2010 Playoffs: First Leg Thoughts

2010 Playoffs: First Leg Thoughts

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On November 1, 2010
  • 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs

Sign at Pizza Hut Park this past weekend where FCD beat RSL 2-1 in the playoff opener for the two clubs. (Getty Images)

The opening round of the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs went about as I thought it would. A couple home teams did their part while two road teams were able to snag slim leads heading into the return leg of the first round. Right now there is no clear cut team out there that looks more so than the others like winning it all here. Every series is a dog fight in some fashion and that my friends is great to see.

I will go series-by-series with my thoughts on each.

Colorado Rapids v. Columbus Crew (Rapids lead series 1-0)

For the most part Colorado did exactly what they needed to do on Thursday in their opener against the Crew. Took care of business at home and looked pretty convincing in the process. The only thing that worries me for them is the fact that they only got one goal. I know the Crew didn’t look great at times but they still have the talent to get the series win in Columbus this weekend.

The midfield battle in this one was fun to watch though. Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz got the best of Eddie Gavin and Brian Carroll. Mastroeni’s goal was just enough in this one as he was left all along in the box to hammer home the series’ lone goal. A lot of the eyes were fixed on Conor Casey and Omar Cummings but some how it was Mastroeni that proved to be the difference maker.

Andy Iro nearly leveled things late in the game, which would have been huge for the eastern conference club. Crew manager Robert Warzycha has a lot of work to do to get the Crew back in this series though. They need to work the wings better with guys like Emmanuel Ekpo. Colorado needs goals too as the one goal lead won’t cut it in this series.

FC Dallas v. Real Salt Lake (FCD lead series 2-1)

Probably still the game of the weekend for me. RSL came out early with a big goal from Fabian Espindola and quickly went into a defensive shell. But their Pizza Hut Park horrors continued to find them as Jeff Cunningham tied things up late in the first half. Cunningham always seems to have fun against his former clubs.

Things got physical in the second half with red cards to Javier Morales and then later to Atiba Harris. It seemed at that point that something special needed to happen to break the deadlock and with Eric Avila’s strike late it certainly happened. Dallas took the lead and held on to win the opening leg. If you haven’t seen Avila’s goal yet, do yourself a favor and watch it. I asked him after the game how he felt about it and he said he knew it was it the moment he struck it.

With the return leg at Rio Tinto, Dallas knows they can’t come out defensive though like RSL seemed to do on Saturday. Dallas held a lot of possession in this game and that will go a long way in winning this series. But winning at The Tinto won’t be easy seeing how RSL hasn’t dropped a game since the middle of 2009 there.

The loss of Morales hurts RSL more than they’ll want to admit, plus the possible injury to Alvaro Saborio could also do some damage to their attack. If Saborio can’t go they’ll really need a performance out of Robbie Findley who hasn’t looked decent since June. We say that RSL has the most depth in the league right now and this will certainly test that theory. Its certainly an uphill battle for the defending champions but they’re more likely to come out of this fine than most clubs would be.

San Jose Earthquakes v. New York Red Bulls (New York lead series 1-0)

This one was probably the one game that went nearly as planned in some expert’s eyes. The Red Bulls were solid in defense like they’ve been most of the season and their midfield did enough work to handle the San Jose side of things. Joel Lindpere’s strike in the second half was just enough to send the Red Bulls back east with a solid enough lead in the series.

San Jose must regroup here, as they’ve now dropped a couple games in a row (if you’re counting regular season games). Their defense just doesn’t look sound enough to handle the Red Bulls and they aren’t doing enough to find the feet or head of Chris Wondolowski. Frank Yallop’s decisions in this game could easily come back to haunt him here. I don’t think the use of Scott Sealy in the midfield worked but when your depth is stretched the way San Jose’s is it was probably the only move to make.

New York should have little problems this Thursday finishing this series out and advancing. The possible injury to Lindpere does worry me a bit but they have the people in place to make up for it.

LA Galaxy v.  Seattle Sounders FC (LA lead series 1-0)

Another quality game from the weekend. Once again Seattle falls short in the playoffs though despite having nearly all the momentum going into the game. But when you have a wonder strike from someone like Edson Buddle be the difference in this one you can see why LA came out on top. Damn that goal was something else huh? Its those kinds of things that can give a team just enough of a boost to win a series in the playoffs.

We knew the speed of the Sounders could cause LA some issues but yet again Bruce Arena’s club stepped up to the task and came away winners. They know having the one goal lead going into the return home means a bunch in the playoffs. Guys like Landon Donovan and Buddle just look so determined to get the MLS Cup right now.

Seattle has to regroup here, there’s no getting around it. Their offense was held in check by Donovan Ricketts who had a huge game, especially late. Seattle’s offense has to find their spread attack again here with Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero. If Montero fails to get going in the next game then you should go ahead and expect the Galaxy to be advancing here.