Flawless MLS Cup 2017 Conference Semifinal Predictions
So I went three and one with my MLS Cup Knockout Round predictions, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that got the Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bull game horribly wrong. Now that the stage is set for the conference semifinals (read as quarterfinals in reality), there is a chance for an all New York match-up in the conference finals. I’m sure that will excite the MLS front offices almost as much as Atlanta United making it through. If you are from the great white north, maybe you are dreaming of a potential all Canadian final between Toronto and Vancouver? In a year that the USMNT failed to qualify for the World Cup, would a domestic league title played outside of the United States be the icing on the cake? There are still some games to be played before any of these fantasies can come true though, so let’s look first to the West:
Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo
With all the hype surrounding the other game in the west, this game feels a little like the undercard, and it shouldn’t. The Timbers finished first in the West while Houston seems to be in a bit of a renaissance. Houston handled Sporting Kansas City in a tense affair, and one that I thought shouldn’t have been as close as it was. I think this Timbers team is too good to find too much of a challenge with Houston. However things go down in Houston, I think will thrive in the final leg in Portland with the support at their backs. Portland wins this series.
Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
The trickier and more hyped match-up of the two, and for good reason. Historic rivalries always seem to come alive in games like these, and I expect this one to live up to the billing. Vancouver at home first gives them a chance to punch first, and my prediction is that they do. A five goal win in the knock-out round might oversell the hype with this Whitecaps team but I don’t think that win against San Jose was a fluke. They won’t score five on the Sounders, even in two legs, but I still think Vancouver wins this one.
Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls
I’ll admit it, I wanted to see a Toronto vs. Chicago match-up here. I really like the resurgence in Chicago and was curious to see how well they could do against the heavily favored Reds. Instead it is the surprising Red Bulls who will try to dethrone the favorites. NY has the pedigree and experience to play spoiler against a team that features two core players who couldn’t beat Trinidad & Tobago. Shade aside, Toronto has been the stuff of nightmares for nearly anyone they faced this year, and I don’t expect that to change as they march towards the MLS Cup. Toronto wins this series but the Bulls make it interesting.
NYCFC vs. Columbus Crew
The last match-up is an interesting one. The storylines here seem rooted in each team’s front offices instead of a larger match-up. NYCFC are taking the steps to assert themselves as the giants of MLS in the shape of their mother club, Manchester City. It always seemed a given, but this is also a team still playing in various baseball fields around New York. A long playoff run and/or a title could help to solidify this as the preeminent club of MLS they want to be, and maybe even encourage the sound of earthmovers at the site of a permanent home. On the opposite side of this fixture are the Crew, whose owner has decided to leave a perfectly good soccer stadium if the Columbus don’t give him a new one. If his demands aren’t met, he’ll move his team to Austin where he’ll try to get someone there to build him a stadium. I’m editorializing these predictions aren’t I? I think the Crew win this series behind a massive #SaveTheCrew rally at MAPFRE Stadium.
So there you go, another set of (probably) not flawless predictions. I’m kind of excited about this round of the playoffs. The way MLS have their playoff structure, this is the only round that builds excitement. As the games are coming at you most nights of the week. I’m not sure I see a champion emerging from the field yet, and that adds to the fun doesn’t it? I’m not ready to crown Toronto yet, I’ve got this crazy desire to see Columbus bring the awkward and save their team all the way to the final, and there are still three Cascadian teams in the mix. I think there is a lot of narrative left in this MLS season.