Two sudden death playoff games here, Wednesday and Thursday in MLS. Crow all you want about the league “tables” and the thrill of the race coming down to the last few weeks in other leagues, I’ll take the playoffs.
Playoffs are where the individual mettle is shown. Titi; yeah he’s been there. Edson Buddle goes primetime come October. And yes, even the Bobby Conveys of the world earn some praise. (Let’s hopefully not remember that 2010 series as the last great moments of Juan Agudelo.)
Wednesday Night: Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo
The skinny: Normally this game would be an easy take for the Dynamo–a number of grizzled vets who keep shape on defense and no when to attack. But something about Houston hasn’t been quite right this year.
Brian Ching is just not impeccable as “the” target man. Will Bruin is not exactly clean on finishing the abundant scoring chances. Brad Davis isn’t getting as many of the set piece opportunities. Ricardo Clark is back, but just where he is in the veteran pecking order is still in question. Boniek Garcia can be worldly or out-of-this-wordly seemingly as the wind blows.
Bobby Boswell is a good defender, but he’s similar to Nat Borchers without a strong Jamison Olave next to him. Tally Hall can sparkle or make that one critical error as well. (Not quite sold on Hall yet. Is he Mattie Pickens or a true up-and-comer?)
Houston has vacillated between using the 4-3-3 and the 4-4-2 and a lot of it is predicated at what type of disposition they want to the game and the aforementioned gung-ho of Garcia.
It seems dicey to put the Dynamo in the next round.
That said, Chicago doesn’t exactly sparkle at all the opportune times either. When they need a goal this post season, the shot-jacker Marco Pappa is not going to be found. Patrick Nyarko can go Derrick Rose on you in one moment and then be Chris Duhon the next. Sherjill McDonald takes 6-ft chances like Dennis Rodman shooting 6-ft jumpers and Jalil Anibaba defends like Jamal Crawford for stretches (apologies for the Bulls analogies.)
The biggest enemy for Chicago in this one will be themselves. Can they avoid mistakes? Can they take their chances? Can everyone show up and have an above average to playoff-level match?
I like the Fire in this one because I like their “inside four” better than I like the Dynamo’s “inside four” this year. The Fire have steely vets Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause and Arne Freidrich to balance the risk of Austin Berry having a rookie-wide-eyed game.
The Dynamo meanwhile could show an “inside three” or an “inside four” to start the match and it’s some combination of Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffatt (who can smack one, but has been uneven this year …. actually roll that label out for Clark as well). The steady Bobby Boswell is a better defender then often credited, but needs a better accomplice than Jermaine Taylor.
The rest is a crap shoot, but you’ve got to defend narrow in the back against both of these teams.
Klopas KO’s Kinnear in this one….
The Fire take this one in a tight one.
Thursday: LA Galaxy v. Vancouver Whitecaps