I’m no mathematician, but I did take Basic Statistics in college and I’m pretty sure when attempting to predict the winner of a competition between two teams, at the very least, you’ve got a 50-50 shot of being correct. Flip a coin, draw straws, or what have you … one team is going to win, and one team is going to lose.
Apparently, I’m no better than statistical chance when it comes to predicting MLS Cup Playoffs series, as 50-50 is exactly how my predictions went in the conference semifinals.
Ironically, the two series in which I correctly predicted the winner (Colorado Rapids over Columbus Crew; LA Galaxy over Seattle Sounders FC) were essentially the two toss-ups. The Rapids were an underdog against the Crew – especially after taking a slender 1-0 lead into the second leg in Columbus – but they ground out a late goal in Game 2 to force the series into extra time before prevailing on penalties. Meanwhile, seemingly everyone was on the Sounders bandwagon as smart money was on the second-year side to upset the Supporters’ Shield winner. Of course, that didn’t happen, as the Galaxy earned a pair of victories to run out 3-1 winners on aggregate.
On the other hand, the two series I incorrectly predicted (New York Red Bulls over San Jose Earthquakes; Real Salt Lake over FC Dallas) were the series I was most confident in selecting. The high-powered Red Bulls seemed a sure bet to take down the Earthquakes after grabbing a 1-0 win at Buck Shaw Stadium in Game 1, but a Bobby Convey masterclass and another superb finish from Chris Wondolowski pushed San Jose over the top and into the conference final. It was a similar story for RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the defending champs were held to a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas, ending the Claret-and-Cobalt’s hopes of back-to-back titles after a 2-1 loss in the first leg.
While I wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped in my conference semifinal predictions, it won’t stop me from giving it a shot in the conference finals …
Eastern Conference Final
COLORADO RAPIDS over San Jose Earthquakes
I’m not even going to mention the fact that the Eastern Conference Final pits the Colorado (as in, Rocky Mountains) Rapids against the San Jose (as in, West Coast) Earthquakes. Although, I guess I did just mention it. Whatever. It’s weird. It sounds wrong. For now, it is what it is.
It doesn’t seem like the smartest move to pick against the upstart Earthquakes after their inspired performance last Thursday night at Red Bull Arena, but it’s also pretty tough to pick against the Rapids at home. Maybe my judgment is clouded by Colorado’s impressive 3-0 dismantling of the Revs at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in September – which I had the pleasure of witnessing in person – but that’s a team which knows how to make the most of home-field advantage.
I’m aware that the Earthquakes have been much-improved (6-5-4) on the road this season, as evidenced by their 3-1 win over the Red Bulls last week in Harrison. And I’m sure the Quakes will be delighted that they’ll once again be classified as the “underdogs” heading into DSG Park this Saturday night. They most certainly embraced that role against New York.
But San Jose won’t be running up against Goliath this time. Instead, the Earthquakes meet another side starving for recognition in the Rapids, who are aiming to get back to MLS Cup for the first time since 1997 after upsetting the Crew in the opening round. With the Quakes unable to feed quite as much off that underdog mentality, I see the Rapids grabbing the victory and the Eastern Conference title. Which still sounds wrong.
Western Conference Final
LA GALAXY over FC Dallas
I refused to underestimate the Supporters’ Shield winning Galaxy in the conference semifinals against the red-hot Sounders, and they didn’t prove me wrong. For that reason, I’m sticking to my guns in the conference final.
What FC Dallas did this past weekend at Rio Tinto Stadium was impressive. Grabbing even a draw on the road against RSL has been next to impossible in the past year or so, and to do it amidst the pressure of the postseason was pretty stellar. Dax McCarty’s goal on the counter was deadly, David Ferreira continued to state his case for MVP (the voting is over, I know) and Kevin Hartman came up huge when he had to between the pipes … that’s a pretty solid formula for winning soccer in the playoffs.
But the Galaxy simply dismantled the Sounders last night at The Home Depot Center, making easy work of a team many had called the “hottest” heading into the postseason. Sure, the final score from the HDC only ended up being 2-1, but anyone who watched knows that series was over 30 minutes into the second leg as the Galaxy took a 2-0 lead on the night and a 3-0 lead on aggregate. Perhaps most promising for LA was the performance of David Beckham, who was not only lethal on set pieces, but looked lively in the run of play and diligently tracked back on the defensive side of the ball. With the league’s highest profile player clicking on all cylinders, the Galaxy will be tough to beat.
But who cares what I think? Who’ve you got in the conference finals and why?