A few thoughts from the four first-leg, MLS playoff matches over the weekend......
*Galaxy-Red Bulls fracas: Even if the Red Bulls find a way to advance — they won’t — MLS needs to toss Rafael Marquez from the remainder of the postseason for yet another unprofessional display. As the final whistle sounded Sunday, he fired the ball at Landon Donovan and, during the dust-up, attempted a head-butt (stirring memories of his 2002 World Cup dismissal) grabbed his own face without contact (“I think a fly went into his eye,” quipped ESPN’s John Harkes) and crumpled to the turf. For more on Marquez’s antics over the years, read Michael Lewis’s column. Adios, Rafa.
*Wild-card victors: Both clubs that survived mid-week, first-round games lost at home over the weekend. Maybe fatigue played a factor. Maybe their mediocrity was exposed. The Colorado Rapids were gutted by absences: They began the day without Pablo Mastroeni and Jamie Smith, and during the match, Kosuke Kimura (broken foot), Caleb Folan (twisted knee) and Drew Moor (separated shoulder) departed. In addition, Tyrone Marshall was dismissed with a highly questionable red card.
*RSL resurgence: Who saw this coming? After being outscored 13-3 during a 0-4-2 rut to end the regular season, including three-goal losses to three non-playoff teams, Real Salt Lake thrashed the Seattle Sounders, 3-0. “We’re lucky we didn’t lose 6-0,” Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid said. The bad news: Center backs Jamison Olave (quadriceps strain) and Nat Borchers (strained knee) seem doubtful for the second leg. RSL should be able to protect the aggregate advantage without them, but then they’ll have to prepare for the conference final Sunday.
*Attendance: Vibrant settings at Real Salt Lake (17,067) and Philadelphia (18,539). Considering the snow and power outages, a reasonable announced turnout at New York (22,663). Despite 63-degree conditions, only 8,601 watched the reigning champion Rapids. Looking ahead, mid-week matches are always a tough sell, but Seattle will be at capacity and Kansas City, Los Angeles and Houston should draw well for their respective second legs.
*Accentuating the positive: “It may be good for this team to go into the second leg not feeling the pressure to defend a 1-1 tie or a 1-0 goal difference,” Union Coach Peter Nowak said.
Colorado at Kansas City, 8 p.m. ET (Fox Soccer)
Real Salt Lake at Seattle, 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Philadelphia at Houston, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
New York at Los Angeles, 11 p.m. (ESPN2)