Then United went on an absolute tear and never looked back. Golden Boot winner Luciano Emilio became the first 20 goal scorer seen in MLS since 2002 and was the major catalyst in an attack that never seemed to slow down in MLS play. However major credit has to go to to Head Coach Tom Soehn who stamped his authority on the team by instituting an early season formation and benching reigning Defender of the Year Bobby Boswell when it was warranted. He also ensured that this year’s edition did not run out of gas towards the end of the season by using his bench more effectively than Nowak.
DC has one of the most potent offenses in the league in Emilio, last season’s MVP Christian Gomez and the veteran Jamie Moreno whose play this year has brought him back into the Bolivian National Team fold. The are nursing injuries coming into the playoffs but hope to be ready for the post season. DC has virtually unbeatable at RFK and have veteran leadership in the form of former US International Ben Olsen.
DC will be especially motivated to make up for some heartbreaking international losses with a strong performance in the MLS playoffs and play for the title in front of their home fans as they did ten years ago.
DC United's Luciano Emilio: Golden Boot Winner (dc.mlsnet.com)
Chicago Fire(4) :
While the English language media covered every possible angle of the David Beckham story, no one can deny that the arrival of Mexican international Cuauhtemoc Blanco has produced more tangible on field results. Combined with the hiring of Juan Carlos Osorio as coach after an 1-6-1 stretch cost Dave Sarachan his job, a team that was dead in the water earlier in the season has been resurrected and now sets its sights a playoff match up with a side that it feels it can.
Blanco has been the main story. His swagger and creativity has brought a confidence back into the team. But he has able finishers in Chris Rolfe and Chad Barrett and a hard working Chris Armas in his MLS Playoff run to watch his back. Dasan Robinson continues to improve in the back CJ Brown remains the captain of the defense.
Chicago doesn’t fear DC and has had playoff success against United dating back to their expansion year double. But they will need to be at the top of their game to beat this DC team over two legs.
Strike a pose: Chicago's Blanco
NE Revolution (2)
The Revs just keep marching on.
Last year I stated that the boys from the 508 needed to win MLS Cup because their side might look a lot different with the impending departures of Clint Dempsey and Shalrie Joseph.
Dempsey signed with Fulham FC in England and Joseph, before the start of the season, turned down the captain’s armband and requested a trade.
And you what? The Revolution still finished second in the conference and picked up its first piece of silverware, the US Open Cup, along the way. Coach Steve Nichol continues to show that he is one of MLS top coaches.
Shalrie Joseph continues to cement his legacy as one of the best defensive midfielders in league history, and while he continues to struggle internationally, Taylor Twellman continues shows that in MLS he is still one of MLS’ deadliest finishers.
The defense, marshalled Matt Reis, enjoying another fine season in goal and the emerging young talent Michael Parkhurst remain as tough as their coach was in his Liverpool days.
Having gotten over the hump of finally lifting some silverware, the Revolution will set their sights on another deep playoff run.
Shalrie Joseph: All time best at his position? (mlsnet)
Red Bull New York (3)
Whether known as the Metrostars or Red Bull, fans of MLS’ team at Exit 16W have seen more than there share of early playoff exits. They’ve only advanced past the first round once (the Lothar Mattheus season) and have had more coaching and roster turnovers than your average Waffle House.
Yet things are starting to look up for RBNY. Former US Head Coach Bruce Arena starting re-shaping this team towards the end of last season and began this one having jettisoned Amado Guevara but signed both Claudio Reyna and Juan Pablo Angel.
While Reyna has been injured throughout the season Juan Pablo Angel has been a legitimate MVP candidate, getting off the a fast start and helping pulling RBNY through bumpy patch in the middle of the season. He scored twice in front 50,000 when Beckham and Galaxy showed up so it’s clear he relishes the big stage.
Josmer Altidor has continued his progression an up and coming striker in MLS combining and Jamaican Dane Richards had an impressive first campaign in MLS. But if RBNY wants to advance, they’re going to have to out tough the Revolution in the midfield and provide service for Angel, Altidore and Clint Mathis.
Angel and Altidore: Stop us if you can (AP)
This should be a competitive series but the Revolution have tons of experience and should most likely meet up with DC in the Conference Final
DC will head to Chicago on Thursday night for the first leg of their seres while RBNYwill host the Revolution on Saturday. The return legs will take place next week.
NEXT: The Western Conference.