Who will win this shiny trophy in December? (Getty Images)
The 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs kick off tonight in Chicago as the Fire host the Houston Dynamo in the first knockout round game. Yesterday I previewed each conference for the first two rounds but today I am going to give predictions for the whole kitten-baboodle.
After having last weekend off due to the international break, Sporting KC is returning to action tomorrow when they'll take on the New York Red Bulls. With only two games left, there's very little room for error as KC looks to hang on to first in the Eastern Conference and home field advantage through at least the conference finals.
One year ago today, the Kansas City Wizards had an announcement at the Power and Light District in
downtown KC to announce their identity change from the Wizards to Sporting Kansas City. Included
with the new name was a new logo, new colors, and basically a new identity.
Overall the first year of "Sporting KC" would be classified as a success both on an off the field,
on the field the team went from missing the playoffs two straight years to topping the Eastern
Conference in the regular season and making the conference finals.
This was the scene last night at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park after CJ Sapong put the Rapids' chances
of advancing to the Conference finals all but out of reach. I know it's a celebration shot but it
kind of looks like a band of demons have come to drag his soul to hell. Blame Kei Kamara's gloves,
which were apparently left over from the "Skeleton Boy" video shoot.
Sporting KC are back to business with a quick turnaround as they take on the Colorado Rapids in the
second leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park tomorrow. It'll
be interesting to see how Colorado comes out for this game. Three players that started the game in
Colorado are now done for the season, Drew Moor, Caleb Folan, and Kosuke Kimura all left the game
With their win over LA tonight, the Houston Dynamo finalized the playoff seedings. With that we
have a better idea now of who the Wizards will face in the conference semifinals. Of the four wild
card teams, Dallas is the 7th seed, Colorado 8th, Columbus 9th, and New York 10th. KC will play the
highest of the remaining wildcard teams after the wild card round.
In their first season in existence, the Sounders U23s won the toughest division in the PDL, won
their first ever playoff match, and defeated 2009 PDL Champion Ventura County Fusion in the
conference finals. That took them to the national semifinals yesterday in London, Ontario, where
they faced Forest City London, who are on a bit of a cinderella run with the fewest regular season
points of any playoff team.
Personally I don't see a ton in this story, but it's been a major talking point the past few days.
One of the team's designated players', Omar Bravo told Univsion this week that he had "a lot to
think about" with regards to next season. Specifically Bravo was talking about last Sunday's
conference final against Houston.
On Sunday evening in a rainy Carson, California it seemed that all the stars had aligned for
MLS, for AEG, for Don Garber, and for the Designated Player concept as David Beckham, Robbie Keane,
and Landon Donovan teamed up to give the Los Angeles Galaxy the 2011 MLS Cup winning goal in the
72nd minute at the Home Depot Center.
Today, MLS announced the Coach of the Year. Unfortunately, Sporting KC coach, Peter Vermes did not
win the coach of the year. The award this year went to the coach of the Supporters' Shield winning,
LA Galaxy, Bruce Arena. Vermes finished 3rd in the voting behind Arena and Sigi Schmid. A strong
season for Vermes taking KC from their 1-6-3 start to the Eastern Conference regular season
championship and the conference finals, a job not many coaches in the league could have done.
There's only one big game left on the domestic calendar and two friendlies scheduled on the
international front as we head towards winter. This month''s State of the States focuses on the MLS
playoffs, the dampening of Klinsmania, and the coming expansion of the US top flight.
Ives Galarcep writes of the coaches that will lead the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo into
the MLS Cup, and their ability to make adjustments and put their team in position to win games and
The halftime break can mean different things to different teams. It can be the welcome respite
for a group coming under fire, or the poorly-timed break that a surging side hates to see.
So yesterday's Conference Finals were interesting. Not so much because they unexpected happened.
In fact, I'd have pegged the Los Angeles Galaxy to beat Real Salt Lake any day and the Houston
Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City matches were pretty much up in the air. No, it's interesting for a
couple of reasons:
InÂ the emotionally-charged sequel to last weekend's showdown at Red Bull Area, Mike Magee and
Landon Donovan each scored asÂ Los Angeles beat New YorkÂ 2-1 during the second leg of the Western
Conference semis and advanced to the Conference Finals 3-1 on aggregate.
Although Red Bulls'Â target manÂ Luke Rodgers opened the scoring with a 4th minute strike toÂ
immediately level the series at 1-1, Magee, the former Red Bull whoÂ had pointed words for hisÂ Â
former employers prior to the match, replied before halftime when he took hold of a David BeckhamÂ
cornerand banged it through to relcaim the L.
In our final week before the next international break, I count forty-three matches being broadcast
in the United States this weekend, so there's definitely something for everybody. The only match
between two ranked clubs takes place on Saturday from a league that is used to such matchups but
including a pair of unlikely suspects as Levante hosts Valencia on ESPN Deportes.
After yesterday's convincing win by Sporting Kansas City and nail biting victory on aggragate by
Real Salt Lake there can be few still willing to argue that the playoffs do not produce compelling
soccer. Today's games promise to be every bit as exciting as both away teams will need a victory to
advance to the conference finals.
The first legs of the conference semifinals over the weekend created four very unenviable hills
The Los Angeles Galaxy, the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City all head home to protect
leads while Real Salt Lake, the only winning team taking to the road, has the comfort of a
New York and LA will have to deal with two cross country trips now. (Getty Images)
After last night's 2-0 win over FC Dallas, the New York Red Bulls did what some thought would
happen set up a big time, blockbuster clash between them and the Los Angeles Galaxy in the
playoffs. For the second time in league history the two big clubs meet when it matters most.
Since the league's inception, Major League Soccer has been trying to find the right playoff format,
right meaning one that gave some meaning to the regular season while creating increased fan
interest during the post-season. The latest iteration came yesterday, when the MLS Board of
Governors approved four major changes in the league playoff format: Top five teams in each
conference, no wild-card slots.
Red Bulls Fans May Have a Euro 2012 Rooting Interest After AllThe 2011 MLS Cup final
participants are now set following yesterday's conference finals, and for the first time in a
number of years none of the lowest playoff seeds made it through to the championship. Whether
that's the result of a slightly more equitable playoff format that punished poor regular season
performance is anyone's guess.
The New England Revolution are all set to take on the San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday at
Gillette Stadium. It will be a battle to see who is more irrelevant in the current MLS
conversation; both teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention and are now
playing for naught but pride and job security.
No team is as reliably almost-but-not-quite great as the Chicago Fire. After their MLS Cup
winning expansion season in 1998 they made the playoffs in 10 of the next 11 seasons, but never won
it again - a stretch that included 2 finals losses and a grueling 5-year run from 2005 to 2009 of
losing in the conference finals 4 times.
Behind the Axe looks at various Timbers news from GM Gavin Wilkinson's love of airports, Owner
Merritt Paulson appearing on local sports radio, and an epic mustache growing competition amongst
two of the Timbers center backs. We also talk a bit about the MLS playoff picture and the results
of the matches up to this weekend's conference finals.
The first spot in the MLS Conference Finals will be locked up tonight when Sporting Kansas City
takes on the Colorado Rapids at Livestrong Sporting Park tonight (8pm, Fox Soccer Channel).
Sporting KC opened the Eastern Conference semifinal series with a 2-0 victory against the Rapids
at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, and will now return home where they will be favored to hold off an
injury-hit Rapids squad that will play tonight's match without injured starting defenders Drew Moor
and Kosuke Kimura.
Yesterday, it was announced Steve Nicol would no longer be the head coach of the New England
Revolution. The decision was made after a meeting between the inimitable Scot and the Revolution's
investor/operators (read: owners), Jonathan and Robert Kraft, and was described as a "mutual
parting of ways.