MLS Playoff Predictions / Conde Says Show Me The Money

The MLS playoffs are set to begin this week without the
local team but there are plenty of Fire related stories to follow on the way to
MLS Cup in Toronto
on November 23.  A closer look at each
first round match up provides more than a few reasons to watch.

MLSsoccer.com's Sam Stejskal and I compared notes on the upcoming playoffs and took a stab at picking the winners........

"Eastern" Conference

New
York
Red Bulls v San Jose Earthquakes

My Take:  The Red
Bulls are the favorites but I get the feeling they can be had despite the MLS
hypesters praying that the biggest market in the country with three designated
players finds their way to Toronto.  Thierry Henry is out of game 1 with a knee
injury and Hans Backe is still toying with his line up even when everyone is
available.  I'd still like to see what he
does with Juan Pablo Angel and Mehdi Ballouchy once Henry is fit.  San
Jose
has overachieved a bit in my opinion led by
Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowki.  The
Earthquakes may not advance but they will give the Red Bulls all they can
handle.  Aggregate Score: Red Bulls 3-2

Sam's Take:  New York
scuffled a little bit down the stretch, but they have too much talent - with or
without Henry - to go down to the overachieving Quakes.  The biggest difference will come in the
midfield; where Rafa Marquez, Joel Lindpere, Mehdi Ballouchy and co. should
dominate.  Aggregate Score: Red Bulls 3-2

Fire Angle: The obvious interest here lies with San Jose
keeper Jon Busch.  After being cut by the
Fire before the season, Busch caught on with San Jose as a back up to Joe Cannon.  When Cannon broke his ankle in August, Busch
took over permanently.  Tim Ward is a
starter at right back after being traded to San Jose for a 2011 draft pick.  Former Fire draft pick Khari Stephenson has
also played well at times for San Jose. 

Columbus Crew v Colorado Rapids

My Take:  The Crew
have been running on fumes for a few weeks now. 
Fixture congestion has been a problem and now starting goalkeeper
William Hesmer is out with a broken shoulder and Emilio Renteria is
questionable with a knee problem. 
Guillermo Barros Schelotto looks to be finally showing signs of his age
but Robert Warzycha can't afford to attempt to rest him as he ridiculously did
during last year's playoffs. The Rapids are dangerous with Omar Cummings and
Conor Casey providing the firepower and seem to be the popular pick to pull off
the first round "upset".  I think Columbus is a better team
but timing is everything in the MLS playoffs. 
Aggregate Score: Colorado 2-1

Sam's Take: Guillermo's got this one exactly right.  The Crew are too tired, too out of form and -
in the case of Hesmer - too injured. 
Fire killers Cummings and Casey - my favorite MLS strike duo - will provide
the flair up top while central midfielders Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni
shut down Schelotto in the back. 
Aggregate Score: Colorado 3-1 

Fire Angle: Another former Fire keeper is manning the net in
Colorado.  Matt Pickens came back to MLS
last year after the Fire traded his rights to the Rapids for allocation money. 

Western Conference

Real Salt Lake v FC Dallas

My Take: Both Western match ups are going to be fun to
watch.  Despite losing out on the
Supporter's Shield I still believe the defending champions are the most well
balanced and complete side in MLS.  FC
Dallas' long undefeated run during the season featured a ton of draws and a lot
of Jeff Cunningham goals.  The Hoops lost
their last two games of the season against RSL and LA while the champions
haven't lost an MLS match since July 17 in Dallas. 
Despite dealing with the rigors of Champion's League play and getting a
gift in Colorado on Saturday night I see Real Salt Lake advancing against a Dallas side that is new to the playoffs.  Aggregate Score: RSL 3-1

Sam's Take: A shame that these two are playing in the first
round.  David Ferriera has FCD clicking
but I don't think he'll be able to do enough to send Salt Lake - my pick to win
the MLS Cup - crashing out.  RSL just doesn't
have any weaknesses. Real Salt Lake

Fire Angle:  Dallas
expects to have Kevin Hartman back soon after missing time due to a knee injury
suffered in an unfortunate incident with Thierry Henry.  Hartman was drafted by the Fire in the 1998
expansion draft but he was traded back to LA in exchange for Chris Armas.  Real
Salt Lake

also features former midfielders Andy Williams and Will Johnson. 

Los
Angeles
Galaxy v Seattle Sounders

My Take:  The Galaxy
are a team built on playing tightly and relying on the counter attack.  Since his return, Bruce Arena has played
David Beckham centrally with Juninho in midifield although he has employed
various combinations throughout the season. 
Beckham may still be less than 100% and asking him to cover that much
ground seems like a gamble.  The Sounders
have been on a roll of late despite losing to Houston in their regular season finale.  Although LA pounded the Sounders by a
combined score of 7-1 in regular season play I could see an upset here if Seattle jumps on the
Galaxy at home.  Aggregate Score: Los Angeles 4-3

Sam's Take: Seattle's been one of the hottest teams in the
league since (Sounders commenter alert!) trading Freddie Ljungberg to the Fire
in mid-July.  Forwards Fredy Montero and
Blaise Nkufo are in synch, speedsters Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi run wild
on the wings, and Osvaldo Alonso provides a ton of bite - and a good amount of
attacking knowhow - in the middle.  All
that - plus the Qwest Field crowd - gives the Sounders the edge.  They'll send the Supporters' Shield winners
packing.  Aggregate Score: Seattle 4-3 

Fire Angle: The Galaxy have hatchet man Dema Kovalenko on
the roster as a part time starter and former Fire academy player Michael
Stephens, a rookie of the year candidate who played an important role in LA's
early season success.  Seattle has Nate Jaqua on the bench behind
Montero and Nkufo. 

Conference Finals

My Take:

Real Salt Lake 2 Los Angeles 1

Colorado 1 New York 0

Sam's Take:

Real Salt Lake 2 Seattle 1

New York 2 Colorado 1

MLS Cup

My Take:

Real Salt Lake 2 Colorado 0

Sam's Take:

Real Salt Lake 2 New York 2 - RSL wins in PK's for the
second straight year.

Conde Negotiations Continue......

Sam also spoke to Conde's agent and he revealed some interesting tidbits regarding the central defender's 2011 options.  Among them an interest from River Plate, Maccabi Haifa, and an unnamed MLS team.  

http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/agent-interest-conde-within-outside-mls

It sounds like Conde is still open to a return to Chicago but it also appears that he'll go to the highest bidder.  The report last week regarding interest from Israel was factual, although the part about him trialing with the club this week was not.  

Comments

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  • ESPNchicago.com's Charlie Corr looks at the offseason ahead....

    http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/fire/post/_/id/769/fire-face-another-tumultuous-offseason

  • In reply to cesba:

    last quote from that article: "That's got to come from the coaches, what they feel they're missing or what they want," Brown said. "If [De los Cobos] wants to play a possession game, we have to get a lot of players who can handle playing a possession game."

    hmmm i think i said something along those lines a couple weeks ago... thanks CJ!

  • Conde is a liability. I hope the Fire get outbid.

  • In reply to oliotya:

    He's an MLS all-star... why would we want to lose our best players?

  • In reply to ChicagoFire8:

    Nate Jacqua was an MLS all-star as well and people were thrilled when he was shown the door.

  • In reply to oliotya:

    hahah I don't think we should be comparing Jacqua and Conde

  • In reply to oliotya:

    Bye Bye Wilman -- don't let the door hit you in the butt!! Also don't forget your meds and your stack of yellow cards.

  • In reply to oliotya:

    chivas let vasquez go

    if the fire retain CDLC, we'll see which was the better path next year - revolving coaches, or give another chance

  • In reply to CountChocula:

    Interesting thought but I think Chivas USA has alot less talent than the Fire.

  • In reply to CountChocula:

    Tell Conde that we left the money on the dresser and he'd better not still be here when we get back.

  • In reply to DDT5583:

    Now that's funny

  • In reply to DDT5583:

    You forgot from the Fire angle for the Red Bulls, New York defender Tim Ream from the Chicago Fire youth academy.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    Michael Stephens to LA and Tim Ream to RBNY, the fire should do a better job of securing their youth players.

  • In reply to fire1020:

    They both were drafted out of college after playing in the Fire youth system. Once they're off to college they can enter the draft and can be selected by anyone. The system is a bit different now with the "homegrown" rule and increased emphasis on the youth programs.

  • In reply to fire1020:

    Remember that scene between Hymen Roth and Michael Corleone? Yeah, we're at that point Conde. If the money is there when I wake up from my (off season) nap, I know I'll have a partner. If not, then I know I don't.

    Lot's of feeling and drive behind the statement, but what it boils down to is the money is there, if you want to be here, you will. if not, you won't. We can plan with you, or we can plan without you. Your move.

  • In reply to oliotya:

    my pick for MLS champ is the winner of RSL-FCD, i gonna go out on a limb & say dallas sneaks by

  • In reply to oliotya:

    He's had a pretty good offer on the table for a while now. I can't blame a guy for wanting to secure the best offer although it will rub some people the wrong way after the season he had, but if the interest from River Plate is legit I would think that would be the biggest competition for his services.

    Any interest from another MLS side would require dealing with the Fire for his rights.

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