Well the regular season is over, I am getting back to full health and so I thought why not rank the 8 playoff teams via my traditional power rankings:
8. Columbus Crew - down 1 goal after first leg
Well the Crew were lucky to get out of Denver only being down 1 goal to the Colorado Rapids, they were out shot 15-9 and Colorado looked the better of the two sides, but neither was really impressive. Columbus gave up in the 68th when they pulled GBS and Lenhart, for Garey and Mendoza. The best effort on the night was Iro's late header that was dealt with by Pickens. Something will need to change in a big way if the Crew are going to make a contest out of their series.
7. San Jose Earthquakes - down 1 goal after first leg
Losing the first match of a series at home is a dangerous thing, getting out shot at home 13 to 12, not impressive, getting only 3 shots on goal to New York's 7 speaks volumes about the Quakes reliance on Wondolowski for their offense. At least the Quakes put up a fight and were a closer match to their opponents pace and quality than did some teams. For the Quakes they will either need to get the "wonder kid" to step up in New York, or find someone else to contribute some offense, New York can be beat but without more than one guy providing offense it will be a struggle.
more after the jump:
6. Seattle Sounders - down 1 goal after first leg
It is hard to rebound after losing at home, but for the Sounders I think they can take some relief in knowing that for most of the match they were the better team. Just one "turf goal" was the difference and then it was trying to get past the Galaxy defense for 52 minutes. Seattle out shot LA 15 to 10, had a 8 to 5 advantage in shots on goal, the Sounders also had to deal with some questionable calls by Ricardo Salazar. The question comes down to finishing and for Seattle they need to get Montero back on the scoring path to give the Sounders a real chance to overcome the 1 goal deficit when they get down to the Home Depot Center. Based on their play, they should at least be able to make it interesting.
5. Real Salt Lake - down 1 goal after first leg
Of the 4 playoff matches the Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas match was the most entertaining, the one where it was clear that both teams were there to play for the win and while RSL found themselves on the losing end it was due to a blistering shot (best of the weekend) late from Eric Avila that was the difference between a 1-1 draw and the eventual 2-1 win for Dallas. Both sides saw players get very emotional during the match and in the end both side ended up playing with 10 men. It is clear the impact was greater on RSL who lost Javier Morales on a silly first yellow card and then a reckless challenge (for a guy who knows he already has a yellow) that earns him a second card and being sent off in the 69th minutes. Atiba Harris was given a straight red for an elbow in the 75th minute, but you have to believe the impact of losing Morales for the second leg will impact RSL more. The two sides faced off at "El Castillo" less than a month ago and that one ended in a 2-0 win for RSL, I look forward to the second leg of this one more than any other.
4. Los Angeles Galaxy - up 1 goal after first leg
Winning ugly is still winning, but with both Donovan and Beckham spending more time on defense than anywhere else it wasn't an impressive effort from LA. They simply looked to bunker and counter from the start and even more when they got their early lead. It sure seemed as if the fouls were more than 16 by LA and 13 by the Sounders, but there is one area that I have to give the Galaxy full credit for, they forced Zakuani and Nyassi out of their game and that impacted the overall performance of the Sounders. LA will head home with a one goal lead and their 9-4-2 home record isn't very impressive but their +7 goal differential means that they will likely advance.
3. Colorado Rapids - up 1 goal after first leg
It was only a win at home, it was only a 1-0 win, but it could have and should have been 3-0 and given the lack of creativity from Columbus you have to wonder if it is only a matter of time before C&C strike. I expect that Columbus will be forced to play a much more aggressive game plan at home, they actually tried for a few minutes in Colorado), but I think that will play right into the Rapids game plan and allow them to do just like RSL did last year, go into Columbus and come out with the win and the series.
2. New York Red Bulls - up 1 goal after first leg
Well I have wondered for a while what would happen when New York hit the playoffs, would TH14 show up, would the soon departing Juan Pablo Angel care, could Dane Richards remain dangerous? The upside for the Red Bulls is that San Jose was unable to get a goal, OK fine Chris Wondolowski was unable to get a goal. If the Red Bulls want to get a win at home and advance they will need to do better than they did in San Jose, listen I get that getting a road win is tough but since the announcement of 3DP's it was clear that MLS and the media in general have been paving a path to MLS Cup for them. I think they will have to be better than they were in San Jose if they want to get there.
1. FC Dallas - up 1 goals after first leg
It is hard enough to beat the defending champion in the playoffs, it is even harder to give up an early goal and being tied with 4 shots on goal with them, but FC Dallas did that. RSL dominated the first 20 minutes including Espindolas goal in the 5th minute, but then it was the adjustments by FC Dallas and early sub Jeff Cunningham that evened the match just before the half with a 44th minute goal. The second half saw both teams battle for opportunities and it was a late sub Eric Avila who fired an incredible shot that got past a diving Nick Rimando to give FC Dallas the 2-1 lead in the 88th minute. Dallas did a masterful job in holding off the stoppage time attack of RSL to earn the win, now the question is can they improve on the result they had 3 weeks ago at Rio Tinto Stadium? Can FC Dallas do what RSL did last year by beating the defending champs in the first round?
Well one thing is sure there are going to be a couple of very exciting matches coming up as no team has more than a single goal lead and 2 of the teams will need to get results on the road to hold on to their playoff spot, while 2 others will have to protect their home turf if they want to make it to the next round.
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