MLS Conference Semifinals: Leg Two Preview, Predictions

IMAGE, NEWYORKREDBULLS.COM

DC United (0) vs. New York Red Bulls (2), Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on NBC

More than 1,000 Red Bulls fans are making the trip south to DC in the hopes of seeing their club advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2008. New York finally won a home playoff game in the first leg, but it’s the second leg that’s haunted them in the past. DC, meanwhile, has a tough but not impossible hill to climb at RFK. They’ll likely need to win by three goals, which they only managed twice this season.

First leg:

The French connection of Thierry Henry and Peguy Luyindula helped the Red Bulls win the first leg 2-0. Henry assisted brilliantly on both goals, and Luyindula finished the second. Bradley Wright-Phillips did his thing, opening the scoring in the first half. DC never really got into the game until after the Red Bulls were two goals ahead and playing for a clean sheet.

At risk of suspension:

Dax McCarty, Ambroise Oyongo, and Roy Miller all picked up yellow cards in the first leg. If they were to get booked in DC, they’d be suspended for the next game if the Red Bulls advance.

Prediction:

DC won 2-0 when they met at RFK Stadium in the regular season; that result would send the tie to extra time on Saturday. I think DC will put forth a much better performance than in the first leg, and I think they’ll win the leg. But I don’t believe they can win by enough to advance. If the Red Bulls score just once—and BWP seems a lock to score in his current form—it’d be almost impossible for United to overcome the away goal.

New England Revolution (4) vs. Columbus Crew (2), Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2

New England took a commanding lead in the first leg, and now just need to avoid collapse at home in the second. The Crew now need a three-goal victory on the road, a feat they haven’t accomplished since the opening week of the season in DC. The Revs say they’re expecting 20,000 fans on Sunday, which would be the largest playoff crowd in Foxboro since they hosted the 2002 MLS Cup.

First leg:

Charlie Davies scored twice for the Revolution in a 4-2 away win, the best performance by any team in the first leg. The Revs struck first on set pieces, and when Columbus tried to claw back into the match, New England proved deadly on the counter. The smallest of silver linings for the Crew was a stoppage-time penalty that reduced the deficit to two gols.

At risk of suspension:

For New England, Jose Goncalves is on a yellow card. For Columbus, Waylon Francis and Bernardo Anor picked up cards in the first leg.

Prediction:

There’s very little reason to believe that Columbus can overcome their first-leg deficit in Foxboro. When the Crew won at Gillette Stadium in the regular season, it was a 2-1 win against a reeling Revs side. New England controlled the first leg, and only a late penalty added some doubt to their chances of advancing. They should coast into the conference finals.

LA Galaxy (0) vs. Real Salt Lake (0), Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2

There’s everything still to play for as this tie comes to LA. With the away-goals rule in place, there’s some debate over who heads into the second leg on better footing. The Galaxy just need to win at home, something they did 12 times during the regular season. But RSL, thanks to their clean sheet in the first leg, can advance with a scoring draw.

First leg:

Real Salt Lake controlled much of a windy game in Utah, but they couldn’t beat Jaime Penedo. The Galaxy keeper made six saves in a scoreless draw, keeping his side in good shape as they head home. If the idea of the away-goals rule is to encourage attacking play, Bruce Arena didn’t appear to care. The Galaxy sat back and weathered the storm, especially in the second half of the first leg.

At risk of suspension:

Four yellow cards were handed out in that second half, two to each team. Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Rogers were booked, as were Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert.

Prediction:

It’s generally a bad idea to bet against Bruce Arena and the Galaxy, but they looked ineffective in the first leg. Perhaps home-field advantage will produce a better performance, but it shouldn’t scare RSL. In the first week of the season, Salt Lake went to LA and won at the StubHub Center. The Galaxy haven’t lost at home since. I think this one will end in a draw that sees RSL advancing.

Seattle Sounders (1) vs. FC Dallas (1), Monday at 10:30 p.m. on NBCSN

This game is being played on Monday night to avoid having the field covered in NFL lines. The Sounders will have clean turf and every chance of advancing in front of 38,000 home fans. FC Dallas will be trying to spoil the party, but they were just 4-8-5 on the road this season.

First leg:

While chances from open play were limited, each team scored on set pieces in Texas. Neither team could really get their attack going, and Dallas, who had the home-field advantage, will probably regret that more. Stephen Frei only had to make three saves, but he made a big one near the end of the second half that kept Seattle level.

At risk of suspension:

Leo Gonzalez picked up the only yellow card of the first leg.

Prediction:

The Sounders aren’t going to let their treble dreams die at home against Dallas. They’ve struggled in the playoffs before, but they’d have only themselves to blame if they let this opportunity pass by. A scoreless draw would see them through to the conference final, but I think they have the goals in them to win outright.