The first legs of the MLS Conference Semifinals are complete.
The final four will be determined after Thursday, but some teams face a serious up-hill battle in order to advance to the Conference Finals.
The Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes are in the best position to advance, taking an early lead in the aggregate, while the LA Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City must win its second leg in order to stave off elimination.
The Seattle Sounders and DC United failed to leave their turf with an early lead, and now face a winner-take-all match on the road.
With the second legs just two days away, here are the four teams that are in serious danger of being eliminated and the level of concern their fanbase should have.
My First Leg Prediction: Seattle Sounders 2 - 1 Real Salt Lake
Actual Result: Seattle Sounders 0 - 0 Real Salt Lake
Second Leg: Nov. 8, 9:30 p.m. ET
Level of concern For Seattle: DEFCON 5
The first leg between the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake was a captivating 90 minutes of scoreless soccer—one that elevated Real goalkeeper Nick Rimando to the echelons of iconic legends.
The style of soccer played by both teams on Thursday night was disciplined, beautiful and intelligent. It was everything MLS strives to be, yet Seattle was unable to find the back of the net without its leading goal scorer Eddie Johnson, out for an adductor injury.
It is still in search of its first goal versus Real this year.
Seattle now finds itself in a winner-take-all match at Rio Tinto Stadium versus a team it has been unable to beat all year (0-1-3).
While it is a daunting task, it is not unfeasible for Seattle to advance. Johnson is expected to fully participate in practice this week and should be set to return for Thursday’s match.
Another scoreless draw is not outside the realm of possibility. Real too has struggled to score against the Sounders—a full 309 minutes since its last goal in a 1-0 victory over Seattle.
It appears the dreaded penalty kicks are imminent, but a toss-up situation like that puts both teams in danger.
There should be no real concern from Sounders fans.
My First Leg Prediction: DC United 2 - 2 New York Red Bulls
Actual Result: DC United 1 -1 New York Red Bulls
Level of concern for DC: DEFCON 3
Second Leg: Nov. 7, 8 p.m. ET
In complete contrast to the match played between Real and Seattle, the New York Red Bulls and DC United put on the strangest exhibition of soccer MLS has ever seen.
As if both teams scoring an own goal wasn't enough, Andy Najar’s inexplicable petulant display could be very costly for United.
He will be forced to miss the second leg of the series, and Ben Olsen will now have to find a suitable replacement for the young Honduran national.
Even down a man, United played exceptionally well and New York was fortunate to walk out of RFK Stadium with a draw. The result was beneficial for the Red Bulls, but a repeat performance like the one it had on Saturday will likely end its season.
Unfortunately for DC, Wednesday’s match will played at Red Bull Arena, where the Red Bulls are 11-2-4. New York is a much more proficient team in front of its home crowd.
With the South Ward ready to explode, expect a rested and fresh Kenny Cooper (18 goals) to be back in the starting lineup, as well as minimal tinkering with New York’s starting XI from Hans Backe.
United is in some trouble, but are more than capable of getting a win on the road; however, DC fans should not be comfortable right now.
My First Leg Prediction: LA Galaxy 1 - 2 San Jose Earthquakes
Actual Result: LA Galaxy 0 - 1 San Jose Earthquakes
Level of concern for LA: DEFCON 2
Second Leg: Nov. 7, 11 p.m. ET
The defending champions are on the canvas after suffering a knockout blow at the hands of the San Jose Earthquakes.
Victor Bernández’s controversial free kick in the 94th minute was the ‘Quakes’ fifth game-winner in stoppage time this season, and its second versus its California rival—the first coming off an Alan Gordon header back on May 23.
The Galaxy had ample opportunities to take the lead in the aggregate, but failed to find the back of the net.
Robbie Keane’s shot off woodwork in the 86th minute was the culmination of 90 minutes of offensive frustration for LA.
What transpired in stoppage time, however, could be the nail in the coffin for the Galaxy’s championship campaign. As it stands, it faces a one goal deficit vs. the best team in MLS.
The Galaxy now face the ominous task of having to defeat the ‘Quakes at Buck Shaw Stadium—something no team has been able to do all season.
There is no doubt that LA is capable of winning on the road vs. San Jose. It is an extremely talented side that boasts a veteran-savvy mindset and carries championship experience.
It is for that reason alone its fanbase should not be at DEFCON 1; however, an LA victory is not very likely.
Galaxy fans should be legitimately concerned right now. Bad officiating or not, San Jose looks poised to advance to its second Conference Finals in three years.
My First Leg Prediction: Houston Dynamo 1 - 1 Sporting Kansas City
Actual Result: Houston Dynamo 2 - 0 Sporting Kansas City
Level of concern for Sporting: DEFCON 1
Second Leg: Nov. 7, 9 p.m. ET
Sporting Kansas City is a different story. Its 2-0 defeat to the pesky Houston Dynamo has elevated the team to DEFCON 1.
Not only did Houston continue its dominance at BBVA Compass Stadium, it continued to haunt a Sporting side that is still looking for its first victory over the Dynamo this year.
A 1-0 defeat would have been difficult to overcome for Sporting, but a demoralizing 2-0 loss is almost insurmountable.
Adam Moffat’s brilliant strike in the first half—a ballistic missile off his right foot that found the back of the net from 25 yards out—put Sporting on its heels.
Bruin’s goal in the 75th minute laid them out. Sporting is now on the verge of falling to Houston for the second-consecutive year.
The KC Cauldron and South Stand will need to provide Sporting with an intimidating, hostile environment for its second leg. Its season is dependent upon them.
Coach Kinnear continues his postseason dominance and the Dynamo are clicking at the right time. A single goal for Houston in its second leg of this series will be fatal for Sporting.
Many questioned whether Sporting had matured after last year. That question will finally be answered on Wednesday night.
Sporting fans should start making plans for next season. Unlike the Galaxy, it does not have the championship resilience to overcome such a significant margin.
I am not abandoning ship on my prediction, but I'm not even a Sporting Kansas City fan and I'm concerned.
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