MLS Weekend: Playoff Preview

mls playoffs
The big question going into the weekend is whether there will be more upsets.

Real Salt Lake upset defending champions Columbus Crew. This column by Eric Altshule at MLS Talk I think hit on interesting point that Columbus hadn’t actually played a meaningful game in a long long time, while for RSL almost all of their games the last few months have been defacto playoff games – most notably RSL’s win in the final game of the regular season against Colorado. Columbus did what they needed to do score 2 goals, but then they gave up three goals unanswered bending to the pressure. Real Salt Lake is going into the next round with nothing to lose and with their confidence sky high. Right now RSL would be favorites in my eyes against either Chicago or New England.

Houston vs. Seattle, Sunday 3pm on Telefutura.
After the exciting nil-nil draw (I am not being sarcastic), the advantage in this series definitely goes to Houston. These teams are very very evenly matched and the game will come down to who is able to take advantage of their chances. That may seem like a no shit-Sherlock analysis, but in the first meeting the defenses of both teams pretty much handled the others attacks. And the midfields pretty much neutralized each other. Yet each team had chances – free headers in the box -that they failed to convert. I would expect the defending on set pieces to be better this time around, with both teams struggling to find opportunities.

For Houston they need to get Stuart Holden on the ball as much as possible. He is the offensive engine. Ricardo Clark locked things down in the midfield but his sloppy passing and control, due to some rust and a bad knee, prevented Houston from grasping control of the game. If he can be a more productive offensive force, Houston should be able to control the center of the field and put more pressure on Seattle’s backline. For Seattle, Freddy Montero can score out of nothing, as he almost did midway through the second half, but they need more productivity from the wings. Steve Zakuani had a very poor game in Seattle, frequently losing the ball or choosing the wrong option. Freddy Ljungberg will also try to find space and Seattle will need to get him on the ball.

While I think Houston is stronger defensively and in the midfield, Oduro and Ching up top are just not very threatening. I think Seattle gets a goal and doubles their lead through Montero on a counter. Prediction: 2-0 Seattle and the ghost of Red Bulls past will haunt Houston for another season.

Galaxy vs. Chivas, Sunday 7:30pm on ESPN 2.
The battle for LA continues with the Galaxy having the advantage playing in front of their home fans. The big question is will there be more cock-ups? The last game saw four goals, all of which were the result of shambolic defending. LA has been solid defensively all year, but look vulnerable against players with pace, que Cuban striker Maykel Galindo. But Chivas have struggled to score this year as well. When looking at this game it is hard to not see a Galaxy team featuring Donovan and Beckham getting through. But Chivas will fight hard and force the Galaxy to break them down and then look to counter. It will take a while, and Chivas will make the Galaxy sweat with a number of close calls on counters, but eventually the Galaxy will break through and get the decisive goal. Prediction: 1-0 to the Galaxy and the league breathes a sigh of relief.

Chicago vs. New England, Saturday 8pm on FSC.
After losing in the first game, Chicago has to take it to New England. Playing at home should help, but I would expect New England to park the bus and rely on Shalrie Joseph to clog the midfield. Chicago has weapons in McBride, Rolfe, and Blanco and I think they will find away to get a goal, but unfortunately for Chicago, so will New England. Prediction: 1-1 and New England advances.

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