2012 MLS Playoffs: Conference Semifinal Second Leg Preview

2012 MLS Playoffs: Conference Semifinal Second Leg Preview

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On November 7, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, Features

Can Sporting KC battle back against Houston? (Getty Images)

Ah, the day after Election Day in America is always a fun one. Some folks are happy, others are grumpy and pissed off. Me, well, I am my usual optimistic self – I could care less about yesterday’s result on the national level.

Okay, enough of that, because we have some games to get to today. Three of them in fact.

Each series will be decided over the next two days and there is still a ton to play for in each series. I’ll concentrate on the three tonight and then preview the next one tomorrow.

Eastern Conference

D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls (series tied at 1 goal apiece) 

This one is an interesting one to say the very least. The series as we all know by now got flipped around when MLS and the two teams agreed to swap the home dates for the games due to Hurricane Sandy. So instead of this game being in D.C. like originally planned, it is in New York.

D.C. will be without Andy Najar for this one as he was red carded for stupidity. Okay, maybe not stupidity but for a stupid play were he fouled a guy, got a yellow and then in anger threw the ball at the center official. So yeah, stupidity sounds more like it.

Hans Backe’s team was 11-2-4 with a plus-16 goal difference at Red Bull Arena this year while United are just 5-9-3 away from RFK. Folks love to point out that home field advantage isn’t a big deal in the playoffs these days but it still is for teams like this. New York has more veteran players while D.C. is a tad younger (as they showed last weekend). Sometimes naive play out of a young team works in the playoffs but most of the time veterans step up and lead the way.

I think this one will still be as back and forth as the first game. United know how to get a result against New York while the Red Bulls need to prove that they can push the game for more than two or three minutes at a time. Thierry Henry has to show up in this game as he was pretty distant in the first leg. Same goes for Tim Cahill.

United on the other hand just need to frustrate the Red Bulls in the back and limit the service forward by making Henry track back more.

I think this one goes into extra time and maybe even PKs to decide it. The weather tonight in New Jersey is suppose to be cold, rainy and possibly snowy. That will favor a tight game that could go into the night with the PKs.

Sporting Kansas City vs Houston Dynamo (Houston leads series 2-0 on goals)

Sporting KC returns home with a lot of work to do. And I mean a lot. Down 2-0 isn’t horrible but it is definitely a bigger hole to be in than they’d like to be given their offense woes sometimes.

The Dynamo are 5-1 in the last two years in the playoffs. Yes, just one loss in a MLS Cup, that is it. This bunch knows what it takes to win games, big games at that. They won’t let their guard down for a moment in this one and really they can’t as SKC will be pressuring them even more in this one.

To give you a little more perspective as to what is in front of SKC tonight, they have to score three goals, something they did only three times this season. Sporting has to get their pressure game back on track. Houston limited the space in the midfield last weekend and really forced them to chase the game for 90 minutes. As good as this SKC team is, they cannot afford to chase the game.

Houston just has to play within themselves and not allow any big mistakes in the back. They know the kind of pressure they’ll be under in this one. They’ll be ready for just about anything.

I still believe this one will be tight in the end, possibly with a late goal that sends it in to overtime. But if Houston gets on the board at any point, this series is toast.

Western Conference

San Jose Earthquakes vs LA Galaxy (SJ leads series 1-0 on goals)

LA looked like an old club over the weekend but it nearly paid off in a draw. San Jose continues to get late game magic but even the latest one felt more like a gift than some of the crazy heroics that we’ve seen out of this bunch this season.

I felt good about LA in this series from the start and I still do but with San Jose having the lead going home I don’t feel as confident. San Jose went undefeated (9-0-6) are at Buck Shaw this season.

San Jose can sit back a little more in this one and allow LA to pressure, which opens them up for the counter attack as we all know. San Jose is killer on the counter and as we’ve seen in the past LA struggles with speed.

It is hard to see LA going through on this one which kind of spells the end of an era with this bunch. Then again, you do wonder if this group somewhere has one last hurrah in their bag of tricks. With Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane, you just never know.