By Keaton Robbins
The 2012 MLS Cup playoffs are underway, and this year’s matchups are some of the strongest the league has had.
All the semi-final matchups have played their first leg, and this week the home series between the final eight teams will determine who meets up in the conference finals.
The reigning champions, the LA Galaxy will have to pick up a big road win against their California rivals, the San Jose Earthquakes. Galaxy star David Beckham and company lost 1-0 at home in stoppage time thanks to a Victor Bernardez free kick.
The other Western Conference semi final saw two MLS powerhouses, Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders tie 0-0 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
In the Eastern Conference, long-time bitter rivals New York Red Bulls and D.C United return to Red Bull Arena, after a 1-1 tie at RFK Stadium in Washington.
The Houston Dynamo fought hard for a 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston yesterday.
John Bolster of MLSsoccer.com has a wrap of the games, and said the Dynamo look like the team of destiny.
Rudi Schuler, chief editor of Goal.com Canada said he was expecting the Eastern Conference champions Sporting KC to win the MLS Cup this year.
“I would have said Kansas City before the playoffs started, but after the way they played against Houston, I’m not too sure,” Schuler told Humber News.
“To me I think everything comes down to the winner of the LA Galaxy and San Jose series,” Schuler said. “It’s the best team in the league (San Jose) versus the reigning MLS Cup champions.”
Schuler said the Galaxy have the big names and the experience from winning the championship before.
Steve Bottjer, a soccer columnist for Sportsnet.ca and RedNation Online said he’s narrowed it down to three teams that could will win it all. Bottjer picked the LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo as his top three.
“The Galaxy, who just beat the Vancouver Whitecaps,” Bottjer told Humber News. “That’s based on the quality of the coach, but I think that at the keeper position they’re not as strong as they’ve been in years past.”
“San Jose is very well built for competing in the MLS Playoffs. San Jose has always seemed to find a way to score a goal in the last minutes of games,” he said. “Plus they have Chris Wondolowski, who’s a game breaker and can make a real difference.”
Bottjer said the Houston Dynamo is his dark horse pick for this year, adding the combination of their experience from being in the MLS Cup Finals, plus the MLS knowledge of veteran head coach Dom Kinnear, could result in it being Houston’s year.
Click below to listen to the rest of Bottjer’s interview:
Not a good result for LA last night. Needed to win that game. Big effort required in the second leg #MLSCup
— Daniel Woodley (@dwoodley1990) November 5, 2012
— MLS Insider (@MLSinsider) November 4, 2012
— LA Kings (@LAKings) November 2, 2012