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Previewing the Playoffs: Quarterfinal Second Leg Day Two Edition

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After yesterday’s convincing win by Sporting Kansas City and nail biting victory on aggregate by Real Salt Lake there can be few still willing to argue that the playoffs do not produce compelling soccer. Today’s games promise to be every bit as exciting as both away teams will need a victory to advance to the conference finals. The Philadelphia Union will visit the Houston Dynamo in the evening’s first game while game two will be the New York Red Bulls visiting the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Ten second previews and offhand predictions after the jump.

Philadelphia Union at Houston Dynamo

5:30 pm, ESPN2

The Dynamo have been the hottest team in Major League Soccer coming into the playoffs, having gone undefeated in their last seven games, of which they have only tied twice. Philadelphia have a difficult task before them as they are down a goal and will be coming to a rocking environment in the final game at Houston’s Robertson Stadium as the Dynamo move into their new home next season. Unlike in yesterday’s games, both teams are relatively healthy and injuries should not play a part in setting the line-ups. With both teams willing to play a rough and rowdy style of soccer, intensity should not be a problem either. For Houston the most influential player on the field will once again be MVP-candidate Brad Davis who finished on top of the league in assists. With Davis pulling the strings in midfield and providing service from set pieces, the Dynamo are able to bring their size to bear on their opponents. The player to watch for Philadelphia is the leader of the offense Sebastien Le Toux. LeToux’s partnership with Danny Mwanga was disrupted early in the season, only to reignite in the year’s final games and finish with eleven goals and nine assists, leading the Union in both categories.

Predictions:

Houston Dynamo 1 (3) - Philadelphia 2 (3)* with goals from Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic, and Geoff Cameron. When the game goes to penalties after a scoreless extra time, Tally Hall saves two penalties for Houston but is let down by his teammates who are unable to convert, gifting the series to Philadelphia.

New York Red Bulls at Los Angeles Galaxy

8:00 pm, ESPN2

After the much reported dust-up at the end of the series first leg, many are looking forward to the return match between Los Angeles and New York. The clash between the two marquee clubs of Major League Soccer features bad blood, star power, and an away team that needs goals to go on, all the ingredients of a must watch match. The Galaxy will be missing Juninho in a central midfield position, while the Red Bulls will be missing Rafael Marquez as a defensive midfielder. Chris Birchall will likely slot in for the creative Brazilian, Juninho. Birchall’s game is a much more defensive one but he has seen plenty of minutes for the Galaxy this year and the team will be confident in his abilities. Dax McCarty will take over for Marquez on the Red Bulls, providing less refinement, but more hustle and much more forehead than the Mexican international. For the Red Bulls Thierry Henry has been the most dangerous man all season, remaining in the hunt for the golden boot until the very end. On the Galaxy Landon Donovan, despite having a down year for both club and country, is still the most dangerous man on the pitch and New York will need to keep him out of the game to have any chance at winning.

Predictions:

Los Angeles Galaxy 2 (3) - New York Red Bulls 2 (2) with goals from Chad Barrett, Omar Gonzalez (OG), Omar Gonzalez, and Thierry Henry. Expect Rafa Marquez to bum rush the field and throw his shoe at Landon Donovan in second half stoppage time.

Today will likely see two more excellent games so tune in and drop by this thread to chat about the games with your fellow Timbers fans.