After a fairly exciting weekend, the first round matchups are set and they should all be good. The first round will probably have upsets especially since the first round gives no advantage to the higher seeded teams. The most exciting matchups are Los Angeles vs. Chivas USA and Chicago vs. New England.
I’m going to try to focus on the key player matchups in each tie and will make my prediction for the first leg matches. As a general rule, I expect these first legs will all be pretty tight as teams will try to avoid making costly mistakes.
(2) Houston Dynamo at (3) Seattle Sounders FC
I think that this will be the most entertaining series in the opening round. Both teams go all out in attack. Stuart Holden vs. Oswaldo Alonso will be a very important match up. Ricardo Clark will need to return to the lineup if Houston want to win as he will be necessary to stop Freddie Ljungberg. The last match up that will be key will be Steve Zakuani vs. Andrew Hainault on the wing. I expect this match to actually be quite open. My prediction is Seattle 2, Houston 2.
(1) Los Angeles Galaxy at (4) Chivas USA
This series should continue a good rivalry. Los Angeles will be happy to be in the playoffs but will be looking for a good run for the MLS Cup. Chivas USA started off well then fell off the pace before putting together a good run at the end. However, that momentum was lost with 2 losses in the last week. The key to the game will be the center of midfield where Jesse Marsch and Paulo Nagamura face off against David Beckham and Stefani Miglioranzi. I see Chivas USA sticking Sacha Kljestan in the center of midfield which will give them control of the game. My prediction is Chivas USA 1, Los Angeles 0.
(2) Chicago Fire at (3) New England Revolution
These teams have had a long postseason history. New England has dominated the past meetings until last season when Chicago finally beat them in the playoffs. New England are dealing with lots of injuries and will need Shalrie Joseph to be superb in order to have any chance. His match up against Cuauhtémoc Blanco will be the key to the series. Chicago is deep and will be able to bring on game changers while New England will be pretty much depending on their starters. Unless New England has a forward step up, I see Chicago having an easy time with New England. My prediction is Chicago 2, New England 0.
(1) Columbus Crew at (4) Real Salt Lake
This series strikes me as having a good chance for an upset. Columbus will have to travel far for this match and face a Real Salt Lake team that is very good at home. The key worry for Columbus will be the health of Chad Marshall who has missed the last couple games and they will have to face a dynamic front with Yuri Movsisyan and Robbie Findley. However, the big matchups will be in midfield where Columbus’ Brian Carroll will match up with Real Salt Lake’s Javier Morales. Looking the other way, Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman goes against Guillermo Barros Schelotto. My prediction for this game is Columbus 1, Real Salt Lake 1.