Previewing the Least Coast: New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution

The Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas match culminated a less than dramatic second weekend of the MLS playoffs. Unfortunately fans were treated to blowout soccer in the semifinals. My father, who is kindly humoring my encouragement to be a soccer fan, asked which games he should tivo this weekend. Other than the Sounders, I suggested the DC vs. NYRB and LA vs RSL matchups. We all knew the Crew were cooked, but I thought DC could win convincingly at home and RSL would give LA a game. I was so wrong on both counts. Now my MLS playoff bracket is broken (I had DC-Columbus and Seattle-RSL in the final four, like Samsonite, I was way off). Other than Seattle, all of the other Final Four sides simply dominated.

After previewing the Western Conference Finals earlier in the week, I turn my attention to the Least­– I mean, Eastern Conference. The final is set with #2 New England playing #4 New York. Earlier I was laughing at the Red Bulls having won only their third playoff series this past weekend against DC, and then checked myself ‘cause we only just won our second. But an original franchise in a huge market having only won three series in 19 years? Sheesh… we need a new word somewhere between mediocrity and ineptitude, ineptiocrity? medititude? Coach Mike Petke is trying to remake the franchise into winners, and 2014 has so far been a success.

New York thinks this is their year. With Bradley Wright-Phillips kicking his way into the record books and the always indomitable Thierry Henry serving his goals up on a platter, these Red Bulls are different. There is quality and grit amongst the aritsts formerly known as the MetroStars. Though New York’s team defense is still poor. They tied Seattle for most goals-against amongst playoff sides (and didn’t come close to matching our goals-for). Combined with Thierry Henry’s stance against turf fields (like New England’s Gillette Stadium), New York looks like just another speed bump for the Revolution.

Lee Nguyen has been a revelation with the Revs and his partnership with Jermaine Jones has New England looking like the favorite to win the East. New England has been unstoppable lately, going 10-1-1 (including playoffs) since signing Jones. The last team to beat them, Columbus, just got steamrolled in the semis. If we were going on just recency bias, New England would be the odds-on favorite to hoist MLS Cup. But they must beat a Western Conference team to do so. Curiously, the Revs have only played Eastern Conference foes since the Jones signing. Could the Revs just be the best of the lesser conference?

If New England performs like us prognosticators expect, it’ll be interesting to see them against the last standing titan of the West. Los Angeles manhandled the Revs 5-1 during New England’s midseason swoon. And I am sure Seattle would love to avenge their 5-0 hammering from earlier in the year.

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