2nd leg of MLS semifinals — according to plan, or surprises in store?

2014 MLS Playoff Tickets
This weekend will bring, in addition to the gridiron version of football on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, football matches of the kind played around most of the rest of the world as well. These would be the second legs of the MLS Cup conference semifinals, the second of a two-game aggregate series.

After last weekend’s clear victories (by New England at Columbus, and New York at home over DC United) and draws (FC Dallas-Seattle and LA Galaxy-Real Salt Lake), it’s time to see if Seattle can take another step in the pursuit of a historic triple title, or whether DC or LA can be the first to five Cup victories.

Saturday: New York at DC United. French legend Thierry Henry still has some gas in the tank, as evidenced by his two assists in the Red Bulls’ home leg. But DCU has history on their side, at least for the moment; RBNY has never defeated United in four playoff series before this year, and as the top seed, DCU gets the return leg United were without their feature forward, Luis Silva, but he’ll be back for the RFK Stadium faithful this weekend. On the other hand, DC’s back line will have to work hard to keep regular season Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips from registering another goal; he has three for the postseason.

Sunday: Columbus Crew at New England Revolution. The Crew’s stay in the postseason that they worked so hard to secure could be a short one, after giving up four goals to the Revs in a 4-2 drubbing at Crew Stadium. Charlie Davies – he who was the next great hope at forward for the US National Team before an auto crash back in 2009 – put his stamp on this game with a brace of two goals. But the four goals given up by the Crew at home will do as much as anything to bring about their early demise.

Sunday: Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles Galaxy. The Galaxy have goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to thank for last weekend’s scoreline, as RSL peppered the Panamanian goalkeeper with shot after shot only to be turned away each time. It’s through this effort that the Galaxy just need one goal to extend Landon Donovan’s final season a little longer. Which is not to say that RSL’s netminder, Nick Rimando, is a slouch – he shut down LA’s strike trio of Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Gyasi Zardes (among others) on a windy day in Utah last weekend.

Monday: FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC. Thanks to MLS’s adoption of an away-goals rule for this postseason, the 1-1 draw at Dallas gives the Sounders one of the easiest paths to the next round, with either an outright win or a scoreless draw giving the Sounders – already winners of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield this season – a pass into the conference finals against either Los Angeles or Salt Lake. Should the Sounders be successful, they’ll be the first Shield winner in three seasons to avoid elimination in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs.

The postseason will culminate in the single-game MLS Cup final, which will be at the home ground of the highest remaining seed, on December 7.

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