Friday, November 02, 2007

2007 MLS Playoffs - Round 1 Leg 2 Preview - Are you ready for some Friday night action?

Will last night be an omen for what is to come this weekend or will Chicago be the irregular that makes it on? Every match has something worth watching, but sadly the best two will be the hardest to find. I really think the FCD-Houston match is going to be something classic, while the KC-Chivas game will be shocking in the end.

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo
FCD up 1-0 on aggregate
Friday - 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv

Friday nights in Texas are all about football, so it is only fitting that the second match of this series is tonight. Dallas comes into the game up a lucky goal while Houston is fumbling on offense. The good news for the Dynamo, overall, they looked better last Saturday in Frisco then FCD did. However, the good news for Dallas, the score is what matters.

FCD will probably go with Ruiz and Cooper up top, which really didn't produce anything last week. Ruiz, as always, will play for the foul, but he is ridding a yellow and if his team does get out of Houston alive, they are going to need him next week. Will this mean that the little fish will alter his ways at all? I doubt it. Cooper needs to push himself into the box. The Dynamo kept forcing him out wide last week, which isn't horrible as he can center some good balls, but it means his size becomes a minor factor. Also, Dallas really wasn't getting anyone into position to do anything with the centering passes.

But the big question for me is can Dallas get something out of their midfield? With the exception of a couple plays by Adrian Serioux, their middle suffered. If Juan Toja can return to early season form and start placing good passes that open up the attack, they have a great chance of finally getting a win in Houston, but short of that, it is going to be a tough night.

With FCD's problems, Houston should be able to spring attacks. With Dwayne De Rosario, Brian Mullan and Richard Mulrooney clicking, the middle of the park should be theirs, but will Ching, Jaqua or Ngwenya be able to do anything with it? The lack of quality finishing is the only reason the Dynamo are down in the series. As his playoff history shows, Ching can explode at any moment, but it does seem that his injury from August is still hurting his game. However, he likes big games so I think he will find the next at least once.

This game really should be outstanding. Expect a really strong, vocal crowd and an intensity level that will make soccer fans proud (by the way, if you live in the area, the game will not be on local TV, so to see it you will need to be there).

Prediction: Me FCD 1-2 HD (HD wins series on pks), Wife FCD 0-2 HD (HD wins series 2-1)

New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution
Series tied 0-0
Saturday - 7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (30-min pre & post), FSE

So the playoff team with worse road record has to go to New England and win to advance. That should tip the balance in the Revs direction right off the bat. Much like Houston, the Red Bulls had their chances in the first leg, but they did not finish. Angel and Francis Doe should have got something from all the work Claudio Reyna was doing in the middle, but it did not happen.

The Revs say they are confident and they should be. Michael Parkhurst is doing wonderful work in the back, Steve Ralston and Shalrie Joseph own things in the middle and Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan offer good options up top. If it wasn't for a bit of a slip in form for goaltender Matt Reis, there really wouldn't be much to talk about, and that's why Angel and Altidore need to expose.

New England is a quality side, but they depend a lot on the skill of their keeper. In the regular season he made 120 saves off 169 shots, meaning he made the second most saves off of the third most shots in the league (by the way, none of the other teams that had this many shots or saves made the playoffs). So even if he is just a tad off his game, the Revs are in danger.

For the Revs to keep the Eastern Conference final from being a #3 versus #4 affair, they will need to limit that chances the Bulls have. If they can do this, they have enough talent at the top get the win.

Prediction: Me NY 0-1 NE (NE wins series), Wife NY 1-2 NE (NE wins series)

Kansas City Wizards vs. Chivas USA
KC leads 1-0 on aggregate
Saturday - 10:30pm ET/7:30pm PT
TV: HDnet, Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv

First the good news for Kansas City. They are the only team that owned a game in Los Angeles this year against Chivas. They controlled the pass, had the better opportunities and frustrated the goats. The bad news, they still lost the match 2-1.

With Maykel Galindo and Ante Razov still either out or less then 100% for Chivas, the Wizards defense should again be able to dictate the pace of the match. With a goal, KC all but has the series, so they will need Eddie Johnson (who might be playing his final MLS match) to actually get involved in the game and Scott Sealy needs to work on staying on sides and his movement in the box. Brad Guzan is a fantastic net minder, so they will need to either catch him with a quick dump pass in front of goal or create a mess in the box and hope for the best.

Chivas has their own offensive worries as they have only scored one goal in their last four games (which matches Razov's injury). Sacha Kljestan and Jesse Marsch can make trouble, but overall, they have no solid strikers for this match. Jonathan Bornstein should help control things in the back, but with nothing to really push the game, the Wizards have a golden opportunity to knock off the second number one seed of the playoffs.

Predictions: Me KC 1-0 Chivas (KC wins series 2-0), Wife KC 0-1 CV (Chivas wins series on pks)

By the way, I am now taking bribes to predict that a team will win. I do this because I have been incorrect about every game for the last two weeks. If you want your opposition to lose, just bribe me and I'll pick them to win.

One last thought, what happens if FCD, NY and KC win this weekend? If all four top seeds are knocked out in the first round, will MLS finally change the playoff format to actually give top seeds an advantage in the first round or will they point to it as proof that the playoffs are the most exciting time of the year?

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