Major League Soccer Conference Semifinals
The Kansas City Star
The winners of the two-match series will be determined by aggregate goals over the two games. Unlike in European club tournaments, away goals are not weighted. Any series tied at the end of the the second leg will immediately go to two 15-minute overtime periods. If a winner is still not determined, the match will go to a penalty kick shootout.
Los Angeles Galaxy (15-11-8, 53 points) at Real Salt Lake (16-10-8, 56 points)
Time/TV: 8 p.m. Thursday, ESPN2
First leg: Los Angeles 1, Salt Lake 0.
Bottom line: Both teams were nearly statistically equal in the first leg, with just Sean Franklin’s laser strike the difference. But, there’s good reason for Jason Kreis and Salt Lake to be confident heading into this match. Salt Lake is the highest-scoring team in the Western Conference and managed nine multi-goal games at home this season. They also managed to limit the damage on the road to just the single goal in the first leg. The Galaxy, on the other hand, might rue a few missed chances. Robbie Keane, so lethal during the regular season, was stuffed on several breakaway chances. This isn’t Los Angeles’ first rodeo and, with the MLS all-time leading playoff goal-scorer Landon Donovan (22) and coach Bruce Arena (four MLS Cups on his resume), it’s very hard to discount the Galaxy’s chances.
Prediction: Los Angeles 1, Salt Lake 1
Seattle Sounders (15-12-7, 52 points) at Portland Timbers (14-5-15, 57 points)
Time/TV: 10 p.m. Thursday, NBC Sports Network/Univision Deportes
First leg: Portland 2, Seattle 1.
Bottom line: Portland played a nearly perfect game on the road and, with the boisterous Timbers Army behind it, should feel very much in control of the series. The Timbers lost only once at home all season — way back in March. It’s been a steady stream of positive results ever since, including nine shutout wins. (Portland allowed only 11 goals at home all season.) What’s more, Portland hasn’t lost to an MLS opponent since Aug. 31, a nine-game unbeaten streak. The Sounders, on the other hand, have slid into the postseason with just one win (the play-in game against Colorado) since Sept. 22, a streak that includes five losses. Injuries continue with both right backs Zach Scott and DeAndre Yedlin struggling for fitness, though striker Obafemi Martins could return. They’ll need him, and a few goals, to turn the tide.
Prediction: Portland 1, Seattle 0
| Charles Gooch, email@example.com