2011 MLS Cup Playoffs, Semifinals: Picks

2011 MLS Cup Playoffs, Semifinals: Picks

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On October 28, 2011
  • 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs, 2011 MLS Season, Features

David Beckham and Thierry Henry will hope to lead their clubs to a playoff win this weekend. (Getty Images)

I already submitted some picks for the playoffs over at BigDSoccer.com, you can read them there but seeing how I was wrong on one of them already I figured I can get a pass and just focus on the final eight here.

For the most part my thoughts haven’t changed too much since I made those picks earlier in the week. I still see the same favorites and the same potential upsets.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union: This one has potential. In a two game series a lot can happen and I would expect the game to be fairly even kill in Houston. Neither team will likely go all in on the first game. The thing I look at in series like this is experience, and the Dynamo seem to have just a little more of it than the Union do at this point. While the Union were my dark horse selection to start the year, the Dynamo were also a team I singled out to say they’d do well in the East.

Another thing to point out here is how hot the Dynamo are at the moment. I think they are one, if not the hottest team in MLS right now. Momentum is huge late in the year – especially in the playoffs.

This one will be close though. Philadelphia needs to lean on Sebastien Le Toux just a little longer and hope that they can get something out of Freddy Adu and Danny Mwanga. I do love the Union’s youth and speed in this series but as long as Geoff Cameron is leading the Dynamo defense I struggle going against the men in orange.

WVH Prediction: Houston 3, Philadelphia 2 (on aggregate)

Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting Kansas City: The other hot team in the East, Sporting Kansas City, takes on the defending MLS Cup champion in Colorado. The more I look into this one, the more I think this will be a tough draw for Sporting. Experience is key in playoff series like this one and the Rapids certainly know what it takes to make it far into the post season. Plus, they are playing off that whole ‘no respect’ card.

KC has the talent up top and the speed on the wings to really do some damage in this series though. Early goals can kill and if Sporting can get ones out of Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara, Omar Bravo and CJ Sapong, then I think this could a quick series for them.

We did see last night that Omar Cummings can and will step up when needed for Colorado. That is huge for the Rapids’ chances at a repeat here. They need more from him and Sanny Nyassi to help put pressure on a KC defense that does give up it’s fair share of goals. Pressure from the wings will also be key for the Rapids. Use some of the blueprints that are out there to beat this KC squad: defend early, attack with pace on the wings and cause issues in the middle part of the field.

This series should be a lot of fun to watch for the most part because of the pace and speed that each team has. I said in my other preview – when I thought it would be Dallas and KC – the series would be going to kicks – I still feel that way. Colorado should be able to attack at home this weekend but KC will push back and get the win in kicks at home next week.

WVH Prediction: SKC 1, Colorado 1 (KC advances 3-2 on penalty kicks)

Western Conference 

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake: I won’t go into my complaints that this is two of the top three teams in the league this year facing off in what really is the first round of the playoffs. This truly should be a fascinating series.

Salt Lake is coming into this post season as cold as the weather in Colorado this past week (I’m sure the weather was nasty in Utah as well). No wins in their last few games has people really questioning this club. They barely got the three seed in the playoffs due to poor form down the stretch, injuries and costly suspensions. They get some players back though for this series, which is so key. Kyle Beckerman will finally get to play alongside Javier Morales – for the first time since Morales’ injury earlier this season.

Seattle will have to own the midfield in this one with Beckerman and Morales patrolling things for Salt Lake. No Mauro Rosales for Seattle means Sigi Schmid’s bunch will need big time performances out of Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez and guys like Mike Fucito or Lamar Neagle.

Defensively is where this series should get fun. Both have solid defenses in the back with big names all around.

I think Salt Lake has to win at home to get the series win. Oddly enough the two split the season series against one another, and both won on the road. I think you throw that stat out of the window though for the playoffs.

In the end I like the Sounders to advance, but by a slim margin. I could easily see this one go to kicks as well.

WVH Prediction: Seattle 3, RSL 2 (on aggregate)

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. New York Red Bulls: Boy this one will be hyped up from coast to coast. MLS probably would have wished they could re-do the playoff format right now so these two would still have a chance at facing one another in the MLS Cup in November but here we are with two of the most profiled teams in the league.

The big names like David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Robbie Keane are great but the real battle will come down to which defense holds up well under pressure. We know that teams can get to New York through Tim Ream but we also know speed does kill the Galaxy. New York should have Luke Rodgers back for the game this weekend, which will help in a big way.

Even though the Red Bulls are a fairly hot team going into the playoffs, consider the teams they beat down the stretch like Dallas and even this LA team. Both were banged up and not at their best. Wins are wins, sure, but you can’t for a second consider that LA-NY game from a few weeks ago when looking at this series. LA was nothing like what they will be this weekend.

The travel does suck for both sides in this one but LA has the upper hand no matter what. NY has to get a lead early in this series or it will be all over. Experience plays a factor in this and that advantage goes to the Galaxy as well.

Still, saying all of that, this will be a fun series to watch just because of the names involved.

WVH Prediction: LA 2, NY 1 (on aggregate)