I threw around the numbers like they were lost pages of an ancient tome. Since 2008 when the CONCACAF Champions League expanded to a group stage, only one MLS team which qualified for the group stage has moved on from the MLS Cup quarterfinals. This weekend proved two things. That figure is a useful diagnostic tool, and that this year's LA Galaxy team is special.
At least so far. everything can change in this topsy turvy world, but through the first leg - three of the four teams that qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League group stage have suffered a multi-goal loss. FC Dallas, of course, was out in the play-in round when the New York Red Bulls beat them at home 0-2. The Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake had Saturday all to themselves, and the more rested RSL ran over Seattle 3-0. Sounder at Heart has declared it Mission: Improbable:
Before that goal the contest was already a longshot. After it, we started entering we-need-a-miracle territory. Part of the problem is that despite the fact we know we need to go after it to get the three goals back, we don't have a lot of options to switch to a more attacking style.
So should LA hold on against New York, there's only about a 9.1% chance their opponent in the Western Conference championship is the Seattle Sounders. A look at the East after the jump.
Over at Once a Metro, their focus is understandably where to go next in the Marquez Conundrum:
In the end, the loss of Marquez may mean less for the Red Bulls than the absence of Juninho does for the Galaxy. Los Angeles has relied on the Brazilian's steady play in midfield all season long, and with a 1-0 lead to protect, he could have been a key player in frustrating New York's attacks and disrupting their midfield.
Yeah, LA sure got the short end of that stick, I tell you what.
Houston Dynamo 2 - Philadelphia Union 1
On the one hand, the Houston Dynamo being good when they're about to debut a new stadium is probably good for MLS. As an AEG property in a metro area with a similar makeup to Los Angeles, I think Houston could be a great soccer city, they've just gotta get rid of those cheerleaders. On the other hand, it would have been neat for the Sons of Ben to get their first MLS playoff win. Good to see the expansion franchises thriving.
The Brotherly Game chalks it up to being unprepared.
A national television audience was ready. The Houston Dynamo were ready. The Philadelphia Union, however, were not. From the opening kick, it was clear that Houston had traveled to Chester seeking not just a draw, but a victory. A mere five minutes in, Andre Hainault's header converted a perfect Brad Davis free kick to give the visitors the lead and leave Philadelphia fans silenced.
That's a bummer.
Sporting Kansas City 2 - Colorado Rapids 0
The Champions League curse strikes again! The Rapids, the poster child for having greatness unwittingly thrust upon you, just never looked ready as SKC gave themselves an easy job in the return leg back home.
The Daily Wiz chalks it up to the genius of Peter Vermes:
Substitute a defensive man for an offensive player up two goals on the road??? That’s right, he made Colorado widen and open up even more than they already were. Maybe it was gamesmanship, or maybe it was a guy who saw an opportunity. He guessed right. Colorado didn’t score and we should have had at least two more goals. All the same, they were never going to win that game. Vermes had a masterful approach and took Spencer to the cleaners.
Could the team that didn't have a stadium for ten weeks of the MLS season make it to the MLS Cup final? I gotta say, as a notorious playoff hater, I'm starting to like all this intrigue the playoffs are producing. Intrigue!