Fire 1 : 0 United
United will be thanking Perkins for keeping this one close. Thursday night will see the first conference finalist stake their claim as the Fire roll into the seething cauldron of darkness that will be RFK. Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate! Personally, I won't be abandoning my hopes for something along the lines of ManU's response to going a goal down in the first leg to Roma in last season's Champions' League. Of course, with the "quality" of some the characters in the Fire side, and given the number of fouls committed in the first leg, I think such a demolition would leave United with only a handful of healthy, non-suspended players to face the Revs in the next round. (Blanco . . . dive! Segares . . . hack! Brown . . . thug! Wait, is thug a verb? In the case of Brown, and of course dictionary definition picture model Jay Heaps--absolutely it is.)
Red Bull 0 : 0 Revolution
Oops, did I just go and hand victory in this tie to the Revs? Honestly, the Bulls big chance was to come out and overwhelm the Revs with offense in Game 1, hoping to carry a multiple-goal lead into the second leg. They tried, but as so often happens in the Swamp, the sweet stench of Metro Playoff Failure cast a pall over the field turf. Speaking of casting a pall, how 'bout that "crowd"? I swear that I could hear individual voices in the singing.
Wizards 1 : 0 Chivas
A fairly even match decided by a free kick from distance. The Wizards hold serve, but the signs were all there that Chivas, even without Razov's scoring punch, should have enough to at least take the second leg to extra time. Chivas are a different animal at home, and will probably take the "Miserable Attendance Derby."
Dallas 1: 0 Dynamo
Remarkably, Dallas managed not to implode and somehow took the first leg by a narrow margin. But that fragile Hoops back line can't hold out forever, even if the Dynamo are struggling for goals. They'll be under siege in the second leg, and that does not bode well at all for a Dallas defense that has had several memorable collapses this year.
Closing Thoughts and Predictions
We entered the playoffs without a single team carrying anything resembling momentum. It was more like eight runners stumbling towards the finish line and struggling to push through the tape. Combine that with the dour playoff psychology of "not losing" and you get 3 goals in the opening round of matches. Ugh! Here's hoping that with the onus on the home sides to attack in the second legs, that we'll end up with a barn-burner or two and some really exciting, tense stuff. After all, it's only fitting that the quality of the playoffs match the regular season, which was arguably the best in the history of the league.
So who's golfing next week? Let's take a look at the Fullback Files A-plus, Solid, Guaranteed Locks for the conference finals. Should you have any money riding on these games, you'd probably be advised to pick against me ;-).
DC United piles the pressure on early, only to suffer getting hit by the Fire on the counter. Thankfully, Emilio and Moreno are back up top and DC equalizes on the brink of halftime. A stirring second half struggle is punctuated by a United second to knot the series at two apiece and force extra time, where the Bearded Bombardier shows his heart and smuggles the ball into the net after a melee in the box.
Red Bull take the spoils in a high-scoring affair at the Big Razor! What's that you say--didn't I just say they were dead and buried above? Well, technically, yes . . . but further reflection shows me a number of occasions this season where the Revs dropped games involving lots of goals at home, and the Bulls have the potential to both create and surrender them in bunches. Call me contrarian, but I'm sensing that the Revs may have gone off the boil for good this year. They're about due for an early collapse, aren't they? Don't forget to come back next week and mock me after the Revs torch Arena's boys for oh, I don't know, four or five?
Chivas get one early, negating the Wizards counter-attacking gameplan. But then things settle down into a tense, dour affair, sprinkled with half-chances here and there, before Guzan trumps Hartman (what's up with his Wikipedia entry having his middle name as either Eugene or James?) in the penalty shoot-out, EJ missing yet again as the Wizards crash and burn.
Houston shock absolutely nobody by demolishing the Hoops. Ruiz sees red early in the second after the Karma Police storm in and book him for a dive in the first half and an elbow to Eddie Robinson's face in the second. The Dynamo absolutely pepper the Dallas net, running out 3-0 winners and advancing to face the Goats.