Here’s a look at the match-ups for the 2006 MLS Playoffs which start this Saturday, October 21.
Note: The conference semifinals consist of a two-game total goals series. The higher seed will host the second game. If after the two games, the teams scored the same number of goals or no goals are scored, two 15-minute overtimes are played. If still tied after the 30 minutes, the teams go to penalty kicks. The away goals rule is NOT in effect. The conference finals consist of one match played at the higher seed. Conference winners advance to MLS Cup 2006, Nov 12 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas! For conference final matches and the MLS Cup, if the match is tied after 90 minutes, then two 15-minute extra periods are played. If still tied after 30 extra minutes – penalty kicks!
Eastern Conference Semifinals:
#1 D.C. United (15-7-10) v. #4 New York Red Bulls (9-11-12)
The Supporters Shield winners stumble into the playoffs losing four of their last five games against mostly Eastern Conference rivals. The lone win (and possible reason for hope) was against their first round opponent – NY RedBull. MVP lock Christian Gomez (14G,11A) was consistent throughout the season and is reason enough to pick this team to advance to the conference finals.
As I predicted in my MLS Season Review (September, 16), Bruce Arena had just enough games to rally NY Redbull past KC and into the playoffs. I mentioned Edson Buddle, but it was actually 16-year-old Josmer Altidore who scored two huge game winning goals down the stretch that made the difference. Look for Arena to use O’Rourke and Kovalenko in his favorite Williams/Armas role with close marking on Gomez to try to neutralize him. Adu could be a key by playing more compact and distributing to Moreno and Esskandarian. With master architect Arena in charge NY will be a team to be reckoned with in the future, but I think they’ll have to be satisfied with just making the playoffs this year.
Quarterfinal – 2nd Leg
Sun Oct 29 3:00PM Pacific/6:00PM Eastern
#2 New England Revolution (12-8-12) v. #3 Chicago Fire (13-11-8)
DC will have to be very wary of the winner of this series. Two-time defending Eastern Conference Champion New England used a late surge by going 5-0-2 in its last seven games to finish the season strongly in second place. Dempsey (8G,4A) and Twellman (11G,5A) continue to fuel the offense and Coach Nicol is one of MLS’ best.