Friday, November 03, 2006

MLS Playoffs Previews - Conference Championships

One game to decide if your season moves on or if you go home and think about what could have been. Both games take place on Sunday and both are on TV. Thankfully, there are three hours between the two matches, so there is not a chance of overlap.

Anyway, here are my previews.

DC United vs. New England Revolution
Sunday - 4:00pm ET
Radio: DC - 1160am, 1540am (Spanish); Boston - 850am

These teams are coming off opposite experiences as DC was lucky to get past New York while New England was able to get over a poor first 30-minutes to run wild over the Fire.

DC is a mess. Their backline is porous, their middle is shaky and their front is absent. If it were not for the work of Christian Gomez and Troy Perkins, this team would not be playing on Sunday. So what can they do to take it to the Revs?

Ben Olsen will need to provide Facundo Erpen more cover in the back while providing some good through balls on the left side. This will open up their attack and force Steve Ralston to play a big role for New England. It should also force Clint Dempsey to track back to provide some additional defensive coverage for his side, thus reducing the Revs quick attack.

New England has a good backline and a middle that can propel the ball forward regardless of what is placed in their way, however they have lacked on the final touches all season. They need Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan, Dempsey and Andy Dorman to take advantage of United's backfield madness and take the shots. Perkins is a fantastic keeper, but even the best can't stop everything. Twellman has come to life of late and if Dempsey is available for the game and interested in playing it, they should have a number of good chances to put DC in a hole.

One big advantage DC has is their home crowd. Twenty thousand fans cheering you on is some sort of motivation, but the Revs had some motivation of their own. There is a good chance that this off season will see anywhere from a few to a bunch of their best players leaving for foreign shores (and who knows, maybe their coach will be going elsewhere as well) so this might just represent their last chance to win a crown for their club. For a team with so many good players to have no silverware in their cabinet has to be embarrassing.

In the end, New England is playing the better game at the moment so I have to go with them. DC has not beat a playoff team other then New York since September 3rd (they played 6 other games against playoff teams since that win) while the Revs have only lost one game since that date (they have played 5 games against playoff teams since then, not including the 2 against New York). As much fun as it would be to see all the DC faithful in Dallas for the MLS Cup, I just don't think it will happen.

Me - DC 1-2 NE
Wife - DC 1-0 NE

Houston Dynamo vs. Colorado Rapids
Sunday - 7:00pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, HDNet
Radio: Houston - 850am (Spanish), 101.7fm (Spanish); Denver - 950am

I still can't believe the Rapids are again in the Western Conference Championship. For a team that tied with Real Salt Lake for the most goals allowed in MLS (49) and a team with the worst goal difference in the entire league (-13), they are doing all right with themselves. However, I think the Rapids playing on Sunday has a lot more to do with FC Dallas's meltdown instead of Colorado's skill.

For the Rapids to advance to the final they will need to do something they have not done since June 26/30, 2004, win two consecutive road games. Yes, it has been 27-months since they last accomplished such an outcome. That's a long time.

The good news for the club is they will have Thiago Martins back in the lineup after being suspended for last weekend's match, so they will not depend so much on Clint Mathis for their offense. Okay, Mathis made a hell of a strike last week in Dallas to save his club in extra time, but I have trouble believing that he can do it two weeks in a row.

Keep in mind that Dallas was playing down a man for the majority of last week's match, yet they still found their way through Colorado's midfield. Unless Kyle Beckerman and Pablo Mastroeni can step into the pocket and shut down Dwayne De Rosario, they have little chance at success.

If De Rosario is shut down, Houston's offense will shift over to Brad Davis. Against Chivas, a team with much better skill then Colorado, Davis was able to slice his way into their back and frustrate the goats. If he can do the same against the Rapids, look for a number of fouls to be committed and kicks to be awarded. Those kicks should allow everyone's favorite Hawaiian Brian Ching to step up and get some force on the ball.

This game will not be a washout, but it has a good chance of being one sided. There really is no reason Houston should loose this game, but there really wasn't any reason Dallas should have lost last week, so it can happen. However, can and will are very different things. As long as the Dynamo don't make a stupid mistake early, they should be heading to their first MLS Cup.

Me - Houston 2-0 Colorado
Wife - Houston 3-1 Colorado

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Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

I wrote 'em, so I'm gonna share 'em. As is my custom, I did conference final previews of my own. Let's compare notes.

Regarding yours, I've got a sinking feeling your wife has the East correct, though I'm still figuring whether this is defense mechanism or actual thinking.

I'd also give Colorado a closer game. Yeah, they've been blowout-prone in 2006, but I know I wouldn't want to tango with that team.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I am of the same feeling that you and your wife are for the Eastern Conference final. If DC United plays as they should, they will win and get to their 6th MLS Cup Final. If they play as they have been, like Bizarro United, then the Revolution will be back in Dallas for a second straight MLS Cup loss.

Houston will win the West as they have two of the best guys in the league, De Ro and Cha Ching! If they face New England, they win. If they face DC United, they lose. If they face Bizarro United, they win.

12:58 PM  

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