View from the Booth: Sounders set to be the biggest casualty in race for final four

Following to overtime East semis, Fleming predicts which West teams will advance

View from Booth - Playoffs preview 2

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Real Salt Lake 0, LA Galaxy 1 (Thurs, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. MT on ESPN 2)

And so we move to Thursday’s action, and two intriguing contests, starting with this little gem just across the way in Utah.

For all their star-spangled, twinkle-toed huffing and puffing the two-times defending champions LA Galaxy managed just the one goal in California at the weekend, but it was a beauty, rifled in by Sean Franklin.

History hovers on the horizon for Bruce Arena’s men, with no team having won the MLS Cup three years in a row (DC United and Houston Dynamo have matched the Galaxy for two in a row).

Could their paucity in front of goal come back to haunt them inside Rio Tinto? It’ll be a true test of champions, for sure.

Real Salt Lake have one MLS Cup triumph to their name, claimed in 2009 with victory over the Galaxy. They’ll fancy their chances of overturning the first leg deficit and marching on into the Western Conference final, but expect a response from the Galaxy.

I’ll even go so far as to borrow a well-worn phrase from you good folk and suggest we could witness ‘a real doozy’ of a game. A week ago I was favoring RSL. That didn’t alter even after the loss in LA, because we know that – at home – RSL are as tough as old boots. But I now have this sneaking suspicion that ‘Bruce Almighty’ could rally his troops for a smash ‘n’ grab in Salt Lake City. PREDICTION: RSL 1, Galaxy 1 (Galaxy win 2-1 on aggregate).

Portland Timbers 2, Seattle Sounders 1 (Thurs, Nov. 7 at 9 p.m. MT on NBC Sports Network)

In my mind, we leave the best ‘til last. Hats off to the Timbers under Caleb Porter. They’ve enjoyed a phenomenal year, and I don’t see it ending on Thursday. Little from the Sounders’ win over the Rapids last week had me thinking that Sigi Schmid’s men could haul themselves out of the hole they stumbled into during the latter part of the regular season.

I’m pretty sure there will be a number of nervous TV executives watching this one, desperate for the Sounders to progress after the darlings from the East, New York, took a tumble on Wednesday.

Expect a big splodge of pigeon poop to be dropped on those plans by Portland, who have their noses in front and will show no mercy at Jeld-Wen Field. There is a hunger and a unity about this Timbers team. I don’t see that in the distracted eyes of the Sounders side.

This one could get a bit messy, both during and after. Caleb Porter was probably able to name his price when negotiating a contract extension last week. His stock will rise further with victory on Thursday. On the flip side, Sigi may just become another statistic in the list of coaching casualties if he fails to satisfy his demanding masters. PREDICTION: Timbers 2, Sounders 0 (Timbers win 4-1 on aggregate).