MLS playoffs Week 1: Time for a Revolution?
College Contributor Network
Week 1 of the 2014 MLS playoffs is in the books. There was some pretty, there was some ugly, and there was one standout performance.
New beasts in the east
D.C. United may have finished atop the Eastern Conference in the regular season, but after its performance last Saturday the New England Revolution has cemented itself as the favorite to advance to the MLS Cup.
The Revs finished the regular season as the hottest team in Major League Soccer, piling up a 10-2-2 record over their final 14 games. After a 4-2 drubbing of the Columbus Crew in the opening leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal, it doesn't look as if New England plans to cool off any time soon.
Jay Heaps' men are scoring goals by the bushel, and they're scoring them in different ways. Last weekend, New England's first two goals came off of well-orchestrated set pieces, as Charlie Davies found the back of the net on a diving header and Chris Tierney buried a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box. The Revs next two goals came on the counterattack thanks to special individual efforts from Lee Nguyen and Charlie Davies (check out that shmoney dance celebration).
If you're looking for a team to follow this postseason, why not make it the Revolution? New England's style of play is oodles of fun to watch and its cast of stars is as unique as any assembled in recent memory.
If you want compelling storylines, look no further than the resurgent Davies and the MVP candidate Nguyen. Davies is a former U.S. international who saw his career take a turn for the worst in October of 2009 when he was involved in a serious car accident that almost took his life. He returned to soccer in 2011 with D.C. United, then bounced around in Europe before returning to MLS at the tail end of last season. Now back in his home state of Massachusetts, Davies is finding his old form at exactly the right time.
Nguyen, who has been one of the best players in MLS all season long, was a promising U.S. international at 19 years old in 2006. Back then, the Texas native spurned MLS interest to begin his professional career in the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven.
Four managers and two years later, Nguyen had only logged a single appearance for the Dutch club, and he decided to take his talents to Vietnam, where he immediately became the highest paid athlete in the entire country (more on that here). He returned to MLS in 2012, looking to get on the radar of new USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann. Flash forward to today, and it would seem that national team call-up can't be far off on the horizon.
Of course, the Revs have a different midfielder on the roster with no shortage of USMNT caps. Suffice to say that if you have not yet seen Jermaine Jones ply his trade in MLS you are definitely missing out.
Best not far from the rest
It wasn't a great week for top-seeded teams in MLS.
At Red Bull Arena, the top seed in the east, D.C. United, looked sluggish and unimaginative in its 2-0 lost to New York. Ben Olsen's crew seems to be missing the chemistry up top that came from the Luis Silva/Fabian Espindola pairing. Silva has been out the past month with a hamstring injury, and his replacement Eddie Johnson does not seem to be able to fill the same type of role playing alongside Espindola. The two strikers struggled with hold up play and possession all game long against the Red Bulls, and will need to be much better this Saturday if D.C. wants a shot at advancing.
Out west, the Supporters Shield winners fared a bit better, but did not turn in a dominant performance, as Seattle drew 1-1 at FC Dallas. The tie leaves the Sounders with a bit of work left to do back home at Centurylink Field in the matchup's second leg.
The end of #LegenD?
In the Western Conference's other semifinal, the L.A Galaxy drew 0-0 at Real Salt Lake. That means it is entirely plausible to think Landon Donovan may play his last ever match Sunday night at the StubHub Center.
It's also entirely plausible to think Donovan will power the Galaxy to another playoff victory like he has so many times in the past. Either way, if you're an American soccer fan, make sure you're near a television with ESPN2 at 7:30 PM on Nov. 9. LD's time is running short.
MLS playoffs Week 2 TV schedule
No excuses not to watch. Each game gets the national treatment this week.
2:30 PM (NBC) - New York Red Bulls at D.C. United
5:00 PM (ESPN2) - Columbus Crew at New England Revolution
7:30 PM (ESPN2) - Real Salt Lake at L.A. Galaxy
10:30 PM (NBCSN) - FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders
Kevin Case is a junior at Syracuse University. He is a loyal D.C. sports fan, has a growing love for American soccer, and would love to beat you in FIFA. Follow him on Twitter: @KCase_Closed