How the West Will Be Won; MLS Cup Playoffs Continue

By Kevin Koczwara

So far my predictions haven’t played out so well. I thought New York would be able to walk over San Jose on Thursday night. I was wrong. San Jose stormed into New York and got the two goal win the team needed after falling behind, 1-0, in the home leg less then a week earlier.

The Quakes, 3-1, win in New York was astonishing and entertaining as Bobby Convey put on his best Steven Gerrard performance.

Both Gerrard and Convey almost single-handily took their team from the brink of lossing, and put the game on their shoulders.

Gerrard’s second half hat-trick in Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Anfield over Napoli in a UEFA Cup match was just another miracle moment for the 30-year-old. Coming on as a substitute and leading the Reds back from the brink of a loss isn’t anything new for him – check 2005 Champions League Final and the 2006 FA Cup win over West Ham, just for a few.

Convey did similar to Gerrard on Thursday in New York, but with a twist. Convey and the Quakes were down a goal and playing at a raucous Red Bull Arena, yet Convey pulled his team level on aggregate with a 6th minute goal from just inside the box.

Convey was playing left back, but he might as well have been playing Superman with how much ground he covered. Convey would score another goal and be a major factor throughout. Chris Wondolowski added the final touches with his first playoff goal. San Jose has now done something not many people expected: They beat up on a top-seeded and All-Star New York Red Bulls team at Red Bull Arena.

Now, the road to the MLS Cup Finals goes through the West and the quarter-finals after the Colorado Crew were knocked out by a tough Colorado Rapids side.Nevermind the finals, could be an all west coast affair.

Battle of Los Angeles, Sounders Need to Play Hard Ball

The Seattle Sounders didn’t look the hottest team in Major League Soccer last Sunday when the Los Angeles Galaxy visited a rocking Qwest Field. The Sounders had the best Halloween costume I saw all night while handing out candy.

Seattle did not look like the same team that won 5 of its last 6 games and scored 13 goals during that time. It looked more like a team that should be watching the playoffs at home, while Los Angeles continued to be the best defensive team on the road in the history of the MLS — 7 goals allowed in 16 games after shutting out Seattle, 1-0.

Now, to say Seattle didn’t at least deserve a tie is saying a bit much. The Sounders defended well. If it weren’t for a moment of brilliance by Edson Buddle than the game would have easily been a 0-0 draw, as neither team could find an accessible way into its opponents penalty area.

But, Seattle’s attack in the second half was an astonishing approach for a team that had excelled at getting the ball wide, playing it on the ground, and setting up its goals with a solid counter attack. The Sounders decided to kick the ball long in the air to Omar Gonzalez, wait, he isn’t on the Sounders. The big Galaxy center back ate up any and all balls that came his way in the air over the smaller Freddy Montero. And the Sounders didn’t give up on the fruitless strategy.

Is there any good news for Seattle as the Sounders head to Los Angeles? Yes.

Los Angeles conceded almost three times as many goals (19) at home as away, and lost one more game at home than away (4 opposed to 3). But if the Sounders want to get its first playoff win and move onto the club’s first ever quarter-final in its second season than the team will need to go back to what works: playing the ball wide and using Sanna Nyassi and Steve Zakuni to get in behind the defense and cross the ball into Nkufo and Montero in the box, because they will finish their chances.

For Los Angeles, the Galaxy just need to keep playing its game and imposing its will on the speeder Sounders. Los Angeles may not have the explosive counter that Seattle posses, but it does have plenty of big time players who should show up and implement Bruce Arena’s defensive scheme to a tee, again.

Match at Rio Tinto Will Be Won in the Midfield

I don’t know what is a bigger advantage for FC Dallas going into Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, the one goal lead or the unavailability of Javier Morales for Real Salt Lake.

Now, the Royals haven’t lost at home all season, but they haven’t had to play for a goal like they will tonight after losing at Pizza Hut Park last Thursday, 2-1. Morales will be unavailable because he has to serve a one match ban for the red card he received last week after earning two yellows. And anyone who has watched RSL this year knows the importance of Morales.

The Argentine attacking-midfielder pulls the strings for Salt Lake. He can break down a defense with a little bit of skill or a killer pass. His free kicks strike his teammates heads with accuracy and power and an attached GPS system set for the back of the net. He sets up goals, and he can score goals. RSL’s two-headed dragon in the midfield will only have one head with Kyle Beckerman trying to hold down play.

The Hoops will need to control and press Beckerman as he tries to pull double duty for RSL. If Dallas can get him out of rhythm then it will be a long night and an unexpected early exit for the defending MLS Cup champions.

For Dallas, the miracle season could continue if they can keep their one goal lead and the team’s dream of reaching its first ever MLS Cup final. Dallas will need to play though its playmaker David Ferreira, and he should be able to have more space to operate as Beckerman will have to push hirer up on the field to help RSL get the two goals it needs.

It should be another great set of games.

Kevin Koczwara can be reached at kevin.koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.

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