I’ve always enjoyed the pageantry of the home and away playoff format. The first week is cautious, guarded, conservative. The visiting team often playing for a tie from the opening whistle. The hosts, wanting to win, but knowing that conceding even a single goal could doom their chances from the start.
The second leg flips that all on it’s head. It’s frantic. It’s do or die. There’s no ambiguity on what result is needed. Restraint is gone in favor of the relentless pursuit of the result that the team needs to advance. And that’s why this may well be one of the most exciting weekends of the year in MLS.
We’ve put together a preview with our predictions for the matches here, but by all means, check out SB Nation’s awesome MLS Cup Playoffs Guide as well.
We kick things off on Saturday with a doozy between Eastern Conference winners DC United and fourth seed NYRB. New York pulled off a 2-0 upset in the first leg in New Jersey, with DC playing an abysmal 90 minutes.
DC’s in a tough spot here, down two goals heading home to RFK. Not only that, but having failed to score in New Jersey means that DC will have to win by 3 goals if the Red Bulls manage to score even once. DC have been good at home this year to be sure, but I think this one is over if NYRB gets on the board. A 4-1 victory is a tough ask over the Thierry Henry-led Red Bulls.
Prediction: DC comes out firing, but crafty Henry helps NYRB score on the counter to put things out of reach for DC. United may win, but they still lose in the end. Remember, even a 3-1 or 4-2 win for DC still means NYRB move on.
Get your fill of NFL games in early on Sunday, because there’s some big time MLS action in the afternoon. First off, we get the New England Revs taking on the Columbus Crew. It’s a battle of the playoff underdogs, but New England in particular has been playing REALLY good soccer lately. Charlie Davies is scoring again, and the mid-season addition of U.S. International midfielder Jermaine Jones has solidified the organization of the team. They demolished the Crew 4-2 in Columbus, so Columbus is in really bad shape heading to Foxboro. That said, expect the crew to charge into this one Leeroy Jenkins style. It should be a heckuva match to watch if nothing else.
Prediction: New England wins again at home to advance
Immediately following, we’ll get to see the premier match-up of the weekend, as Landon Donovan’s Galaxy will take last year’s MLS CUP runners-up Real Salt Lake. Could this be the last match of Donovan’s MLS career? Very possibly. The Galaxy managed a 0-0 tie at Rio Tinto last weekend, which is a victory in theory. However, having failed to score an away goal, even a 1-1 or 2-2 tie would be enough for Real Salt Lake to advance.
Prediction: UPSET ALERT! I think RSL manage a 1-1 tie and advance, ending LA’s season and Donovan’s career on a sour note.
All my rowdy friends are here for Monday Night….Soccer?! Play hooky from work on Tuesday and stay up late on the East Coast to watch Seattle take on Dallas. Similar to the Galaxy, Seattle pulled out a nice, conservative tie on the away leg. However, Seattle managed to score a goal which puts them in a much better position.
Don’t expect a 60,000-person sellout at Century Link. Seattle has announced a sellout for FC Dallas, but capped its attendance at 38,500. However, even that home field advantage is nothing to scoff at.
Prediction: Seattle is the better team here, and they can play in their comfort zone, knowing that they scored an away goal. Expect a comfortable win for Seattle.
So what are your thoughts? Any predictions you think I’m wrong on? Let us know in the comment section!