1-1 after the knockouts.
We get to the rest:
Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake:
This is the closest first round series bar none. Seattle may be the fat guy on the “talent” balance beam, but RSL still has the psyche. Dismiss anyone telling you that Seattle, club and fans alike, are not a wee bit nervous about the whole “never got out of the first round” thing. Jason Kreis’s group has that on the them.
This series is like the Celtics vs. the Miami Heat in some ways. Seattle have three legitimate offensive stars in Freddy Montero, Eddie Johnson and Mauro Rosales–not to mention Christian Tiffert who drops in passes like he’s Aaron Rodgers.
The Salt Lake Crew of Olave … Borchers … Beckerman … Espindola … Will J .. and more are the Boston Celtics. They know how to win, but their bodies and initiative are just a scant below what once took them to the championship.
This series is going to be about situational play (as it was last year) and Real Salt Lake’s ability to find the net. Let’s start with the latter … because if RSL can’t figure out how to attack in the final third, the analysis can stop there. Seattle is stingy, but Utah needs to test them.
Just like last year, home field advantage is key and that’s why tonight’s game will dictate this series. If it’s draw or better for RSL, then look for RSL to finish the job on the return next week. If Seattle can even grab a 1-0 or 3-2 victory tonight, they’ll be able to go into RSL with that team needing a goal and that’s the disposition you want Team Kreis in on the home leg, not bottle it up and let’s move on.
The cautious pick here is Seattle, but tonight’s your night Sounders. Win it–without EJ–and you will have proven as to greater MLS as to yourself.
Can the series top 2011:
DC United vs. Red Bull New York:
There are serious doubts about the Red Bulls’ defense as we know. The question is: Will we find out?
DC United waves the Red Bulls into RFK on Saturday and they’ve been a different team since De Ro’s season ended.
In fact, they’ve been a better one. Ben Olsen curtailed his cutesy offensive attack–at the expensive of Perry Kitchen’s gas tank and the defense overall–and instead took the much smarter approach of using his best ball-handling fullback–that would be Andy Najar–to move the ball out of the back and pick spots up the flank or well up the field centrally to distribute the ball. DC United’s attack doesn’t inspire sonnets, but it gets the job done.
United is hurt by the flip-flop of venues in this one. Whereas they could’ve headed to NY, playing to keep a clean sheet and then scrounged for a goal at home, not they need to take the initiative and insure that they bucket at least one on Saturday.
On Saturday now, Saragosa and Kitchen are going to have to play flawlessly in tandem in the center of the pitch against the more veterans numbers (Henry dropping, Cahill, Taino, McCarty) that the Red Bulls can throw at them.
For the Gotham men in this series, they’ll need a tip-top Henry, a disciplined Cooper, to keep McCarty in the center of the field and have Cahill make a difference. Oh and they’ll need their defense not to crumble.
I like DC United’s approach in this one, but New York squeaks by on talent alone.
(SKC – HOU & LAG v. SJE forthcoming….)