2013 MLS Cup Playoffs: Semifinal Preview

2013 MLS Cup Playoffs: Semifinal Preview

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On November 1, 2013
  • 2013 MLS Playoffs, Features
Can Seattle knock off Portland this weekend? (Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

Can Seattle knock off Portland this weekend? (Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

Earlier in the week I gave you my knockout round picks within my overall playoff preview. Today I’ll go a step further by breaking down the four weekend series and give you my selections in them. This will also be similar to my usual Weekend Outlook posts that I have up during the regular season.

1. Experience matters. So far we’ve seen two teams advance in these playoffs thanks large in part to their experience. Houston looked dominant last night against Montreal because they acted and played like they had been there before. The Impact didn’t look at all like a team that was good enough to advance on the road in the playoffs and the Dynamo took care of business in quick order last night with two early first half goals.

The Sounders didn’t look great at times on Wednesday against Colorado but they managed to do what was needed to get by a very young Colorado side. I see more of that going on this weekend with teams like New England and even one like Salt Lake falling due to the inexperience factor. Young players can step up in the playoffs, don’t get me wrong, but I see players with experience in the post season making more of an impact this time around.

2. Defense also matters. They say defense wins championships and in MLS that cliche rings so true this time of the year. Look at the two teams that already advanced so far, they won thanks to shutouts at home. Look for more of that in these semifinals Kansas City and Portland had two of the best defenses in the league this season, New England and LA were also pretty good too.

3. Seeds won’t matter much. Honestly, once we get into the home-and-home series like this, the seed factor is nearly worthless in my opinion. Home field advantage will help New York and Portland, sure, but they both have to hit the road to start out with. The opening leg of the series is really all about testing the waters to see what the 180 minutes will be like. Some teams will play it safe, others will test the boundaries.

Eastern Conference

Sporting KC at New England Revolution: Defense meets defense. I love this matchup really as both teams excite me in different ways. I thought New England was one of the weaker playoff teams but I love to be proven wrong here. Their youth will play a factor in this series in both a good way and a bad way. Good in the sense that they may be ignorant enough to not care about the moment and just play through it. Bad in the sense that they could get overwhelmed very easily. Sporting KC has proven they can win anywhere this season (eight road wins, only five losses), so we can’t count them out at all. I see both teams pushing things from the start but I believe this one will be won in KC next week.

WVH Prediction: New England 1, SKC 1

New York Red Bulls at Houston Dynamo: Will Houston be gassed for this one? Or are they just getting started here? Hard to tell but they looked very good last night against Montreal. Throw in the factor that the last time New York came to town they embarrassed them in front of their fans, you got to think Dominic Kinnear will use that as motivation to get an early lead in this series. New York just needs to come in to Texas and seize the moment. They have the big names that can do it but they need to grab the early advantage in this one. If not, they could be in a hole going back to the Big Apple next week.

WVH Prediction: Houston 2, New York 1

Western Conference

Real Salt Lake at LA Galaxy: Experience versus …well experience. Yes, Salt Lake is younger this year but they still have a core group of players that will know how to get it done. The big thing I worry about with RSL is their offense. Can they get it done if Alvaro Saborio goes cold like he did late last year? Someone else needs to step up to help him out. On the other side, can we see the best of LA with Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez all healthy and playing at the same time? Their health for 180 minutes is key in this series for their three-peat chances. I like them at home in this one, they’ve shown to do well in these situations and that experience will prove to be vital.

WVH Prediction: LA 2, RSL 0

Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders: Rivalry plus playoffs equals big time fun for MLS. The league has been dreaming of this series since these teams joined the league. I think this one comes down to whether or not Seattle shows up for 180 or if they only appear in patches. They looked better on Wednesday against Colorado and part of that was getting Clint Dempsey more involved in the attack. We know that Portland loves to live and die with their scoring by committee, will that be a factor in these playoffs? I think Portland will do enough to frustrate the Sounders in this leg of the series, which means it will be won in Portland next week.

WVH Prediction: Seattle 1, Portland 1