The MLS Quarter-Finals Got Legs

I could have written today’s MLS Playoff wrap up blog in bad Halloween or horror movie puns, but I know you’re better than that. So while MLS has disguised it’s current round of playoffs as a Conference Semi-Finals, we know it is not. We know that until a team located as far east as New Jersey is playing in the Eastern Conference, or a team located as far west as Colorado is playing in the Western Conference, this is the quarter-finals, not a conference semi.

On the bright side, the quarter-finals did show us an ESPN double-header, an insane scoreline with an insane goal, a sloppy game on a sloppy pitch with a sloppy end, a tight fought tightly (read: too many yellows) officiated game, and a game between a defending champ and an upstart that’s score would indicate otherwise.

The final legs kick off mid-week, and with every team -except oddly Seattle- having a chance to move on to the semi-finals (they are not Conference Finals) let’s take a look back at this weekends legs.

Real Salt Lake 3-0 Seattle Sounders FC
Alvaro Saborio Alvaro Saborio #15 of Real Salt Lake fights for the ball with Osvaldo Alonso #6 and John Hurtado #34 of the Seattle Sounders during the first half of an MLS play-off 1st leg soccer game October 29, 2011 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
What is so different about the MLS Cup Playoffs that has Seattle consistently struggling in them? This team wins in the regular season. This team dominates US Open Cup. This team plays well in CONCACAF Champions League. However, they have yet to win a series in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Before this series even started, the three goals Seattle gave up in the first-leg of this series, was not the three we thought they’d go after. I, amongst others, thought Seattle was almost a lock for three trophies. So, if Seattle’s offseason starts this week, it will be interesting to see how they handle the time between now, the January transfer window, and the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Meanwhile Real Salt Lake looks back to their old tricks, as apparently neither Kyle Beckerman nor Javier Morales needed that much time to get back their chemistry. Add in a great performance by Alvaro Saborio and a mature Luis Gil and RSL may go from dark-horse to win the Western Conference to a favorite.

Snap Judgment: This one is over

Red Bull New York 0-1 Los Angeles Galaxy
Stage Image

For the most part, minus about twenty mintes, this was a pretty poor game on both sides. The pitch, which had been ravaged by a snow storm, lead to poor balls and bad plays by both sides throughout the game. This was not the centerpiece that MLS and ESPN were hoping for. So while Mike Magee’s goal was nice, New York’s opening barrage in the first ten minutes of the second half was exciting, and the Omar Gonzalez-Luke Rodgers matchup was fascinating, the match did not live up to it’s billing. However, the story that took place after the final whistle with the double red card scuffle (the fight made better, because, according to Univision, it was caused by Landon Donovan talking trash to Marquez), did leave most looking forward to Thirsday.

New York’s troubled Rafa Marquez and Los Angeles’s Juninho were both red carded and will miss the second leg of the series in Los Angeles. Going into Los Angeles, where the whether and pitch will be better, with Los Angeles only holding a one goal aggregate lead, and away goals meaning nothing, this suspension will hurt Los Angeles far more than it will harm New York. Marquez will be replaced by Dax McCarty -a step down, but not a huge one, Jan Gunnar Solli will be on the field for more than a halftime show (by the way, what the hell was that all about?), and the stepdown between Juninho and whoever is pretty big. This second-leg on Thursday could lead to New York upsetting the Supporters Shield winner, or everything reverting to the status quo. ESPN may have lucked out once more.

Snap Judgement: Marquez should do well next year in the FMF.

Philadelphia Union 1-2 Houston Dynamo

The first three minutes of this game told the story. In that time, there was a goal and a yellow card. While the goals did not come as fast and furiously as the first seven minutes might have indicated they would, the yellow cards did. The match was poorly refereed, and Houston showed that they were better -and more experienced/prepared- than Philadelphia. Peter Nowak kept his two game changing pieces -Roger Torres and Freddy Adu- on the bench a little too long. However, Philadelphia did do a decent job limiting Houston’s set piece chances. Regardless, this is now Houston’s series to lose and Philadelphia still looks a year away from truly competing.

Either way, Houston, a team that lives on set pieces, plays good defense, and has a hugely underrated keeper in Tally Hall, is built for the playoff. I picked them as a darkhorse before the playoff started, and watching them hold off a furious Philadelphia attack at the end, I’m not sure that they couldn’t sneak their way out of the East and into the MLS Cup Finals.

Snap Judgement: The Union need either Adu or Torres in the first 11 to unlock Houston’s defense

Colorado 0-2 Sporting Kansas City
Teal Bunbury - Sporting Kansas City v Colorado Rapids - 1st Leg

There was a point in the season where people where worried about Teal Bunbury. CJ Sapong seemed to have replaced him in the lineup and in the hearts of USMNT supporters. With his brace last night, Bunbury has reestablished himself as a go to goal scorer for his club team. The defending champs, Colorado Rapids, didn’t look to have much of a chance.

At the start of this season, Colorado was rolling and Kansas City was struggling. However, things really changed as the season went further along. With Colorado having made no significant lineup changes since they won MLS Cup last year, they seem to have suffered in regular season play, Champions League play, and now MLS Cup Playoffs. And as a team that is much deeper than Colorado, Kansas City has a chance to still move on to the MLS Cup Finals despite -or perhaps due to- their early season form.

Snap Judgement: Teal Bunbury is ready for more minutes with the USMNT.



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