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The East Comes Down to the Final Four Points

Imagine Major League Soccer as a city nightlife.  In this scenario, the Western Conference is a high-priced club: VIP room for the high rollers, a separate section for those wishing they were the high-rollers (or convince the media/opposite sex they could be), and those on the outside waiting in line for a gift entrance from the bouncer.  The Eastern Conference then is the sports bar down the street during a college football game.  Everyone is crowded around the main bar trying to jostle their way to the front and grab the attention of the bartender.

Thus is life in the MLS playoff race.  The race in the Eastern Conference is down to four points, as in four points separate first place Houston (!) and outside-looking-in DC.  The West has settled into clear levels (unless there’s an epic collapse) of LA at the top, Seattle/Real Salt Lake/Dallas chasing, and Colorado/Portland/Chivas fighting for a playoff spot, with the rest on the outside looking in.  This weekend helped clarify the playoffs a little, if just to say that at least a few seemingly worthy playoff teams will be left out, but they can only blame themselves.

Here is a roundup of this weekend’s action:

Sporting Kansas City 1, Philadelphia Union 1

(Bravo ’56, Le Toux ’63)

The weekend started off with a bang as these two teams played a quality back-and-forth game that appropriately ended in a draw.  Kei Kamara looked like he would put Kansas City up early a few times (including an excellent chance off a header in the 40th minute), but fans had to wait until the second half to see some goals.  Two substitutions played a role in the goals, with Julio Cesar helping KC maintain possession early in the second half leading to a Kamara-to-Bravo goal.  Michael Farfan found Bravo eight minutes later for the equalizer, but Jack McInerney almost equalized himself in the 60th minute.  A high intensity game all around and their second draw against each other this season (0-0 in June).

Houston Dynamo 1, FC Dallas 0

(Cameron 87′)

Congratulations, Geoff Cameron, you win a Howitzer!  Houston wins El Capitan, the symbol of the Texas derby, but more importantly wins control of its playoff destiny by moving into first in the Eastern Conference.  FC Dallas struck the woodwork three times in this match and have been held without a goal for 270 straight minutes.  They certainly had their chances and could have easily won this game if they could have found a way to have converted.  Ten-gallon hats off to Houston for doing just that.

DC United 4, Real Salt Lake 1

(Najar 13′, De Rosario 22′/27′/31′, Saborio 86′)

The talking point (and rightfully so) after this game will be De Rosario’s incredibly performance, scoring the quickest hat trick in MLS history.  But to focus too much on that misses a couple of other issues.  RSL did start a number of second-string players in this match, but that in no way excuses the yards of space DC United had in this game.  The Najar goal and the second De Rosario goal may have been prevented with a defender simply pressuring the pass instead of allowing DC tons of space.  DC’s defense also was suspect in this match on set pieces (as usual) and if RSL could have converted on one or two early corners, this could have been a different game.  Two things to watch going forward.

Los Angeles Galaxy 1, Columbus Crew 0

(Barrett 90+’)

Speaking of second-string sides, Columbus failed to get a much needed point or three facing a Galaxy team at home missing its three biggest names in the starting XI.  As I mentioned in my pre-game column, the return of Chad Marshall and Emilio Renteria helped the Crew create some chances, and the Man of the Match award goes to Josh Saunders for keeping the score at nil with some incredibly saves.  LA sub Donovan had his initial blast saved late in stoppage time before Barrett collected the rebound for the goal.  Columbus now faces a critical week, hosting Kansas City and DC United but have gone 0-4-1 in their last five.

New York Red Bulls 2, Portland Timbers 1

(Richards 21′, Rodgers 66′)

We have coverage from both sides of this game on the site, so I will simply add this: I want to see how New York do on the road against Toronto before I can accept them as a playoff team.  As odd as that sounds, their two most recent wins came against a stumbling Dallas team on the road and a poor road team at home.  Toronto has enough talent to cause them issues as well as a style of play that could be a challenge.

Colorado Rapids 1, San Jose Earthquakes 1

(Wondolowski 19′, Moor 71′)

If you are a Colorado optimist, you can see this match as Colorado improving as the game went on, especially in the second half.  The backline, which allowed Wondo to score off a rebound and almost allow a breakaway goal in the 35th minute, actually scored the game tying goal and held down a Quakes team that is doing just too little too late.  Colorado is now just three points clear of the final playoff spot and with the CCL still going, they have a legitimate chance of falling out of the playoffs and the CCL within the next few weeks.

Seattle Sounders 3, Vancouver Whitecaps 1

(Camilo 22′, Evans 33′, Montero 64′/67′)

The last match at Empire Field gives Seattle the first all-MLS Cascadia Cup and pushes Fredy Montero into the MVP discussion.  The way to tell a playoff team and a high draft pick team is what they do with their chances: Kasey Keller kept Seattle in the game early with some good saves and only allowed the Camilo goal when the score could have easily been 3-1 at the half.   Jay DeMerit had a game to forget – he was involved in all three Seattle goals.

Chivas USA 3, Toronto FC 0

(Angel 12′/77′, Braun 71′)

I stated in my preview that this match revolved around two players and who would continue their hot streak.  The answer was the continued resurrection of Juan Pablo Angel, who added two goals to his total since moving to Chivas.  While Toronto had some early threats, Koevermans could never get on track.  Even though Angel may get the attention for his goal scoring, Dan Kennedy’s inspired play has also been a major key to the Goats late playoff push.  He had another good game Saturday days after making a key penalty save in DC.

Chicago Fire 3, New England Revolution 2

(Grazzini 5′, Oduru 9′, Nyarko 30′, Guy 90′/90+’)

The difference in the streaking Fire is simply a matter of goals.  The team that used to only find ways to get draws now can find ways to win, and that makes a huge difference.  I attribute some of this to the first goal scorer, who has made a major difference in their midfield play.  Dominic Oduru being able to convert chances also helps.  Hats off to Ryan Guy for making the final scoreline interesting.

This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, MLS Season 2011 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The East Comes Down to the Final Four Points

  1. Robert says:

    Man, what happened to this site. Charles the MLS Troll isn’t even
    lurking anymore.

    • Alex says:

      say something about garber, parity or attendance figures and he’ll
      be sure to come up. that hypocrit. i havent seen him comment at all
      about the games going on. not that i care about his ignorance. but
      he always moans and groans how no one comments on soccer. i do
      agree though, no one seems to be commenting at MLS talk anymore.

    • Charles says:

      Robert Hay needs to move up to a better quality league blog. He
      isn’t tested here. Writing for a bunch of morons that don’t watch
      MLS isn’t going to cut it.

  2. Alex says:

    my two cents about major entity soccer, being from the east coast,
    the east coast is really lacking in quality. IMO. last time i
    checked the tables all three top east coast “clubs” have less
    points than the 4th and 5th place west coast “clubs”. yet they get
    higher preference. the only game i really cared for was NJRB vs
    Timbers. i didnt watch it but it should have been 1-0 or 0-0.
    Richards ran over Timbers D but that penatly was non existent. so
    its up to DC now to knock NJ out of their playoff invitation. for
    my hopes at least.

  3. Wascal says:

    Why did you guys change your website? Almost at the same time
    mls-rumors.net changed theirs. Coincidence?…

    • The Gaffer says:

      Wascal, no coincidence. We’ve been working on the redesign for months and launched ours a couple of weeks ago.

      Cheers,

      The Gaffer

  4. The original Tom says:

    I liked the old website format better as well. The play-off
    structure is too confusing. If they have to have divisions, they
    should structure like the NBA and NHL treat each of their
    conferences individually. That is they have divisions, but they
    don’t mean much. The division winners are guaranteed qualification
    and a high seed, and everyone else gets seeded according to their
    record. The newspapers (I know I’m dating myself here) even
    recognize this by just stacking the teams in one bracket with a
    little asterix by their name to indicate they are a division
    winner.

    • Robert says:

      Tom, If you think the playoffs are confusing now, just wait till we
      have 19 teams with an unbalanced schedule. We are going to need MIT
      to figure out who qualifies for what and where. I haven’t watched
      much MLS regular season action due to the confusion of what the
      game means. I have no idea where they sit on the table and who they
      will play if they finish in x-spot. I’ve been getting my domestic
      fix through the CCL because it means something and easy to follow
      plus if you don’t perform well in your domestic league you get
      relegated from the competition the following season!

      • The original Tom says:

        I don’t see how the unbalanced schedule has to make it more
        complicated, or worse. It could get simpler and/or better. To be
        fair, the league’s website has a pretty good play-off standings.
        And back to the point of this article, if we had overall standings,
        the same teams would still have something left to play for, and
        that is a play-off birth. It would more fair, easier to understand,
        and just as exciting if it was the top overall 8. The standings as
        of the week: 5. Colorado, 42pts, 6. Houston, 42 pts. 7. Colunbus,
        41. 8. KC 41. 9. Philly 40 10. NYRB 39 11. DC 38 12 Portland 37 13.
        Chivas 35 14. Chicago 33

    • The Gaffer says:

      The Original Tom, the redesign of the site is still in beta, and we’re working on enhancing things. Yes, it’s a completely different look-and-feel but we’re adding lots of new features that weren’t here before. Watch for more news to come.

      And feel free to click on the ‘MLS Talk Feedback’ button on the right sidebar to share feedback with us about the site redesign.

      Cheers,

      The Gaffer

  5. Gaz Hunt says:

    I was screaming at the television for the Philly match. They barely
    deserved even a draw. I still think we’ll get that first or second
    place since we still have a game in hand but there has to be a
    stronger will to do something creative or out-of-the-box when in
    the final third.

  6. Charles says:

    I am still here. Montero isn’t even in the running for MVP of the
    Sounders. He would be third or fourth in my book. Alex watched a
    soccer game. Are you kidding me ?

  7. Charles says:

    Robert, You better root for my Sounders in CCL tonight ( and if
    they win USOC, next year too ) Tijuana is not going to be playing
    there anytime soon. 1 win in 10 games, who are they trying to be,
    the NYRBs ? GOOOOOO Sounders ! ps. My mistake on Alex watching
    soccer, I read his post instead of skimming ( I won’t do that again
    )…….he was just b1tching about MLS again and needed some
    fodder.

    • Robert says:

      Charles, you’re back!, Tijuana is doing fine with 7 points all they
      need to get to is 9 points and should be safe from relegation. They
      gave up a crap goal at Azteca this past weekend but played well
      overall. Charles, you should see the excitement in Tijuana from all
      the fans backing its club. I see more Tijuana stickers and jerseys
      in San Diego than any other soccer team. Why are you raining on a
      new promoted teams parade? As for Sounders in CCL, I hope they make
      a deep run.

    • Alex says:

      All that time you spent away from the computer, or garbers pants,
      to come up with that comeback, Charles? Pathetic. How was I whining
      about mls this time isn’t it true the east coast sucks? All three
      top teams suck. I was complaining on timbers weak D. You seriously
      are hopeless. Trying to extract false arguments again. Explain
      sounders loss in the ccl. Where’s your band wagon fans then? Go
      away despite the lack of comments things were better when you were
      not here,

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