scored during this year's postseason. The other two are Patrice Bernier (Montreal) and Erik Friberg (Seattle).

27) Only 7 Designated Players have scored in this year's postseason: Federico Higuaín (Columbus), Fabián Castillo (FC Dallas), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal), Didier Drogba (Montreal), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), Nelson Valdez (Seattle) and Clint Dempsey (Seattle).

28) Vancouver was the only home team not to win on Sunday.

29) All four games on Sunday featured either a goal in stoppage time: Bradley Wright-Phillips (NYRB 90+2), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas 90+1), Diego Chara (Portland 90+4); or extra time: Kei Kamara (Columbus 111).

30) Fanendo Adi was the only player on Sunday to record both a goal and an assist. Adi had only tallied a goal and an assist in the same match just one time in 57 regular season matches between 2014 and 2015.

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