2013 MLS Playoffs: What We Learned

2013 MLS Playoffs: What We Learned

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On November 11, 2013
  • 2013 MLS Playoffs, Features
Salt Lake celebrated in style last night. (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)

Salt Lake celebrated in style last night. (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)

Major League Soccer heads into a long break after the first legs of the conference finals. Both conferences opened up their finals this past weekend with mixed results. Let’s take a moment to figure out what we’ve learned.

1. Salt Lake looked great at home. I think that goes without saying, Salt Lake absolutely dominated at home last night to the tune of a 4-2 win over Portland. Goals count so much in these series and four goals in the opening leg is an amazing start. Give credit to Jason Kreis for finding the weaknesses that have been in the Portland defense all along this season. You spread them out, play at them with speed and put just nominal pressure on their center backs, you’ll score goals.

But the schedule also helped Salt Lake in this one. They played LA in the middle of the week in the conference semifinals at home and were able to remain there for the weekend match with Portland. I don’t think you can underscore how valuable that was for them in this series to start out with. Sure they had some injuries to deal with but it was more important to remain at home while Portland had to travel after beating their main rivals earlier in the week. 

2. SKC takes valuable draw home. One thing that was certain in the Houston-SKC match on Saturday was how exhausted both teams looked by the 60th minute. I really felt both teams had little left in the gas tank after expending a ton of energy to get to the conference finals on Wednesday night in their overtime wins.

If anything, SKC took the lead in this series by going home without getting scored on. I know Houston had a shutout as well to take on the road with them but I never felt like Houston looked any better than SKC on Saturday.

3. Morales the magician. I’m glad the MLS MVP votes only counted for the regular season because if the playoffs were included, it would be an easy vote for RSL’s Javier Morales at this point. Morales guided RSL last night in a big way but I loved how he challenged the Portland defense to make them take the ball from him before he would lay it off to a striker or another winger. He created the chances and really kept Portland from having any sort of chance.

But also give credit to the RSL attackers like Devon Sandoval for staying in constant motion off the ball. I really felt like last night was Sandoval’s coming out party for MLS. The dude stepped up in a massive way as RSL needed someone to replace Alvaro Saborio’s attacking presence up front.