MLS Cup Playoffs 2013: Schedule and Predictions for Thursday's Action

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent INovember 7, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 07:  David Horst #12 of the Portland Timbers battles Eddie Johnson #7 of the Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on October 7, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The MLS Cup playoffs head back to the pitch on Thursday with the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals.  

Holding a 2-1 lead, the Portland Timbers will host the Seattle Sounders. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake will host the Los Angeles Galaxy facing a 1-0 deficit.

With just a one-goal difference in both matchups, it sets up an exciting Thursday.

Check out the full schedule below, and then I'll offer up predictions for Thursday's games. 

MLS Playoff Schedule
Western Conference Semifinals: Second Leg
MatchupDate/Time (ET)
Real Salt Lake vs. L.A. GalaxyThurs., Nov. 7 at 9 p.m.
Portland vs. SeattleThurs., Nov. 7 at 11 p.m.
Eastern Conference Finals
MatchupDate/Time (ET)
First LegSat., Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m.
Second LegNov. 23 or 24 (TBA)
Western Conference Finals
MatchupDate/Time (ET)
First LegSun., Nov. 10 at 9 p.m.
Second LegNov. 23 or 24 (TBA)
2013 MLS Cup
MatchupDate/Time (ET)
West champion vs. East championSat., Dec. 7 at 4 p.m.
Source: MLSsoccer.com

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 07:  Eddie Johnson #7 of the Seattle Sounders FC battles David Horst #12, and Mamadou 'Futty' Danso #98 of the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field on October 7, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Sounders found great success with the 4-4-2 lineup in the previous round against the Colorado Rapids. However, that wasn't quite as effective against the Timbers.

Portland's width and ball control spread out and frustrated that formation, and if it wasn't for a late goal by Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle would be facing an even more dire position.

So, what do the Sounders do now?

Seattle has to aggressively look for goals to try and steal this series while on the road, but with Portland's ability to maintain possession and launch counters, that is not going to work out well.

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Portland only lost one game at home all season and that was back in March. I don't see that streak ending on Thursday. 

Prediction: Portland 2, Seattle 0

Real Salt Lake vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

Nov 3, 2013; Carson, CA, USA;   Los Angeles Galaxy forward Robbie Keane (7) and Real Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran (2) in the second half of the Western Conference Semifinal Leg 1 game at StubHub Center. Galaxy won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Onc
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Real Salt Lake is lucky to be trailing only 1-0.

The Galaxy had no problem creating chances against Salt Lake's conservative 4-2-3-1 in the first leg. They only had problems converting those chances.

Robbie Keane alone had a couple of breakaway chances that he typically would never miss. 

Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis was forced to abandon his conservative approach and move back to the favored 4-4-2. I would expect Kreis to forgo the conservative approach in this one as they try to find some home goals to steal the series.

Salt Lake has the firepower to pull it off. They were the highest-scoring team in the Western Conference this season. This sets up a thrilling contest.

In the end, I expect Salt Lake to nearly force extra time, but look for a late goal from Landon Donovan, the MLS all-time leading playoff goalscorer, to force the draw and a series win for the Galaxy. 

Prediction: Real Salt Lake 1, Los Angeles Galaxy 1

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