New York Red Bulls 2 Houston Dynamo 2 (Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. MT, Univision Deportes, MLS Direct Kick, and MLS Live)
In what was a closely-fought regular season, the Red Bulls clinched the Supporters’ Shield with the fifth lowest points-per-game tally in MLS history.
Their first foray into the 2013 Playoffs continued in the same vein. This one is tense, tight and tantalizingly poised ahead of the second leg inside Red Bull Arena.
Yes, Mike Petke’s men have home-field advantage and remain on course to become only the fifth team to lift both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in the same year (LA Galaxy and DC United have achieved the feat twice).
Yes, during the regular season they won all three meetings with the Dynamo, scoring nine and conceding just one.
But this is the Playoffs, and the Dynamo – with head coach Dominic Kinnear back on the bench after his controversial one-game ban – have a reputation of coming alive at this stage of the campaign.
The Texas team, though, will have to be at their very best. Road form throughout the regular season was patchy, with just five wins from their 17 away games.
For Houston to stand a chance, they have to get in amongst the Red Bulls early on and continue where they left off in the first leg, when coming from 2-0 down. If not, then the Red Bulls could run riot.
PREDICTION: NYRB 3, Dynamo 1 (Red Bulls to win 5-3 on aggregate)
Sporting Kansas City 1, New England Revolution 2 (Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. MT on MLS Direct Kick and MLS Live)
Sporting KC’s coach, Peter Vermes, need only sit his players down in front of the highlights from the first leg to have them fired-up for the return. The Revs’ first goal, tapped in by Andy Dorman, had Vermes and Co. seething, with the suggestion being that ‘all three players were offside’.
And so expect a determined Sporting KC to take to the field on Wednesday, knowing that they are unbeaten at home in their last seven matches against New England. Indeed, they triumphed 3-0 over the Revs when the two teams met at Sporting Park in the regular season.
But Sporting KC will have to improve on their recent goals-per-game average if they’re to progress, managing to net just six in the previous six.
It’ll be interesting to see what approach Revs’ head coach Jay Heaps takes. Do they sit and protect their lead, in the hope of maybe hitting SKC on the break? Or do they go in search of an early ‘killer’ goal? The former is always a risky ploy, as it then requires a complete change in mindset should the opposition breach your defenses.
Despite the dearth of goals, my Spidey-senses point to a home win and a meeting with the Red Bulls, though it may take extra-time … and possibly penalty kicks.
PREDICTION: SKC 2, Revs 1 (decided by pks).