The 2013 Major League Soccer Playoffs kick off tonight with the first of two play-in games. When we asked earlier this week who you wanted the Timbers to face, the Colorado Rapids received 56% of the vote, while the Seattle Sounders only got 44%. Now we will take another look at the playing games and give our picks for the first round of the MLS playoffs.
Colorado Rapids at Seattle Sounders
Wednesday, 7:30 pm,
NBC Sportsnet* ROOT Sports
|I've gone back and forth on my pick here for the last half an hour before eventually settling on Seattle. The Timbers have matched up well against Colorado this year, but the Rapids are just too dangerous an opponent. Despite their recent struggles, the Sounders are no slouches but the allure of a Cascadia playoff series is just too great to ignore.
|I simply cannot root for Seattle. It just isn't going to happen. And while it would be completely awesome to watch the Timbers toss the Sounders aside on the way to the next round, I get this gross feeling just imagining what it would be like to be knocked out by Seattle. Really though, facing either of these teams would scare me a little, for different reasons.
|If I'm the Timbers, I want no part of Colorado Rapids. While Portland fared pretty well against the Rapids during the season, their style and physicality clearly challenges the Timbers and forces Caleb Porter to adjust slightly away from his preferred approach. While a Seattle Sounders victory would bring joy to no one in the Rose City, that match-up seems a more familiar and manageable task than the relative unknown of a Colorado series.
|I can't stomach the idea of wanting a Sounders win on any level, and that has never been more the case than today. Michael Orr brought up the sore subject of 2007's matchup against Atlanta yesterday; I want the Sounders to experience the same heartbreak now. I want them to be narrowly denied the opportunity to face the mighty Timbers in the playoffs. I want them left wondering -- for years to come -- what they might have accomplished if only they'd figured out a way to beat the Rapids at home.
|Colorado will have traveled to Vancouver, stayed in Seattle and then back home to Colorado before playing the Timbers in the first leg of the series. Seattle on the other hand will gave hand two weeks worth of home cooking. I would rather face a road weary team and this is why I am leaning towards Colorado.
Thursday, 5:30 pm, NBC Sportsnet*
|This is a match between two teams that I believe have very little chance at dethroning the New York Red Bulls or Sporting Kansas City, so I am going to follow my heart here and pick the team that I at least find interesting from a stylistic point of view. The Dynamo, no matter how their regular season has gone, play a style that can make them very difficult to beat but also not very fun to watch. The Impact, meanwhile, play a style inspired by the Italian catenaccio, which is difficult to do well and rare in MLS right now. The Impact may not be the team on form right now, but an unlikely rematch against them for the Timbers would be a great game and a great clash of styles.
|I'm sick of seeing them in the final, but due to that magical playoff form they always seem to find, I think they have a better chance than Montreal of knocking out New York and/or SKC, i.e. the only teams the Timbers would have to face on the road if they made it to the final.
|Based on regular season results, the Timbers should want to see Montreal Impact eliminated at the first possible asking. Though L'Impact are nowhere near as strong as they were when they dominated Portland at Jeld-Wen Field back in March, their combination of skill and guile is one that in a one-game MLS Cup final, could be problematic. Houston Dynamo are a strange team who were beaten soundly by the Timbers in Portland. But whoever wins this game should become the favorite of Timbers fans for the rest of the playoffs. Anyone but New York or Sporting, really.
|My criteria for the Eastern Conference play-in is simple -- which team is more likely to beat New York and thus increase the likelihood that the Cup Final could be played in Portland. Choosing between the two based on that criteria is more difficult. While the Impact have a better record against NYRB -- 3 points, to Houston's 0 -- Montreal collected just four points over the final eight matches of the season, punctuated by their finale loss to Toronto. By contrast, Houston has lost just twice in their final eight, which is respectable, except that they both came against the Red Bulls by a combined score of 7-1. Ugh. Neither team has much of a chance, but I guess I like Houston's odds just a tiny bit better.
|Houston has the experience and the veterans to pull of upsets against New York and Sporting KC. If they do pull off the upsets Portland could host MLS cup.
*Neither match will be blacked out on MLS Live outside of the local coverage areas.
Disagree with the our picks? Let us know in the comments. Plus, if you are going to be watching the game, feel free to discuss it here.