Following Houston’s 3-0 shellacking of Montreal in the Eastern conference play-in game on Thursday night, the field for the the 2013 MLS Cup Conference semifinals is complete.
These four series are going to be spectacular.
With postseason specialists Houston making it in and the indomitable force of Seattle dispatching Colorado, the heavyweights of MLS will now slug it out as the elite eight must be whittled down to four.
(WATCH: Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers & Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls on NBC Sports Live Extra)
Let’s see who’s left, and who they’re up against, as the conference semifinal action begins this Saturday with the first legs, and the second legs take place a week later.
New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo
Mike Petke has worked wonders with the Red Bulls in his first season in charge. RBNY have leaned on star duo Theirry Henry and Tim Cahill, who wouldn’t. But they also looked great at the back and can score goals from all over the pitch. They faced Houston three times this season and won all three, with 2-0, 4-1 and 3-0 victories. But after being runners up for the last two years, you just can’t rule out the Dynamo in the postseason, can you?
Sporting Kansas City vs. New England Revolution
On paper SKC wins the series hands down, but Jay Heaps’ plucky Revs side have other ideas. It’s about time Sporting made it to MLS Cup after flattering to deceive in the past few seasons after losing to arch nemesis Houston, Peter Vermes will be revealed his side are not facing the Dynamo. New England could cause a shock here, but I highly doubt it.
Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders
So, this is happening. The Timbers and Sounders have never meet in the MLS playoffs, but they’ve met plenty of times in the NASL, A-league and USL versions. And the Sounders have won three out of the five games, and two of the three series’ they’ve battled out. Ominous? Seattle looked unconvincing down the stretch and for times against Colorado, but will a Cascadia clash against fierce rials and much favored Portland catapult them into action…
Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy
When RSL won the cup in 2009, they beat LA on penalties. Ever since a burgeoning rivalry between the two franchises has seen spats between Jason Kreis and David Beckham and plenty of other unpleasantness between the two sides. Expect things to boil over, as RSL’s youngsters come up against LA’s old heads and two great coaches in Kreis and Bruce Arena clash out West.