So with the MLS playoffs already begun, and with a host of these predictions already posted on various sites, I thought I would throw my two cents in before the rest of the games get underway this afternoon.
COLORADO - COLUMBUS - I'd picked Columbus to win this one before the series started. I know that Colorado is the trendy pick, and they definitely come in with better form overall, but I'm of the mind that the skill of a class player can overcome, especially over the two legs of a tie like this one. To be honest I wasn't sure if Columbus could pull it off, and I sort of expected Colorado to put it all together and give the Crew a beating at home. Columbus having escaped Denver down only one goal, I can see Schelotto working his magic to bring the Crew a narrow victory. The Crew have been trending down, and I certainly didn't feel great about the pick, but I'll stick with it. In one match, anything can happen.
Leg 1 Colorado 1- 0 Columbus (already played)
Leg 2 Columbus 2-0 Colorado
Columbus 2-1 final
FCD-RSL - Two teams I haven't seen a whole lot of this year, especially Dallas. I know that Dallas had that outstanding midseason run that got them into the Supporter's Shield conversation, after an indifferent start, but RSL have been, quite simply, in top form all year long. Their defense has been magnificent, and they have shown outstanding resilience and teamwork all season in a campaign that saw them just miss out to the Galaxy for the league's best record. Two well-coached teams, with underrated players and excellent coaches. It should be a fun tie to watch. Unfortunately for the erstwhile Hoops, they seem to be on a downward trend while RSL has been steady all year.
Leg 1 FCD 0 - 0 RSL
Leg 2 RSL 1- 0 FCD
Final RSL 1-0
NYRB - San Jose - I'm not sure how well qualified I am to pick this game (why this one more than any other?) I think I may have seen San Jose play once all year, on a late-night Espn broadcast during which I could barely keep myself awake. If memory serves that was also before they acquired Geovani, who turned their season around and ignited their playoff run. On top of that, NY is my team, and my ability to be objective is somewhat hampered. The reason I like New York in this tie is that they have been winning, not thanks to their star players like Henry, Marquez and Angel, but thanks to lesser known contributors like Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere, and a solid back line and goalie. Richards in particular has been a talisman for them, scoring all of his five goals in the last 7 games.
San Jose have certainly not slouched in the goal department, and I should probably give them more credit for their strong finish, but what I've seen from New York, even in games they didnt win, was an ability to dominate possession and threaten at their opponent's end for much of the game. They need to improve on their conversion of those opportunities, but I'm confident they can do that in this series. Meanwhile, the Red Bull defense has been very good, with the central grouping of Ream, Mendes and Marquez supported by veteran Chris Albright and (usually) Miller at fullback, in front of Coundoul in the net. How this defense matches up against the in-form attack of San Jose will be the key contest of this tie.
Leg 1 San Jose 1 - 1 NYRB
Leg 2 NYRB 2- 0 San Jose
Final NYRB 2-1
LA - Seattle - This one pits MLS' most famous franchise, thanks to Becks and Donovan, against its most well-supported. Seattle was a team that even its own fans thought were dead in the water around August 1, and they've made a wonderful turnaround under the direction of Sigi Schmid (and with the trade of disaffected Freddie Ljungberg.) LA got out of the gate like a team on a mission, with Edson's Buddle's magnificent scoring rate earning him an invitation to South Africa (although, tragically for US team fans, and inexplicably to most people whose initials aren't BB, not much time on the pitch.) LA faltered a bit during the season, giving up a huge points lead, but recovered in time to win the Supporter's Shield, with the help of the fully fit David Beckham, staving off a serious challenge from the MLS cup holders.
This tie is the toughest to call for me. I know Seattle has had a great run, and LA have shown indifferent form, but once again I'm inclined to choose class over form. Seattle's attack, with Montero, Nkufo et al., has been dangerous, and LA's back line hasn't been as good this year as they were last year, when they turned the team around after a dismal campaign. The question is whether LA has the legs to keep up with Seattle. Beckham is fresh, but Donovan has been playing almost continuosly, and at a high level, for more than a year. Buddle's scoring form had to dip, but does that have to do with fatigue? I think that in the end LA has enough to squeeze by, but it will be an interesting tie, a matchup of two big-market, marquee teams with plenty of star power and two of the league's top coaches.
1st leg - Seattle 1-1 LA
2nd leg LA 1-0 Seattle.
Final LA 2-1