The conference finals kick off on Sunday afternoon as MLS moved the Eastern Conference final to Sunday due to the snow storm in New York. Both finals are now set so it is time to break each down before they get underway.
D.C. United vs. Houston Dynamo
The Dynamo are back in the conference finals for what seems like the billionth time against a team that hasn’t been there in ages. United let their emotions run wild against New York and it worked out well. But going up against a veteran squad like Houston, they’ll have to get their emotions in check if they want to advance and host the MLS Cup.
Unsung Hero for Houston: Bobby Boswell. This guy was a total beast in the KC series and I see him being a big part of Houston’s success in this round as well. Boswell has done well at stepping into the leader role in the back line once Geoff Cameron left this summer.
Unsung Hero for D.C.: Brandon McDonald. I’m going defensive here as well and I believe McDonald doesn’t get as much love as he should. He’s a big reason why the United defense has improved so much over the last two seasons and he is a calming force in the back.
How Houston can win: Simple, by playing their style of soccer. Dominic Kinnear is a master this time of year and he’s getting plenty out of the right players on the field. The Dynamo depth is also showing up as role players off the bench are doing their part. Houston will need to do exactly what they did in the SKC series, win a strong game at home and then do just enough on the road to advance.
How D.C. can win: First of all they have to get their emotions in check. Red cards to youngsters like Bill Hamid and Andy Najar in the New York series were a signal that this team still has a long ways to go before they are a big time force in this league. They are damn close though, damn close. I think just playing with tempo and not forcing a lot of dump mistakes in the back that give Houston set pieces will go a long way in this series.
The edge: Goes to Houston for me. The Dynamo have been there and with this being a two game series and not a one-off, I like their chances better.
LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders
Seattle finally found a way to win their first playoff series in a nail-biter against Salt Lake. Now they advance to play the LA Galaxy, a team that has “been there” many times before, including last year’s title run. LA has the right mix of talent and leadership to get the job done while Seattle hopes their energy on the field will be enough to get them to their first MLS Cup.
Unsung hero for LA: Tommy Myers. Hey, everyone knew that San Jose would target the rookie but he did very well. It also didn’t hurt that Omar Gonzalez played his ass off in the two games against the Quakes too. That made Myers job a lot easier against the high-powered San Jose offense.
Unsung hero for Seattle: Mario Martinez. The Honduran got the game and series winner against Salt Lake. But that isn’t why I like him here in this spot, I think we’re finally seeing exactly why Seattle went out of their way to sign him this summer. He has a load of talent and on the right stage, he can perform brilliantly.
How LA can win: Same as the San Jose series, using their leadership and experience to guide them. Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham all looked like the big time stars that they are in the second game against San Jose and the result was a big one, 3-1 over the Supporters’ Shield winners on the road.
How Seattle can win: By not letting LA get the best of them. These two have traded some big blows to one another over the years and Seattle knows LA can beat them at any point. Seattle just has to play their game, use tempo to drive the offense like they did against Salt Lake and press the back four of LA as much as possible.
The edge: For me is a split but I lean towards LA. The Galaxy experiences just matters a little more to me in this series.