Thursday, October 25, 2007

2007 MLS Playoff preview

The 2007 playoffs kickoff tonight in Chicago as the Fire play host to Supporters' Shield winning DC United. Now instead of just focusing on this one game, which should be a good one, I thought I would give my overall view of the playoffs including a prediction on how things will play out.

DC United vs. Chicago Fire
(25 Oct 8:30pm ET, ESPN2 & 1 Nov 7:30pm ET, ESPN2)
There is no other team that strikes as much playoff fear into United fans hearts as Chicago. The teams have meet three times in the post season and the Fire have won them all (including the MLS Cup in 1998). In fact, till New England beat DC in last year's conference championship, the Fire were the only club to ever knock United out of the playoffs. With that kind of voodoo going on, Chicago should feel good these days.

However, this year's version of the Fire is suffering from a big problem that could end their streak in that they can't score goals. Amazingly, Chicago has either failed to score only managed to find the net once in 22 of their 30 league matches this year. Traditionally the playoffs are a lower scoring affair then the regular season, but not so low that you do not need offensive strikes. Unless the Fire can find a contact guy up top (Calen Carr could be a surprise in this role), their 1.0333 goals per game average will not be enough to get past United and Emilio.

DC had a bad final run of the regular season and still can fail to use the wings to their fullest, but this is a team that is smart on defense and good in tight situations. Add to it the experience that the wonderful form of Troy Perkins in goal, and they have everything you need for a win.

In the end, this might just be the best series in the first round. Chicago will keep it close with Blanco adding something special to the mix (I am very much looking forward to Blanco in a high-pressure match), but in the end DC will get what they need to advance.

Predictions: Me - DC (combined score of two games) DC 4-2 CF, Wife DC 3-1 CF

New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls
(27 Oct 7:30pm ET, FSC, FSE & 3 Nov 7:30pm ET, FSC, FSE)
This one doesn't have the history of DC-Chicago but it is still bound to be interesting to watch. One of the undercurrents that I think should be fun to watch is the Altidore-Twellman match up. Okay, they will not be covering each other, but it would seem that these two are about to pass one another on the US national team roster (with Altidore going in the good direction). If Jozy can come up big this year like he did last year and if Twellman doesn't show so well (which is pretty normal in the playoffs), it could be the final bit of convincing Bob Bradley needs to call the younger into camp.

From the look of it, Jozy has a number of things going his way with the biggest being Angel. One of the things that makes Juan Pablo so great his is ability to open space for other players by pulling the defense towards him. The Revs have a good backline but they have slipped up a number of times of late and with Matt Reis off a step between the posts, Jozy should get some great chances.

However, the Red Bulls still suffer from an on/off midfield. With Reyna questionable, who knows what could happen especially with Shalrie Joseph and Steve Ralston working things for NE.

In the end, New England will win this as they win most non-MLS Cup post-season games.

Predictions: Me NE 5-3 NY, Wife NE 2-3 NY

Chivas USA vs. Kansas City Wizards
(27 Oct 8pm ET, HDNet, DK, MLStv & 3 Nov 10:30pm ET, HDNet, DK, MLStv)
KC, welcome to the Western Conference, here is one of the most creative and talented teams to play against, best of luck.

On paper, this one should not be close, but I have a funny feeling about this. Maybe it has something to do with the top team from the West getting knocked out in the first round for the past two years or maybe it has a lot to do with the injury to Ante Razov, but I think Kansas City might shock with this one.

The last few weeks, the goats have been less then their best with Sacha Kljestan having to lift a lot. I have little doubt that Sacha will continue to do well, but I don't think he has the team around him to hold off a hard charging team. I know, they managed to keep Houston under wrap for 50-minutes down a man, but I think the Wizards will find a way.

My reason for this has a bit to do with the play of Scott Sealy, but even more to do with their matches this year. KC took the one at home and almost tied on the road except that Razov got an injury-time goal. The Wizards actually out played Chivas in that match but luck went against them. If that luck happens to be on the bench for this series, I would not be shocked if KC made it through.

As odd as it seems, I think the Wizards will pull this one out.
Predictions: Me CV 3-3 KC (KC advances on pks), Wife CV 4-1 KC

Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas
(27 Oct, 8:30pm ET, DK, MLStv & 2 Nov 8:30pm ET, DK, MLStv)
So will this series be a grudge match or a blow out? If it goes the grudge match route, FC Dallas stands a much better chance of finally topping their intra-state rival.

Carlos Ruiz will be looking forward to this one, but less face it, other then his ability to get Ricardo Clark kicked out for the rest of the season, he has not done much of note. In fact, Dallas is painfully lacking in their attack, which will present a major problem against the best defense in the league. Kenny Cooper is looking better, but he still fails to get into the middle of things, thus limiting the influence his size could have on his game. Abe Thompson might be an alternative or maybe the always fun to watch Arturo Alvarez, but in the end, I just don't think they have the guns to take the series, especially when they face Pat Onstad in goal.

Houston has had their own issue with scoring but Ching is looking better, while Dwayne De Rosario seems to be coming out of his funk. Throw in Joseph Ngwenya and a sneaky Stuart Holden and there should be enough for Houston.

Predictions: Me HD 3-1 FCD, Wife HD 3-0 FCD

So why not predict a little further.
Conference finals:
Me: DC 2-1 NE, HD 1-0 KC
Wife: DC 3-2 NY, CV 2-0 HD

MLS Cup:
Me: DC 3-1 HD
Wife: DC 1-2 CV

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