The opening rounds of the MLS Cup Playoffs have finished and there were surprises aplenty as both number one seeds and one number two seed was eliminated, leaving the MLS title completely open to any of the lower seeds who all orchestrated dramatic upsets in the conference semifinal rounds. And so now, with the playoffs truly up for grabs, which team looks destined for MLS glory?
Yesterday saw two late dramatic goals to secure victories as both the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake were knocked out of the tournament. The Red Bulls defeat was the most inexplicable of all. They had the vast majority of chances, and even made a mess of a series of late game opportunities. After opposing goalkeeper Bill Hamid was sent off for a penalty-awarding foul, for some reason Kenny Cooper stood up to take the shot. After the first take was called back, Cooper fired the ball weakly and it was saved. My main concern is why wasn’t Thierry Henry called upon to take the PK? Henry is the coolest striker on Earth, and they paid so much for him. Why didn’t the captain take the penalty? At the way end of the game the Red Bulls had a free kick from the type of range Henry could have curled right in. Take a look at the free kicks the Frenchman has made in his career. And yet, he again didn’t take the shot. And thus they are gone and D.C. United pulled out a fantastic result.
The L.A. Galaxy also had a wonderful result when they brutally disposed of Supporters’ Shield winners, the San Jose Earthquakes. Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane provided some brilliant assists and goals, and the Galaxy looked dominant. So much for Donovan’s dying love of the game.
The Houston Dynamo again showed poise and resiliency after holding off the defensively strong Sporting Kansas City. Their two goals scored in the first-leg match were enough to take out the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
Seattle Sounders found a great late strike from Mario Martinez to separate the sides after nearly two matches had been played without a single goal. They looked the better side throughout and deserved to progress.
And so now the Western Conference final will comprise of the L.A. Galaxy taking on the Seattle Sounders, while D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo tangle in the east. Predicting a winner is no simple task, especially with so many X-factors from each team. The Galaxy has all the superstar names now with Donovan, Keane, and David Beckham. The Sounders house the league’s best fans and one of the game’s hottest strikers in Eddie Johnson, who recently revitalized his international career with the United States National Team. Houston Dynamo has the history of winning the cup twice a few years ago, and were runner’s up last year. D.C. United is excited about the return of Dwayne de Rosario, one of the games most exciting players from Canada and are now the highest seed remaining in the tournament.
Each club will feel that they have a great chance of lifting the MLS Cup now that they have disposed of the top seeds, and since they have these weapons to produce. I feel like this is starting to turn into Seattle’s year and that their fans will lead them to victory, over D.C. United 2-1 in the MLS Cup final. Let’s see if this prediction can hold better than my last!