Hectic week this week and just now getting around to our MLS playoff predictions. (Yes, I realize I have to at least get out a Columbus-Colorado preview in the next twelve hours.)
Do you need an intro…good, neither do I.
One note, for each playoff series, I’ll give you a “TSG Qualification” score (you should ask for something similar from the other writers you follow) that lets you know how qualified we are–based nearly entirely on number of times we watched a club–to make a prediction on the series.
• Who’s brighter? The Los Angeles Galaxy or the Seattle Highlighters.
TSG Qualification Score: 7.5 out of 10
Everything…just about everything about this series points in the Sounders favor.
The fact that:
» The Galaxy will play a road game on turf (ouch) to open the series. Landon Donovan for one let us know this week that the games are getting to him.
» Are you watching the Premiership at all these days? Why do I ask? Four of the top six or so hottest players in the Barclays (Johan Elmander, Dimitar Berbatov, Samir Nasri, Darren Bent) have something pretty major in common.
None of them played in World Cup 2010. The Cup hangover happens and Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle are desperately rifling down the bloody maries.
» Speaking of Buddle, it is flat-out incredulous, ludicrous, ridiculous. Simply? It’s terrible coaching that Bruce Arena took his number one target man and sniper and left him up top, with few substitutions, to battle bigger and stronger defenders all season long.
It’s not wonder that Buddle has tailed off…between the World Cup and his Bruce Arena-induced torture, I surprised he can still run.
Bad move Arena….which leads me to…
» Let’s continue with this Buddle theme. Best way to support Edson up top probably…probably to play Jovan Kirovski out of position up there for the better part of the end of the campaign. Say what?
I remember the beginning of this year when the Galaxy were straight on firing. Impressive…extremely impressive to see.
I remember thinking…okay Arena is going to develop some players around these guys, Cazumba for one, and the Galaxy is going to become deeper and deeper.
So what did Arena do all year? Fail to develop Tristan Bowen, let Michael Stephens hit the wall (because he was playing well) and trade Alan Gordon who at least saved Buddle some downtown thumping.
Bruce, Bruce…what are you doing? It is any wonder why the Brian McBride felt like a man without friends oh-so-far up the pitch at 2006? Of course not.
» I haven’t even talked about Arena’s near Bob Bradleyesque reliance on the 4-4-2 or his getting outcoached twice by Frankie Yallop. Moving on….
» Meanwhile, defensively Los Angeles has not picked up it’s back four line in the game in the absence of 2002 World Cup vet Gregg Berhalter.
» We haven’t even talked about Seattle yet who shed Freddie Ljundberg and immediately went on a tear. It’s not a fair comparison but the way the quicks play up top for Sigi Schmidt it reminds me of Argentina’s configuration that put so much pressure on team in the group stages of the World Cup.
But…after all this, I’m picking the Los Angeles Galaxy. I don’t how they’re going to do it, but I just think–and perhaps to the detriment of their advancement later in the playoffs–the Galaxy will take this one.
I really can’t point to a good season, maybe just that Donovan, Buddle (maybe), and Beckham have proven they can do it whereas I’m not sure Fredt Montero is just yet “the guy” for Seattle.
Call it a hunch..perhaps a stupid hunch, but the Galaxy move on.
• Who’s more savory in this one? Real Salt Lake or the men from Pizza Hut
TSG Qualification Score: 5 out of 10
You know I wish I watched Dallas more than 5 or so odd times a took in a game this year. They’re just like folks describe them I surmise. Kind of ho-hum, jack-of-all trades master-of-none.
I know I’d pick out a few more subtle things if I watched them more frequently–then again they don’t really draw a crowd.
I really did like the addition of Kevin Hartmann who did a super job of marshalling the defense himself and exuding some calm.
Heather Pearce has played confident and attack-minded football all season.
However…as defenses get more stout in the playoffs, I truly believe that winning the midfield is vitally important and you have to like the top team that Real Salt Lake has here. Kyle Beckerman is the leader, but flanking him are Will Johnson–who after some time overseas at Blackburn and Heerenveen–is starting to play more-and-more like the player that Europe was whispering to earlier in his career and perhaps the most underrated player in the league (despite his age) Andy Williams. Williams is straight lunchpail and I don’t think I have once see him not put the team first in his play.
Fronting this more than capable ensemble is Javier Morales–who Justin Braun told us a few weeks ago is in his opinion the best player not named Donovan in the league. Morales is classy.
The champs are going to be touch to break down and I haven’t talked about the Club America Salt Lakes ziploc defense yet.
However, I don’t think this series will be a cakewalk and I actually think the series is in FC Dallas’s hands.
The quality of Real Salt Lake is known, does Dallas rise to the challenge or show they’re not ready to challenge just yet. The first game will speak to this as RSL has yet to win there. Dallas needs at least hit a two-spot at home in my opinion to make this a series.
I just don’t think they’re quite there yet. RSL, onward.
Eastern Conference later Thursday…