YCS MLS Cup Playoffs Preview

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Last weekend, MLS's 32-game regular season league campaign closed. Four teams were eliminated, and the natural selection continues with this and next weekend's MLS Cup Playoffs. 8 teams are still alive in the competition to bring home the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy November 12th in Frisco, TX, home of FC Dallas. Here's a preview of this weekend's Conference Semi-final matches.

This round consists of a two game series, each team hosting one match. The series is decided by total aggregate goals. (ie: If Team X wins the first leg 2-0, but loses the second game 3-0, Team X is out of luck, since they lost 3-2 on aggregate.) Ties go to extra time at the higher seed's stadium.

The marquee matchup of the first round is #3 Chicago Fire vs. #2 New England Revolution.
In an 11-year old league, grudges and fan malice are rare, but Fire-Revs is quickly becoming the bad-blood rivalry of the league. 2006 will be the sixth time in seven seasons that the Fire or Revs have ended the other's season. (Revs lead 3-2 in those encounters.) The series is a rematch of the 2005 Eastern Conference Final. The Fire won the 2006 season series 3-1-1, outscoring New Eng-er-land 9-7.

New England may be losing a number of players to Europe in the offseason, so the pressure is on to win NOW. The Fire on the other hand are a relatively youthful team, including their new goalkeeper, leaving franchise keeper Zach Thornton on the bench in favor of his understudy Matt Pickens. Pickens shone in the Fire's run to the U.S. Open Cup Championship last month, but is still wet behind the ears. ESPN analyst Eric Wynalda picked the Revs, saying they're the better team, but all fan biases aside, Eric Wynalda is full of shit and doesn't know what he's talking about most of the time. The Fire have been on a tear since the All-Star break going 12-3-1 since August 16 (8-3-1 in league play). New England is also hot, having won 4 of their last 5. I predict the Fire win the first leg 2-1 at home, then hold on for dear life against a VERY GOOD New England team, and maybe escape Foxboro with a 1-1 tie. I only make this pick because for whatever reason, Foxboro stopped being a bugaboo for Chicago this year, as the Fire won both contests held at Gillette. Whatever the outcome, I can't see this series being decided by more than one goal. In terms of intangibles, the Fire also hold the distinction of having won their season series against every team in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
My Pick: CHICAGO FIRE, 3-2 on aggregate

The other Eastern Semifinal is notable if only because it is this rivalry that spawned one of the first incidents of fan violence among soccer supporters in the US earlier this season . #4 Red Bull New York vs. Supporters Shield Winner #1 DC United. Leg One kicks off at Giants Stadium on Saturday. United may have been the best team in the regular season, but they've been playing like absolute SHITE since the All-star break. United have only won 3 league matches since the All-Star Break (3-6-6), and have lost 4 of their last 5.
DC is a talented team, but history has shown postseason performance follows how you play down the stretch. New York has been playing with urgency the last few weeks to wrest away the final playoff berth. DC has been coasting since July, and I don't think United can turn it on like a lightswitch. I'm calling it right now. The upset special.
My pick: RED BULL NEW YORK, 4-3 on aggregate

The marquee series out west is #2 Houston Dynamo vs. #3 CD Chivas USA. Houston is led by All-Star game MVP Dwayne DeRosario and US International Brian Ching. Houston is as solid a team all around as can be, but have been decidedly average as of late. (4-5-5 since the All-Star Break). Chivas is chock full of veterans, Mexican internationals, and Rookie of the Year candidate Jonathan Bornstein. The two teams tied their season series, each claiming a win and two draws from each other. I wouldn't be surprised to see this one go to PKs, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see Houston move on.

My pick: HOUSTON DYNAMO 5-3 on aggregate. (and dumbass blogger wouldn't let me upload their badge.)

Lastly, we come to #1 FC Dallas vs. #4 Colorado Rapids. Frankly, Dallas is stacked with American talent (Kenny Cooper), and international stars (Carlos Ruiz, Guatemala, Ronnie O'Brien, Ireland, and Saka Hislop, Trinidad). The "Toros" should move on to the Western Conference Final without too much difficulty, but then again, Dallas lost to Colorado in this same round last season.
My Pick: FC DALLAS, 4-1 on aggregate.

I know for a fact that I am going to be a wreck Saturday night in anticipation of the Fire's playoff tilt on Sunday, so let the playoffs begin....as soon as possible...for my sake.


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