Well, I haven't posted about the playoffs yet - but I suppose it's about time for me to breakdown my thoughts on how it's all going to shake out.
The first round is home and home, semifinals are at the higher seed and the MLS Cup will be played in LA at Victoria Street. (What?!?...no, no, no, I'm talking about the Major League Soccer playoffs.)
In the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Crew take a 18 game unbeaten streak and the #1 seed in the East to Boston to face the #4 NE Revolution. The Crew are undefeated this year against the Revs and haven't lost on the road since late June. NE had a down year and squeaked into the playoffs with a win last weekend. The Crew missed the playoffs last year but rebounded finishing 2004 with the best record in MLS. The Revs will need a win at home to open to have any chance of advancing in the two game aggregate goal series.
#2 DC United travels to NY to open their series with #3 Metrostars. This matchup is one of the biggest rivalries in MLS (the Atlantic Cup), and that intensity will only be heightened in the playoffs. DC finished the season with a flourish to steal the second seed away from Metros - seeing an in form Freddy Adu close out his first professional season leading United to a couple of victories. Metros are a talented team that seemed in control of the Eastern conference early in the season, but lost the plot at home and stumbled toward the end. Adu's form may be telling for United in his first trip to the playoffs, and first year coach Piotr Nowak will have to keep the intensity up facing the MLS' all time winningest coach in Metros' Bob Bradley.
Out West, #1 seed Kansas City Wizards lock horns with the incredibly dangerous #4 San Jose Earthquakes. The 2003 MLS Cup Champion Quakes never really found their form under first year coach Dom Kinnear - but with Landon Donovan, Brian Ching, Chris Mullen, Richard Mulrooney, and Pat Onstad in the squad, this team will be very dangerous. 2004 was a dream season in many ways for the Wizards. After losing 2003 MLS MVP Preki for the entire season due to injury, losing leading striker Igor Simutenkov for the first half of 2004, then injury ending US National Chris Klein's season just before the all star break, no one expected KC to sit atop the west. But an in form Josh Wolff and a goal explosion from little known Davy Arnaud and the best defense in the West took them top.
#2 LA Galaxy fired head coach Sigi Schmidt mid-season when the Galaxy were sitting in first place in the West with a cushion. After Steve Sampson took over, the Galaxy took a slide that saw them fearing for their playoff lives - but they have adjusted to the Sampson style and rounded out the season playing well and pushing back up to 2nd place. #3 Colorado Rapids are the surprise of the West. Behind the MVP season of keeper Joe Cannon, the Rapids simply did not allow goals. Of course, they didn't score many either, which is why they couldn't get above 3rd place.
Crew v. Metrostars = This should be a fun match - I'm going to give the edge to the Crew since they are at home, and they've won two in a row over the Metros - with Edson Buddle ringing up 4 goals in one of those wins.
Galaxy v. Quakes = For those of you who don't follow soccer, this is as intense a rivalry as there is in American sports. Last year, these clubs squared off in the first round of the playoffs. The Galaxy won the first match 2-0 at home and went up to San Jose and scored 2 more goals in the first 30 minutes. Since the first round is aggregate goals, that meant LA was up 4-0 with only 60 minutes of soccer to go. Then "the comeback" began. SJ reeled off 4 goals - sent the match into extra time and score a golden goal to advance - and ended up winning the MLS Cup. It was an unforgettable moment in MLS history. This year, the Quakes haven't shown the ability to put together consistent wins - but they will be up for the Galaxy.
The Crew are the team on a roll. The Earthquakes are the defending champion who never found their form in the regular season amidst rumors of the team being sold and moved to Houston. Both teams have a lot of talent, and have been playing more attractive soccer as of late. But, I think that the Quakes will have found their stride and make it 3 championships in 4 years.
Prediction: San Jose Earthquakes - 2004 MLS Champs