- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On November 4, 2011
- 1 Comments
- 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs, 2011 MLS Season, Features
So I went three for four in the semifinals with my picks. Real Salt Lake knocked out Seattle in what was a very entertaining series. The other three were good as well, but the conference finals should be very good to watch.
We’re down to three more games this season – the Conference finals on Sunday – and the MLS Cup on November 20. So much soccer is in the books this year, it is hard to believe that we’ve gotten to this point so quickly. I’ll reflect on the season later on this month when it is all said and done.
Eastern Conference Finals – Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo:
This should be a fun first game on Sunday. Two clubs that no one expected to be here six months ago are now 90 minutes away from a MLS Cup berth. Amazing. Kudos to both managers for getting their clubs there as well. Dominic Kinnear and Peter Vermes have dealt with a lot of different things this season and each have gotten their clubs further than most had anticipated this season.
KC hosting this game certainly helps their cause here too. At home they are a completely different animal to face. Their speed and pace on the wings and up front is tough to handle. The main concern for me is still with their defense – though so far this post season they’ve done well at keeping others off the board. As long as tempers don’t flare in the back and they don’t expose themselves to a counter attack, they should be able to pack a lot of pressure on the Dynamo.
On the flip side, the Dynamo are coming into this match as one of the hottest clubs in the league. Their “we can’t win on the road” mentality is completely gone at this point as they’ve been able to win in tough places like Philadelphia and Dallas in the past two months. Their fire and desire to win is there right now and their veteran core is really leading the charge.
This match really boils down to Houston’s experience against Sporting’s youth and speed.
The Houston defense will have their work cut out for them as their last loss came in this same building against this KC squad. Teal Bunbury is playing extremely well at this point in the year and others are stepping up when needed as well.
When it is all said and done with this game, I still like Sporting KC to move on from this game and advance to MLS Cup. Their home field advantage will be tough to overcome at this point. The Dynamo will make this a quality game and I do see them pushing Sporting to the limit. This one feels like it could go to extra time but Sporting wins it late.
WVH Prediction: Sporting KC 2, Houston 1
Western Conference Finals – LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake
This one is a biggie. A rematch of the 2009 MLS Cup. We know what the Galaxy bring to the table with their stars and all that they’ve put into this season. Real Salt Lake on the other hand presents a steep challenge for LA. They’ve got the experience and the determination to get back to MLS Cup.
Salt Lake has to come out firing in this game from the start. Getting Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, and Alvaro Saborio involved early and often is key. Pressure LA like the Red Bulls did to start the game last night and good things will happen. A high tempo against LA is what the Galaxy struggle at defending. Also, getting Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave back will be huge for them if they are both good to go for Sunday’s contest.
For LA it is simple, play your style of game and the rest should take care of itself. They have the home field factor – a place they haven’t lost in all season – and they’re going to get Juninho back in the midfield now that his suspension is over.
I know a lot of people would have rather have seen LA and Seattle in this match but let’s not get too down about it. Salt Lake is still a quality club, even though they’ve only one once in the last month and a half or so.
I think in the end the home field factor is going to be a big part of this game for LA. They’re home, they are comfortable there and Salt Lake will be coming down from Seattle just happy to still be alive in this competition. It will be a good Conference finals but if Salt Lake doesn’t start fast, this game could get out of reach for them as it goes on. Galaxy get by but just barely as this one will get frantic towards the end.
WVH Prediction: LA 2, Salt Lake 1