MLS Conference Finals Preview
With both of Major League Soccer’s regular-season conference winners—the San Jose Earthquakes out west and Sporting Kansas City in the east—ousted in the conference semifinal round, we are now down to a somewhat unexpected final four in this year’s playoffs. Out west, the Seattle Sounders will take on the defending champion LA Galaxy, while in the east it will be the Houston Dynamo against DC United.
The matchup between the Sounders and Galaxy is perhaps the more intriguing of the two. It features the #3 and #4 seeds after both teams scored first-round upsets over Real Salt Lake and San Jose, respectively, and these are arguably the two most high-powered offenses in the entire league. Seattle took two of three against Los Angeles during the regular season. Both of their victories were shutouts that came at home—2-0 and 4-0—while the Galaxy returned the favor by shutting out the Sounders 1-0 in their only home game less than two weeks ago. The Sounders possess incredible skill and goal-scoring prowess, but the Galaxy have been a markedly different team during the second half of the season going 12-4-3 since losing to the lowly Philadelphia Union back on July 4th, so this one has the potential to be a real barnburner depending on which Galaxy team shows up. Keep in mind that both teams have won games this season where they scored at least 5 goals, so this could be an exciting series.
The Eastern finals should be noteworthy as well, but in a less obvious way. Like the Seattle-Los Angeles series, the home team has won every matchup this season, but what makes this series interesting is that it features the only #5 seed left in the playoffs—The Houston Dynamo. Like the Sounders, the Dynamo managed to take 2 of 3 from DC united this season, and their last match-up was won by convincingly by the Dynamo as they obliterated United 4-0 at home. The Dynamo snuck by Sporting Kansas City on aggregate goals after winning 2-0 at home and losing 1-0 in Kansas City. DC United, on the other hand, drew 1-1 with the New York Red Bulls in their opener at home and stole victory from the Red Bulls in the 88th minute of their matchup in New York last night, so they know all about how to win under pressure. Also of note is the fact that apart from San Jose, these two teams had the fewest number of home losses in all of the MLS (Houston did not lose, and United tied San Jose for second place with only one home loss), while both lost more than half of their road matches. This could very well prove to be a series that is decided by aggregate goals.
My prediction is that Seattle will win with an aggregate score of 7-5, and Houston will defeat United with an aggregate total of 4-2.