Evening Links and Thoughts: Inside Playoff Matchups

Evening Links and Thoughts: Inside Playoff Matchups

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On October 26, 2009
  • Evening Links and Thoughts, MLS Cup Playoffs
Eddie Gaven and Edgar Renteria are leading the charge for the Crew. (Getty Images)

Can the Crew repeat yet again in 2009? (Getty Images)

The four first round series are set for the 2009 edition of the MLS Cup Playoffs. All four series should be really good ones. For the second straight season the wild card positions have benefited one of the conferences over the other as Real Salt Lake got into the playoffs as an eastern conference club. The chase for MLS Cup 2009 should be just as exciting as the regular season.

Each matchup is different in its own right. Some series favor certain clubs while others could catch a break with an upset if they are luck.

Instead of breaking each series down and predicting a winner right now I felt it was a good time to give some key points for each club in the series and some things to look out for. Later on this week I will give my predictions for each game in the opening part of each series.

Eastern Conference:

(1) Columbus Crew v. (4) Real Salt Lake: This series is really interesting to me. Had RSL been sent to face LA in the playoffs I think it would have been a killer to them but Columbus is actually a good match for them in the first round. It also doesn’t hurt that they get the defending champions at home to start the series.

Key for RSL: Staying hot offensively after their 3-0 win over Colorado. The thing about RSL is that they are one of the most inconsistent clubs on offense. They win big then barely win at all for a couple games. After each big win this year of three or more goals the very next game saw the offense score one or less goals every time except once when they scored two goals in a win over DC after beating the Crew 4-1 (back in early April). Needless to say they have to find consistency early at home in this series to win. Getting young guys like Robbie Findley and Yura Movsisyan involved early in the opening match will be big. I just worry about those two coming up big for RSL on this stage though.

Keys for Columbus: Rattling the RSL will be key in this series. RSL has a big problem with discipline, especially in their defense with guys like Jamison Olave. Rattle them at home and get them in card trouble and I’d say they’d find a way defensively to shut down the young attack from RSL. Also they have to get some big production out of Guillermo Barros Schelotto. I have no doubt that GBS will rise to his MVP form once again in the playoffs this year for the Crew.


(2) Chicago Fire v. (3) New England Revolution: This is certainly a match-up that favors Chicago. The Fire have been very good against New England over the last couple years and I don’t see that changing this season in the playoffs with the amount of injuries the Revs have on offense. Still you can’t count out this New England side with Shalrie Joseph.

Keys for New England: Find some offense for the most part will be key. They’ve lacked a punch all season in scoring but they have enough quality guys that know how to get it done when it matters most (case and point this past weekend with Jeff Larentowicz’s goal against Columbus). Throw in the fact that Steve Nicol just knows how to win in the post season and the Revs have a fighting chance.

Keys for Chicago: Play to their strengths up top with Chris Rolfe and Brian McBride. New England is good on defense but they are young and very mistake prone. They’ll need big games from those guys and Mr. White in the middle to overcome some defensive issues that have hurt them all year, especially at home where they’ve just been “so-so” all season.


Western Conference:

(1) LA Galaxy v. (4) Chivas USA: How nice is it to see the SuperClasico in post season form for a change? LA has looked good lately getting the top seed based on some tiebreakers with Houston. Chivas will certainly bring an unique challenge to their HDC-mates. I think overall though the league is just happy to see David Beckham in the playoffs, throwing in this as a series is just icing on top.

Keys for Chivas USA: They have to return to what worked early on this season for them. Tough defense and timely attacking. They go against a team with just that so it could come down to the battle of the counter attacks. They also need a big time performance for a change this year out of Sacha Kljestan. I think if he even is dreaming of South Africa that he produces big time this fall.Lastly, they have to use whatever speed they have to expose the lack of speed that LA has. When you beat LA you beat them with speed.

Keys for LA: Just find Landon Donovan in space and let him do his magic. Simple as that for a club that is very tight and compact in the midfield and tough in the back. The Galaxy also have to stay away from the cards in this series. Mainly because you can expect a big physical battle in these two games.


(2) Houston Dynamo v. (3) Seattle Sounders FC: Honestly not a good match-up for Houston. Seattle is a hungry team that sees hosting a MLS Cup on their field right now. Both clubs have the makeup of a champion but it is just a matter of each figuring out that they can win is the thing.

Keys for Seattle: Seattle has to get their playoff run started with a big time win at home this weekend. To do that they need big time performances out of their DP Freddie Ljungberg and their go-to scorer Fredy Montero. Also they need to play off their crowd when at home because it should be a very large crowd for the post season.

Keys for Houston: First of all the discipline issues have to get in check here for the post season for Dominic Kinnear’s bunch. Good thing is no team is probably hungrier to get out of the first round than the Dynamo after last year’s upset to New York in this round. Stuart Holden needs to come up big as well in his first post season as chief playmaker of the Orange.