Sporting Kansas City have it all to do -- and then some -- trailing 2-0 at half-time of what is essentially an 180-minute match with the Houston Dynamo.
It's not that there wasn't
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. Whatever, all of the alarms and signs are flashing now.
Unless KC can overturn those two Dynamo goals (or do one better and get three), this remarkable season will end on Wednesday night at Livestrong Sporting Park. The game is at 8 p.m.
But, that's the way it goes when you get to the playoffs in a parity-focused league. While MLS added the carrot that the team who qualifies for the MLS Cup with the best regular season record gets to host the final, it dangled that carrot over a deep, dark chasm. Seriously: What's the benefit of finishing with the best record when you have to go on the road first and away goals don't count?*
*For the record, I hate the away goals rule. I think it encourages negative play. But I also equally hate a two-leg playoff series that doesn't give the higher-seeded team a noticeable advantage (well, other than getting to have the potential extra time and penalty kick shootout at home).
How parity-focused in the league? From 2004 to 2010, a top-seeded team (either the Supporter's Shield winner or a conference winner) has fallen in the semifinals (until this year, the first round) of the playoffs.
Here's the list: The '04 Columbus Crew (Supporter's Shield winer), '05 San Jose Earthquakes (Supporter's Shield winner), '06 FC Dallas (Western Conference winner), '07 D.C. United (Supporter's Shield winner), '07 Chivas USA (Western Conference winner), '08 Houston Dynamo (Western Conference winner), '09 Columbus Crew (Supporter's Shield winner) and '10 New York Red Bulls (Eastern Conference winner).
Last year (when both Sporting KC and Los Angeles advanced to the conference finals) was the first time since 2003 (8 years) that both No. 1 seeds stayed alive.
But, this morning, that just sounds like a writer trying to make excuses for the team's poor play. There are no excuses for yesterday.*
*Peter Vermes didn't make excuses after the game: "We didn't play well enough. It was simple."
We've only got a few leftovers from this game (it wasn't a very good meal and you really don't want to re-heat them anyway) for you today. Here goes.
• The best road team in MLS (8 wins, 5 draws, 4 losses), just got thumped on the road
• to a Houston side that hasn't lost a single match at BBVA Compass Stadium.
• The best defense in MLS (27 goals allowed in the regular season), got shredded by Houston.
• Kansas City is 1-11-0 when allowing the first goal during the playoffs. They are 2-13-3 all-time on the road in the playoffs.
• The team with the most shots in MLS this season finished a 90-minute match with exactly one shot on target.
• Meanwhile, Houston have now scored four goals on four shots on target against KC in their last two playoff matches.
• While KC's defense didn't have the greatest of games, there ain't a whole lot you can do with this Adam Moffat shot.