2008 MLS Playoffs Preview: Part Two

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: October 31, 2008

MIAMI — Yesterday we ran down the Eastern Conference teams looking to get to MLS Cup 2008. Here’s who’s trying to qualify out of the West:

Houston Dynamo (1)

All eyes will be on Houston Dynamo as they attempt to do make history by winning its third straight MLS Cup. DC United has been the only team to win back to back titles (’96 & ’97).

Houston, as they are accustomed to doing, started off slowly before absolutely catching fire in the middle of the season. They’ve lost just once in the league since May 22, an August 24 loss sandwiched by seven match and nine unbeaten streaks.

What’s even more remarkable is that they’ve done while getting to the final of the Superliga and the competing in the CONCACAF Champions League. Key to this run has been US International Brian Ching who’s 13 career goals are a career high but Houston’s usual cast of characters have come through as well. Canadian Dwayne DeRosario continues to be a big game player who can change games at any point in the match.

The defense has always been a strong point under coach Dominc Kinnear and this year was no different. For the second straight year, the backline anchored by the likes of long time captain Wade Barrett, newcomer Bobby Boswell and backed up by the ageless wonder Pat Onstad allowed the fewest goals in the league.

Ricardo Clark: looking to be a
positive force in the playoffs
(houston chronicle)

Ricardo Clark: looking to be a positive force in the playoffs (houston chronicle)

>Ricardo Clark will be looking to have a major impact in the midfield for Houston after missing last year’s playoffs with a record suspension. He’ll be part of a solid nucleus in the midfield that includes Brad Davis, Stuart Holden and Brian Mullan. Their ability to control play has helped make this team the class of MLS over the past few seasons.

This team is simply head and shoulders above anyone else out west but their road records is third worst of any playoff team. However they should be able to overcome a weak RBNY team to advance to the

Red Bull New York (4)

MLS’ playoff system basically gives spots to the top eight sides in the league no matter the conference. That’s about the only way that RBNY made the playoffs and that’s why they are out west to play Houston in the first round. It should be a short run.

This team lost Jozy Altidore to Spanish side Villareal earlier in the season and Claudio Reyna to retirement. The team from Exit 16W comes into the playoffs with a -6 goal differenetial having lost four of their six final regular season matches including a 5-2 pasting by Chicago in a game they needed to win.

Their form is so bad right now, even their coach Juan Carlos Osorio didn’t think they deserved to be in the playoffs.

Dane Richards (mlsnet)

Dane Richards (mlsnet)

>But in the playoffs they are and can put some pressure on Houston playing on the turf at Jimmy Hoffa’s resting place. Juan Pablo Angel has continued to come good for RBNY, scoring 14 goals and inspired play out of the midfield from Dave van den Bergh and Jamaican Dane Richards.

Jeff Parke has been the stalwart on the back line but their 48 goals allowed was third worst in the league. Bad omen coming up against a side as accomplished offensively as Houston.

Real Salt Lake (3)

After four years in the league, R. Salt Lake made it to the post-season in dramatic fashion, scoring a 90th minute goal through Yura Movsisyan in a winner-goes-to-the-playoffs showdown with their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals, the Colorado Rapids.

Real’s turnaround from doormat to playoff team began last season with the appointment of Jason Kreis and some astute personnel moves by GM Garth Lagerway >detailed here>.

Andy Williams: Finally back in
the playoffs (mlsnet)

Andy Williams: Finally back in the playoffs (mlsnet)

>Still it was a tough climb for this team led by the likes of MVP candidate Javiar Morales, Robbie Findley, Andy Williams and Kyle Beckerman.

Having just opened their new stadium, Rio Tinto, things could finally be looking up for this side who’s lost just once at home all season. They have absolutely nothing to lose and have been in playoff mode for over a month, riding a five match unbeaten streak into the playoffs.

This could be a most intriguing match-up

Chivas USA (2)

The Home Depot Center’s other resident, like Houston ahead of them, started off slowly this season and were embarrassed in the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Champions League. But they are on a roll since the end of August, having lost only twice in the past 10 matches, including four straight wins between September and October.

However, this is not the explosive offensive juggernaut in the realm of the Galaxy or Houston. They’ve been without Maykel Galindo for most of the season who formed a dangerous partnership with Ante Razov last season.

Sacha Kljestan (mlsnet)

Sacha Kljestan (mlsnet)

>Razov for his part has also been injured and was limited to five goals which tied him for the team lead with Alecko Eskandarian and up and coming US International Sacha Kljestan.

The midfield is going to have to really get it done and provide the opportunities for the forwards. That means the underrated Franciso Mendoza, Paulo Nagamura and the hardworking veteran Jesse Marsch will have to really step up.

Defensively, they have been solid but players like Mexican legend Claudio Suarez and Jonathan Borstein well have to on their guard against a hungry RSL side.

Chivas suffered first round heartache last season and will be keen to avoid it this time around to set up a long anticipated showdown with Houston.

MLS Playoffs: Once again, it’s on…