The first Eastern Conference finalist will be determined tonight, when the first seeded Columbus Crew play host Real Salt Lake in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series (7 p.m. CDT on ESPN2).
The Crew fell to Real Salt Lake 1-0 in the series opener last Saturday and they'll need a win to have hope of continuing their 2008 title defense. One thing going the Crew's way is the fact that tonight's second leg will be played at Crew Stadium -- where Columbus is 9-2-4 this season. Another positive for the Crew is the likely return of leading scorer Guillermo Barros Schelotto to the lineup. Schelotto (and fellow forward Alejandro Moreno) sat out Saturday's first leg as part of a tactical decision by Head Coach Robert Warzycha and he will look to provide a spark to a Crew attack that has scored only 10 goals in its last 14 games.
Real Salt Lake needs a win or a tie to ensure their spot in the Eastern Conference Final. Advancing past the regular season champion Crew would cap a remarkable run for Real Salt Lake -- who just barely qualified for the postseason in the first place.
Should Columbus win the match by a one-goal margin the game will be sent into extra time -- which consists of two 15-minute halves. If no one breaks the deadlock in the extra period the series will come down to penalty kicks.
For my prediction, I'll go ahead and say that Real Salt Lake pulls the massive upset and advances past the Crew. I think Columbus will win regulation 1-0 but that Salt Lake will hold out in extra time before ultimately going on through PK's.