2012 MLS Cup Playoffs: Western Conference Preview

2012 MLS Cup Playoffs: Western Conference Preview

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On October 30, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, Features

Seattle and RSL look to be one of the best series in this year’s playoffs. (Getty Images)

Earlier I gave you a look at the knockout and semifinal rounds in the East. Now it is time for the West.

While the East has five teams that can easily win it all in my mind, the West isn’t that way. You’ll see what I am talking about here shortly.

So let’s get down to it. Just like with the Eastern Conference, once the finals are set, I’ll come back and preview those in this manner.

Knockout Round

LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

One team backed into the playoffs while the other team found their mojo and look a little more like their championship winning self here. Vancouver was a success story early on in the season with first year coach Martin Rennie getting his team in position to reach the post season. But with a slew of weird trades in the summer, the Whitecaps cooled off and then nearly fell flat as FC Dallas was chasing them in the playoff hunt. LA on the other hand started out slow and finished a lot stronger.

Unsung hero for LA: Omar Gonzalez. When healthy, the Galaxy have the league’s best defender. But it has been a long year for Gonzalez as he battled back from injury. He’s looked good but will look better with AJ DeLaGarza beside him. He’ll have to carry the weight of the defense until that happens though, something that may be tough to do.

Unsung hero for Vancouver: Jay DeMerit. When the Whitecaps were doing well it was due to their defense. DeMerit was a huge reason for that as he helped carry this club for the majority of the season.

How LA can win: Playing their game, through the midfield and finding Robbie Keane or Landon Donovan to do the finishing. LA has too many weapons here for Vancouver to deal with as it is. Bruce Arena is a master when it comes to the playoffs and he knows a thing or two about winning some big games.

How Vancouver can win: They have to get back to basics with their defense first mentality. It is what got them there in the first place when you really think about it. After that they’ll need to find ways to allow Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks space on the wings to use their speed. If there is one thing that LA has never been great at dealing with in the back it is speed.

The edge. Goes to LA here. This game is in their building and they have the experience factor that typically does well in the playoffs.

Conference Semifinals

San Jose Earthquakes vs LA/Vancouver winner

The Earthquakes are the league’s best team, coming in as the Supporters’ Shield winners. Chris Wondolowski is a goal scoring beast but the Quakes also have a couple other good scorers in Alan Gordan and Steven Lenhart. Should they get LA, this will be a great situation for MLS with the California Classico in the playoffs but should Vancouver spring the upset, the Quakes will have to figure out a way to beat a team that beat them twice in 2012.

Unsung hero for San Jose: Simon Dawkins. While everyone will focus on Wondo, Lenhart or Gordon, it is usually Dawkins that is found in space with room to shoot. His eight goals this season proved that he can be a threat in the lineup as well for San Jose, making the Quakes a four-man offensive threat.

How San Jose can win: By being themselves. Frank Yallop has instructed his team to just go for it here and it doesn’t seem like the Quakes have run out of gas just yet.

How LA/Vancouver can win: Going up early and holding on for dear life is one thing. Both teams are banking on the fact that the Quakes’ living on the edge mentality is going to come back to haunt them eventually here. As good as San Jose is there are weaknesses that both Vancouver and LA are good at finding. Not to mention San Jose has had a weird way of throwing in a stinker of a game every now and then this season.

The edge. It still leans towards San Jose. Honestly, had Seattle or RSL been the team that San Jose would face first it would be a different story in my mind. San Jose does well against really good teams but has struggled against some of the weaker teams.

Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake

This series has to be one of the toughest to figure out. Both teams are good, each has weaknesses and neither want to end this season in the semifinals. Let’s also not forget the fact that both are wanting to be back in the CCL next year and their only hope to do so will be by getting to a MLS Cup. Motivation is definitely there for both sides which will make this one an exciting series to watch.

Unsung hero for RSL: Jamison Olave. I nearly went with Alvaro Saborio here due to his goal scoring but Olave’s defense is what RSL needs in this series. He’s still one of the best defenders in the league and should RSL advance it will be largely due to him and his play in the back.

Unsung hero for Seattle: Fredy Montero. The health of Eddie Johnson remains a mystery right now and should the Grown-Ass Man not be able to play in this series, it will be Montero that has to lead the charge. Montero has stunk up the place in pervious post season trips though, that has to change.

How RSL can win: When healthy RSL still has a MLS Cup winning squad. That shouldn’t change too much for Jason Kreis in these playoffs. If Alvaro Saborio can get the ball in the back of the net and the defense remains tough, RSL will have a good shot at things here thanks to their experience and veteran lead squad.

How Seattle can win: The attack seems eager to do it and the defense is one of the best in the league. That is a deadly combination. They will ride the motivation to succeed in these playoffs and actually get a playoff series win for a change. Seattle needs to open big at home and then do what they do better than most squads, win or draw at Rio Tinto.

The edge. It’s a push for me. Seattle has motivation while RSL has experience. Both cancel each other out for me at the moment. This will certainly be the best series of the semifinal round, even better than the one rivalry in the East and a potential one in the West.