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Monday Morning Centerback: Should the higher MLS seeds be worried?

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Four matches, zero wins and four tough tasks to accomplish heading into the second set of first-round MLS playoff games. That is the reality facing the top four seeds in the MLS playoffs as they return home to host game two of their respective series.

Should teams like Columbus and Chicago be worried? Can Houston or LA really feel safe heading into a winner-take-all second leg? Is it safe to say that the New York Red Bulls' stunning upset of Houston in Houston last year has all teams on notice that nothing can be taken for granted in the MLS playoffs?

In a word, yes.

In the Eastern Conference, we saw two underdogs not just leave their home legs with victories, but also with confidence earned by impressive performances. How can RSL not feel confident after watching the Columbus Crew, the defending MLS champions and reigning Supporters Shield winners, bench MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto and field a defensive lineup out of essentially fear of being blown out at Rio Tinto Stadium? How can the Revolution not stroll into Toyota Park later this week brimming with confidence after taking the Fire's best punch and still winning?

The higher seeds fared much better in the West, where Houston withstood the pressure of playing in a packed Qwest Field, while the LA Galaxy made some truly awful blunders and still came away with a point.

Houston has reason to feel good heading home to Robertson Stadium. Negating Seattle's home-field advantage was crucial, and doing so with a hobbled Ricardo Clark made the shutout the Dynamo pitched at Qwest Field even more impressive. The Sounders have to come away from that draw disappointed at all the chances that came close but missed, and all the possession it enjoyed but did little with. Poor finishing has kept the Sounders from being a truly elite team all season, and right now it could doom the expansion club to an early exit.

The Galaxy's weakness on Sunday was a familiar weakness, but not this year. The same defensive frailties the club endured in years past made a cameo appearance on Sunday as Chivas USA took advantage of lax Galaxy defending to score two goals (and Chivas USA scoring two goals is like most other teams scoring four). Will rookie defender Omar Gonzalez be able to shaky off his poor performance in game two and show us the rookie of the year favorite he has been this season? He had better, because you can bet that Preki will be unleashing speed at the Galaxy's back-line in the second leg, with Maykel Galindo the key to the Goats' chances of the upset.

Los Angeles shouldn't be too concerned. If anything, the fact that the Galaxy managed to tie with its defense being shaky and without Landon Donovan or David Beckham delivering dominating performances is promising. You have to like the Galaxy's chances of seeing one of its stars putting in a big game on Sunday, when the crowd at Home Depot Center will be made up mainly of Galaxy fans.


  1. I would’nt say the Crew played for a draw. Frankie and Padula were flopping everywhere, and Sideshow Bob was near crying cuz Olave shut him down. I heard what they were saying on the field. The Crew where panicing, and trying to get on the same page. If you watch that game again, you’ll see countless miscommuniction between them, bad passing, balls kicked straight out of bounds. RSL took it to them, and everyone in this country won’t give RSL credit for it. RSL will be the first mls team to be in the Eastern and Western conference finals back to back.

  2. Someone told me it was 0-0 and Houston committed a foul every three minutes. Someone thought they were in a rugby match. I wish I missed it.

  3. Call me crazy, but look at the stats.

    Seattle had 14 shots, to Houston’s 9.
    Seattle managed 2 SOGs, Houston had 4.

    No one played for a tie in that series.

    Columbus, on the other hand…

  4. Considering how awful RSL are away from Utah, I think the Crew are safe….for now. I think Seattle will manage to get a result in Houston. The Dynamo have been just plain terrible overall for the last three months. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think the Fire are done. I picked them to win the East at the start of the year, but I think they simply don’t have what it takes to win this series. And finally, I think the LA/Chivas series is a toss-up.

  5. You also realize that there is no away goal rule in MLS. Should the RSL/Crew game end in a tie the game would go into overtime and then, if still tied, to pks.

  6. You realize, Jeter, that if the CBUS/RSL match is 2-1, RSL actually goes on because it would be 2-2 aggregate and RSL has an away goal?

  7. Don’t underestimate the experience RSL gained last year in the second leg, playing away at Chivas. They went up 1-0 at home and then played Chivas to a 2-2 tie. Also, don’t let their away record taint their chances in your minds. They were just as terrible on the road last year and did what they needed to do to advance. Given the recent struggles of this Columbus team, I think RSL does just enough to move on.

  8. the wonderful world of parity….

    few teams have any true advantage…

    NE and Chi both have injuries, both have solid players, and both can score at any given moment.

    LA and CUSA are both tough competitiors but both able for flops

    Sea and Hou are solid sides as well, neither side has any true adv. except for Houston’s experience at this point in the season

    Crew and RSL, though Crew seem to be favored they are entering the playoffs on a couple losses. Then you travel to RSL play in the elevation where RSL has a SOLID home record. Things will definitely change in CLB

    what does the higher seed really do for a team?? basically an extra home game :-/, outside of that, any team in this playoff can beat any other…

  9. The galaxy did not play well yesterday. But if you think that they are going to do that for the second week in a row then you obviously underestimate the veteran factor the galaxy have. There is no way that beckham and donovan lose this series. Also I know Omar had a bad game, but the back pass that led to chivas second goal should have been thwarted by sean franklin. If you watch the replay he lets the ball to continue to go through to ricketts which lead to galindo getting the goal. Besides that buddle looked vastly improved compared to past weeks. And if he can get the magic going that he had last year then the glalxy will be hard to stop.

  10. I must say, yesterday was first time I’ve ever been to a Chivas Galaxy match where I even remotely felt like Los Angeles was the away team.

  11. Why? If you take out goals scored from defensive blunders, Chivas took it 1-0. True, closing out games has been a problem for for the Goats but the Galaxy have their defensive weaknesses as well. I think are better Chivas up top (Galindo, Lillinston, Santos, Braun, vs.Buddle, Gordon, Donovan, Kirovski? Please, Donovan’s the only real threat.) Mid-field is fairly even with maybe the Galaxy get a slight edge, (I’d be an idiot if I didn’t acknowledge Beckham’s presence and skill) defense could go either way depending on form and whose on the field.

  12. I think Houston’s loss to the Red Bulls last year is bad news for Seattle. I can’t see a veteran group coming in overconfident this time around. As for the Superclassico, LA is overrated. They were gifted two goals yesterday. Start Galindo up front and Chivas has a chance to win that. I expect the Crew will win in extra time and I think NE upsets Chicago.

  13. MLS changes the rules to benefit LA and you guys still suck.

    LA (as old as the) Galaxy.

    I’m pulling for LA in that one, only because I think you’ll be easier to knock off in the 2nd round.

  14. The Galaxy will ALWAYS represent LA. Chivas USA will always be second fiddle, regardless of how well they do in MLS.

    Chivas USA = LA Clippers
    Rent a stadium/arena from the other LA team? Check.
    Red, blue, and white team colors? Check.
    1/3 filled stadiums even when the team is winning? Check.
    Constant injury problems? Check.
    Pretty much irrelevant in the LA sports scene? Check.

  15. I must say, except for Schelotto, the lineup the Crew used has (sadly) been the near first choice norm for Warzycha this last month, with Carroll and O’Rourke the CM pairing.

    That’s where the offensive troubles start. They are good defensively, but offer nothing in the attack.

    Still, I have to believe Chicago and Columbus rally at home, though I never underestimate the Revs, and Columbus’ form is worrisome.

    In the West, I think it’s a toss up. Seattle can always score and Houston collapsed at home last year after getting the draw on the road.

    Is LA still capping attendance at 12,000 out of fear of lots of Goats fans showing up? Smells like second fiddle to me. So much for the “Superclub.”

  16. Chivas scoring two goals is like any other team scoring two goals. However Chivas scoring three goals this year is like any other team scoring six. There’s a difference, but go ahead, underestimate them, everyone else does.

    (SBI-Who’s underestimating? I think they could very well win that series, but I still think LA takes it.)

  17. my predictions:

    Galaxy 1, Chivas 0 in overtime

    Columbus 2, Real Salt Lake 1

    Chicago 3, New England 0

    Houston 3, Seattle 2

    Houston beats LA to win the West

    Chicago beats Columbus in the East

    Houston wins ANOTHER MLS Championship!

  18. those picks are pretty much on target.

    we have to remember something about each game so far. the home sides did well mainly because, well, they’re at home. this time around, the venues turn in favor of the higher seeds. One would expect them to return the favor to the underdogs.

    You’re right about columbus and their lineup. they were trying not to get blown out. then again, isn’t that the point of the first leg match on the road? as long as you don’t get blown away, you’re where you want to be. Salt Lake is horrible on the road. They’re awesome at home. Alexi Lalas said it well before the LA-Chivas match. “RSL wanted multiple goals at home, and they didn’t get them. that’s a problem.”


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