LA Galaxy will take a slim 1-0 lead into the second leg against Colorado Rapids at Dicks Sporting Goods Park on Sunday. Colorado have one of the top defenses in the league and it was in evidence as LA struggled to find a breakthrough at the Stub Hub Center last week. Tim Howard produced a number of fine saves and in the end it took something special for Galaxy to get on the scoresheet, with Jelle Van Damme providing service for Giovani Dos Santos’ deflected goal.
It would have behooved Galaxy to have scored more although LA were lucky not to have given up an equalizer when Jermaine Jones tested keeper Brian Rowe late in the match.
Despite the Galaxy’s narrow advantage, this is a delicately balanced tie. Dos Santos is likely to be the key man for the Galaxy again, with Robbie Keane likely to start on the bench. Gyasi Zardes is still working his way back from injury and will be unavailable for the Galaxy, while it’s unclear what part Steven Gerrard will play, if any.
The Rapids will feel they hold an advantage playing at home and at altitude. Jones provided a much-needed injection of menace when he came off the bench in LA last week and could prove vital if Colorado are to bounce back and progress.
New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact
Montreal Impact have shown there’s a lot more about them than just Didier Drogba in these playoffs. The Impact take a slight lead to New Jersey on Sunday after an inspired goal from striker Matteo Mancosu lifted them to a 1-0 win last week.
But the Red Bulls have the best home record in the league and will be eager to face the Impact at Red Bull Arena, where Jesse Marsch’s fit squad can take advantage of the wide, expansive field. Red Bulls’ dynamic duo of Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips both fluffed opportunities to notch away goals in the first leg and will need to be sharper at home if Red Bulls are indeed to push on in their quest for a first MLS Cup.
After going AWOL on game day and not traveling to New York for the first leg, Drogba returned to training this week and could yet play a part in Montreal’s playoff push, although more likely by coming off the bench rather than starting.
New York City FC vs. Toronto FC
The biggest talking point heading into the second leg tie between NYCFC and Toronto is that NYC striker David Villa will be allowed to play after the MLS Disciplinary Committee ruled his challenge on Armando Cooper wasn’t worthy of a suspension. Villa or no Villa, it’s an uphill battle for Toronto to try and overcome a 2-0 deficit from the first leg – something no team has accomplished since 2004.
Toronto are holding the cards and can afford to let New York attack them and hit on the counter attack. Even though the star trio of Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley put in understated performances in the first leg, Toronto was still able to get the job done. Should a player like Giovinco come to life in the second game, he could make things very difficult for a New York defense that’s prone to giving up goals at home.
FC Dallas vs. Seattle Sounders
A few weeks ago, Seattle Sounders’ season looked to be all but over. Now they are considered overwhelming favorites to go through ahead of the second leg clash with Dallas. The team’s turnaround has been so impressive that interim coach Brian Schmetzer has been promoted from interim manager to regular manager.
Schmetzer has overseen the Sounders’ turnaround following the dismissal of long-time manager Sigi Schmidt, a feat made all the more impressive considering the sidelining of the team’s attacking talisman Clint Dempsey. Into the breach left by Dempsey have entered Jordan Morris who’s scored 12 goals in the regular season and Nelson Valdez who has come alive in the playoffs with two goals in two games.
In the other dugout, Dallas coach Oscar Pareja will be looking to reignite a stuttering attack that’s failed to score in its last two matches. Just as Seattle has enjoyed a turnaround, Dallas, the Supporters Shield winners and best team in the regular season, have faltered in recent weeks. One of the big problems for Pareja’s side has been the loss of Mauro Diaz, who was the key man for Dallas in the regular season but remains sidelined by a season-ending injury.
Written by Alex Baker. Photos by ISI.