Red Bulls and Rapids Need to Build Off of Last Week's Wins in MLS East Semi-Finals

New York Looks to End Wondo and Quakes Miracle Run

By Kevin Koczwara

The New York Red Bulls have made an amazing turnaround from last season’s poor form, abysmal really. And so have the San Jose Earthquakes, thanks in large part to the play of Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski.

Wondo’s 18 goals this season for the Quakes were more than half of the team’s total and led the league, the man was simply on a roll since breaking into the squad’s starting 11. But the striker was shut down in the first leg of the two leg fixture with New York.

Newcomer Joel Lindpere for the Red Bulls put his mark on the MLS Cup playoffs with the winning goal in the first leg in San Jose. Lindpere has been the sparkplug in the Red Bulls’ engine this season and his goal last weekend put New York in the driving seat for tonight’s fixture at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

New York should be able to handle Wondo and company, especially if French striker Thierry Henry has finally recovered from his knee injury. The former Barcelona and Arsenal striker hasn’t played in three matches and could be the final missing attacking piece for New York in the playoffs and his presence along with Juan Pablo Angel should be able to push the Quakes on the counter-attack as San Jose tries to score the two goals the team needs to advance.

Rapids Try to Sweep Crew Away

The Colorado rapids set the stage for the MLS Cup playoffs last Thursday with Pablo Mastroeni’s game-winning goal. The Rapids took the first leg of their semi-inal playoff match with the Columbus Crew, 1-0, in Colorado and will look to keep their one-goal advantage in Columbus against a Crew team that has enjoyed success in front of its home crowd this season with a 10-3-2 record.

The Crew will have to overcome the one-goal deficit to beat a solid Rapids team that doesn’t travel well (4-6-5), but boasts Omar Cummings and Conor Casey in the attack. Cummings was a handful for the Rapids in Colorado last week, and will surely try to be as effective this Saturday. The Crew will have to find a way to keep Cummings away from the penalty area and slow his runs out wide that open up space for Casey and the Rapids’ midfield down. If the Crew can’t contain the Jamaican international, it will be another long night for Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum who is filling in for injured William Hesmer.

If Colorado can lock up an early goal, the team will more than likely be moving on to play the winner of New York and San Jose in the quarter-inals because a two-goal deficit is a lot to overcome in one game when Matt Pickens is goal for the opponent. Pickens had a .733 save percentage in the regular season and worked in seven shutouts in 2010. He has been a steady goalkeeper in the MLS since getting the full-time job in 2007 for the Chicago Fire.

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