MLS: Cupcakes/Center Picks Pool, First Round, Second Leg

Welcome to the next round of picks for the Center Holds It/Who Ate All the Cupcakes Playoff Picks Duel (current standings).  My picks appear down below and I invite my colleagues and the guys from Who Ate All the Cupcakes to leave their picks in the comments so they’re all in one place.

On that, the subject of picks that is, I got about halfway through Jeff Bradley’s “lessons learned” First XI (which is currently formatted in “crazy, oversized” font) when I realized that nothing likely to happen between now and Thursday (or Friday, or Saturday) will give me the seeing-eye tips I need to make lock-of-the-week quality calls on each of the four games.  To give an example, we could learn tomorrow that Maykel Galindo will start for Chivas, but that news must be weighed against how fit he really is and how long he’s been out.  Short of bonding with key players’ psyches – y’know, to see whether they’re up for the game, or just thinking about a nagging ankle, doing laundry, dinner reservations, cruising for prostitutes and blow, suppressing erotic longings for a teammate, etc. – I’ll never get the kind of dish I truly need to make sense of these, frankly, nightmarishly complicated draws and scenarios.

Crap.  Was that even a sentence?

So, with one arm crossed and a dead goat’s organs splayed across my desk (hmm…that liver looks like Ronald Reagan), here are my picks for all four first-round second leg games – with commentary as the spirit moves me.  And, for the record, I changed these things around, literally, half a dozen times – totally against the tried-and-true multiple choice method.  Dammit…

DC United 1-1 Chicago Fire (agg. 2-1 to the Fire): DC will believe they broke the curse till the very end, when some nausea-inducing defensive gaffe kills them dead.

Houston Dynamo 2-0 FC Dallas (agg. 2-1 to Houston): One of these things has to play to type…right?  I am 100% pulling for the upset and had two different scenarios penciled in here featuring a Dallas win.  But, as one should always do when gambling, I’m placing this bet stone-cold sober and with my heart ripped from my chest.  (It hurts…)

New England Revolution 1-0 Red Bull New York (agg. 1-0 to New England): OK, two have to play to type.  As for the game itself, our worst collective expectations come hideously true.

Chivas USA 0-0 Kansas City Wizards (agg. 1-0 to KC): I can’t see Chivas scoring.  I just can’t.

Well, that’s it for self-immolation…now to see what everyone else picks.

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32 Responses

  1. Awk! Your picks leave 8 goals for 8 games- an average of 1.0 goals per game. Stats that might induce a Keeper of the Yr Award but hardly anything to go “Socctober” about (cringing nausea as I write that phrase/your “Song of the Belly in this sense becomes my “Explosion de la Verde Bile”). Is this why we have playoffs- so we can build the game around the kind of excitement that induces soccer specific stadiums?

    Someone- please someone- bring us a real game! Tie the defenders shoe laces together, put Ex-Lax in the Gatoraide- do sumtin ka-vick! I am no fan of the playoffs but hell- if we must have them for the sake of All Things Americana (think Norman Rockwell style MLS paintings)- then let’s do them RIGHT!

  2. I’d buy one of those Rockwell’s. I’m thinking a pudgy-faced Danny Califf buying ice cream and juggling during his LA days.

    As for my picks, yeah, I noticed I’m predicting a touch of shyness in front of goal. Given last weekend, though…I mean, where else can I go?

    If it’s worth anything, I’m pulling for major defensive lapses in some of these games and suspect Chicago v. DC (all on DC’s end) and Houston v. Dallas make for the likeliest candidates. KC might revert to mid-season form and roll over, but I think they’ll roll into LA with the intention of bunkering. As for New England and Red Bull, I can see nothing but a one-goal win or a goalless draw topped off by PKs. Sigh.

  3. Sad but true. Yet during the much vaunted “Year O The Designated Player”, I, you, we expected so much more. After a great season with the West title coming down to the wire- the playoffs seem rather anticlimactic .

    Your first game may depend more on Emilio’s ankle and Moreno’s fitness than defensive gaffes. I expect the game to go into OT after 2-1 Screaming Eagles- where it goes from there is anyone’s guess. If DC pulls it out, the Fire have a good argument for Away Goals deciding who goes to the next round. DC wins in extra time.

    Houston is probably the right pick though as a Dynamo fan (do I have a big red target on my chest now?), I get nervous when the universe- EVEN including Dynamo haters- ALL pick the O-Range to win. Yep, everybody but the Little Fish’s mom (and if Vegas had a line on this game, i’d doubt that too). Bad karma. If Mulrooney’s chug chug chugging can close the gaps and Kinnear can get his bhoys to stretch the field, it’s in the bag. Yet like Clarke’s moment of insane homicidal rage, there is always room for the unexpected. I agree, Houston 2-0.

    As for the NE, I once again agree- if the Red Bulls can’t score @ home, then it’s 1-0 to the Revs. A further argument against a NY win: Wattereus or Conway do not give a lot of confidence for a team that must press forward.

    I think Chivas can score a goal at the very least. This will be a 1-0 Chivas regulation time win and more extra time with Chivas squeaking by through PK’s. Unlike many others- I see more potential for the number one seed to fall here than anywhere else.

    More tedium (bigger sigh than your sigh)…

  4. Jeff Bull,

    I think your picks are right on the money, with the one exception being that Dynamo might just drill Dallas 3-0 or 4-0 just for being impertinent.

    I absolutely agree with your Chivas comment. I guess Kljestan could pull one out of the air if KC’s Jimmy Conrad and three wooden posts defense reverts to their July-September form. But honestly, I think right now Chivas feels the noose tightening and might just give up an early counter to Eddie Johnson (of all people!). If that happens, then any KC player (including you Eddie) who crosses the mid line the rest of the game will have his house haunted forever by Lamar Hunt’s ghoulish form.

    DC stands for “Death from Choking” or, in its 2007 variant , “Death from Cuatemoc”

    As for the playoffs playtherapy, we’ve been over that many, many times. ALL leagues would benefit from divisional play and playoffs. The interest in a high-stress championship bracket is far superior than the “I can’t keep my eyes off the coming train wreck” drama of a relegation battle. My Americana bias is showing I guess and goldurnit I am not covering it up!

  5. Hmmm… I don’t know about all you, but this is kinda exciting. Nothing has been decided yet, the “underdogs” have a one goal head start (except NYRB), and there are fierce rivalries in play (except Chivas and KC… that’s just an ugly matchup).

    And I don’t really know why people are excpecting goalfests. It’s the playoffs. Giving up a goal could potentially end your season. I’m not sure if I’m oversimplifying, but I would expect defense to be at the top of the game plan. It’s not whoever scores the most goals wins anymore. It’s whoever concedes the least goals advances. Maybe the games themselves are less exciting, but the stakes and the intensity and suspense make these games nerve wracking. To the neutral, these are probably the worst games ever. But to the fans who have followed their teams for the past six months and just want to see their team survive to play another game, every pass, tackle, shot, and save means everything. Even if the game ends 0-0.

  6. Good counter-point, Fire_Juve10.

    I’m neutral on about half the series; I have vested, if baffling, interests in both New England v. RBNY and Houston v. FCD. As noted above, I’m pulling for Dallas and, in general, I pull for New England. With the latter, though, I’m so frustrated with the bland efficiency of Nicol-ball that I’m finding it hard to get excited about them lately. I think I’ve been public in my flirtations with Columbus, a yen that reaches back to my primal love for “Rudies” (e.g. I’m a whore for underdogs). And, OK, if I’m being honest, I just plain like seeing DC lose. I think the only series for which I’m borderline neutral would be Chivas v. KC – but I’m pulling ever so slightly for Chivas. Go figure.

    Why am I going into all this? Fire_Juve10 is totally correct. When you’re bought in – as I am with Dallas and, once the whistle blows, New England – I don’t notice the lack of goals. I see every kick, tackle, pass, and all the flubbed variations on the above, each of them building toward the weird serenity I get when my team wins (oddly, soccer doesn’t produce euphoria in me) or a kind of peevish frustration when they lose. I don’t do peaks and valleys.

    So, to clarify my remarks, I’m hoping for: a goal-fest blowout in Chicago v. DC, with DC eating all the pain; a high-scoring, brand-new-butthole affair in which New England wallops the holy crap out of Red Bull (I think the Revs have potential to struggle against either so); as for Houston v. Dallas, I actually want a narrow heartbreaker to, um, break in Dallas’ favor; finally, I just want to see goals, goals, goals for Chivas v. KC.

  7. HA! Pick an endangered species with a total population under 100, line em up agaisnt the wall, give ED-DIE an Uzi and let him go @ ’em. Can you say thriving, quadrupled population within the year? Since Week 16, EJ has scored exactly one more goal than Chris Farley.

    Yep, Marty, we’ve had this rolled up sleeves sort of debate for how long now? High-Stress Championship Bracket? Three goals, four games. And far too much Wynalda. When things get this dull, Waldo commets on everthing but the game. Is this what we wanna advertise? Think of the relegation drama between Real and Toronto- wanna see a stadia rock? Half the games broadcast from there looked like they were filmed in Earth-Quak-O-Vision as the stationary camera was literally jumping up and down. And think of the fun of seeing LAG play the Rapids to see who stays up! These games would have more drama than what we see on the field now. If we must have playoffs, how about relegation playoffs just like other leagues have?

  8. Sorry folks, I probably ate too much Paul Gardner for the past few decades but there it is. I also see every pass and tackle but deplore the playoffs. Again, if we must have em, then I’d like to see wide open play. Otherwise, give the trophy to the team with the most points at the end of the season. Signed a traditionalist and a socialist.

  9. The socialist line is funny, because I almost slipped that in around my fondness for “Rudies.” The but (I dunno) conservative(?) turns like Benedict Arnold on those undeservedly on the top of the heap. In other words, Rudies have very short life-cycles.

    In fairness to playtherapy’s comments, though, I’d love to have promotion/relegation. But I also find the arguments as to why they can’t happen here (e.g. thin support, financial and otherwise; the challenge of getting people to invest in teams knowing they’ll go down shortly; a lack of sufficient suitable grounds, etc.) pretty compelling.

    That said, I think geographic considerations render single-table too expensive and difficult. I support the conference concept generally. I just want to see fewer playoff teams (literally, four) and single-elimination in the playoffs.

  10. And the MAJOR reason the Fire won’t progress to the second round? Greg Lalas picked them to go all the way! See- http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/greg_lalas/10/29/fire.playoffs/index.html

  11. Well, I am all for fewer teams in the playoffs. Four would be great. After that it just gets too diluted beacuse sooner or later a 6th, 7th or 8th seed wins and throws the whole regular season into a “who cares” fest (see “Association, National Basketball”).

    And think of how fortunate the power-brokers that be at MLS are because if there were relegation, then – if not for a late season charge – Beckham would be in the domestic Serie B next year. (The thought still makes His DonGarberissimo break out in hot sweats at night, I’m sure.)

    But as Mister3d1 and I were agreeing on the other day (out of playtherapy’s earshot), when you have a georgraphic behemoth like the US of A, you must have conference play and, thus, playoffs. In Europe (what is England anyway, the size of Louisiana?!?!?) you can do single table, not so here in Columbiana. A trip of 3,000 miles gets you from LA to not quite NY and all while in MLS’ geographic boundaries. From London, where are you? Moscow, and covering 5-6 domestic ligas? Sorry playtherapy, but conferences are what you get here.

    Also, here’s something great: With a playoff field, 4-8 teams and set of fans and cities can get into the whole playoff thing, celebrating a potential triumph. In the EPL (to pick only one), only four teams ever have any chance of anything and the only thing the other teams EVER get to say for themselves is they avoided the meteorite strike of relegation. Well, YA-hoo for that. I’ll take playoffs.

    I am a meritocratic socialist, so for the non-playoff teams, I say they get first picks in the draft and extra lire for designated players and senior internationalists and the like. Win and you don;t get the money for the next season. How does that sound?

  12. Greg Lalas picked the Fire? Uh oh. The only thing that would be worse for them would be if they announced that they had hired his brother to manage them. Big day for the Screaming Eagles.

  13. Oh, crap! That gives me a great idea!

    To even out things between MLS’s haves and have-nots, we could build on Martin’s idea of dishing first picks and extra dough to the weaker teams by saddling each year’s champion with Alexi Lalas as GM. Let him keep trying to build “the Gem of MLS” until he gets it right – and at the champs’ expense!

    Insert evil laugh…

  14. Man oh man, following an Oval office type Un-Strategy- I have got to screen who I invite to these bolgs and make sure they agree with me!!!

    @ least most would agree with the Lalas remark. I too am more comfortable with four teams though I am still for relegation as there are other metro areas that could potentially support a MLS franchise. I mean… Columbus isn’t exactly a Media Mecca and KC’s games are attended by…. crickets???

    If the league was capped @ 18 teams who would be the final 4? Count Canadian imports in both tallies.

    Can you think of 18 other cities that could support Division 1 franchises with venues that could accomodate 15-18k fans?

  15. Jeff Bull,

    I can see it now. Teams on the verge of winning MLS Cup and then, when they realize what will happen if they win, suddenly all falling down on the back line. An apologia is issued the next day to their fans, saying, “We’re sorry, but believe it, if you were us, what would YOU do?”

    What are we now, 14 with the San “Where are we now” Quakes? So with four more, I’d say Atlanta, Seattle, Philly and, get this, St. Louee. Move Chivas to San Diego. Prime candidates for next relocation: KC (though Lamar will be rolling in his grave), Columbus and (no shock here) Quakes to Cleveland, San Antonio, Carolina.

  16. Why did the Florida teams flop- front office failures?

    San Fran, Montreal, San Antonio, Austin, Portland!, Phoenix, San Diego, Carolina (Charlotte?), El Paso, Tucson, Albuquerque, Minneapolis to name a few prospects.

    WWLD- Gonna make Big Bucks thru Amway marketing WWLD- What Would Lalas Do?
    buttons…

    BTWWLD? Fire Yallop and insert himself as a caretaker manager? Squeeze Victoria’s boobs to see if they’re real (see Who Ate the Pies website for pre-post op comparison).
    The possibilities are endless.

    Quiz time: During a tense tussle during a US-Mexico match- someone on el Tri kicked Lalas square in the balls and Big Red went down hard and fast. Who on the Tri has more accuracy than the entire Dynamo lineup?

  17. Goddamn you, Greg Lalas. He picked the Fire only because he knows they’ll go out if he picked them and he’s afraid they will take down his Revolution in the playoffs. What a scum bag.

    *Tounge planted firmly in cheek*

    For the record, I want to see the Fire advance past D.C. and get another (futile) chance at finally eliminating New England. It’s just not the MLS Playoffs without a New England vs. Chicago game/brawl.

  18. If all these upsets occur, then Marty and Ben (Mr 3D) kick my ass in the prediction league and our Fantasy Playoff Leagues. Forced with a choice between seppuku and exile, I will then become groundhog like and must go into hibernation until next season.

    Please change your predictions. I do not want to live where the sun never shines. If not for Greg Lalas, I’d be doomed- DOOOOOMED!

    In the Chivas series, I want Razov stagger on the field like a combination of Rocky and Willis Reed. He can score one off his butt for all I care.

    Oh, for the record, I want the 2nd Legs to be like the Galaxy-Red Bulls or Galaxy-Dallas SuperLiga game. You know, the pace of a NBA game without the whistles. HAAAAA! April Fools!

    Thanks, enjoyed the razz.

  19. The NE-NY series will probably end unexpectedly lopsided. I have no idea which team will win. If the Revs’ left side wasn’t so gawdawful, I’d be confident it would be them. Either way, I predict there will be a second half outburst from one, and only one, team.

  20. Ballsy call. I like it.

    Just to clarify, when you say left, you’re talking about the Khano Smith/Avery John/James Riley nexus, right?

  21. Yeah, Khano is bad enough on his own. When John has a game like last Saturday, it’s a severe tactical disadvantage.

    And by not making any sort of prediction, it was ballsy. Not 1-1 tie ballsy, but ballsy nonetheless.

  22. playtherapy, if you lose in the prediction and playoff fantasy leagues, you have to stand in the middle of this and as many forums as you can and loudly proclaim your undying allegiance to all things playoff. It would be the only honorable thing to do.

    seppuku doesn’t seem so bad now, doesn’t it?

    what happened to NE’s left side? I seem to remember a period of time where they had the best record in the league and were just cruising. That was this season right?

    Fire_Juve10, you guys can survive the Greg Lalas fastball to the earhole. Just take it easy tomorrow and let the wound drain. But try to keep clear of any other such laser beams. Put it like this, as long as Galarcep doesn’t pick you, you should be OK.

  23. I tire of the US regional, “we’re sooo different” arguments justifying all manner of silliness. I watched the league from the conceptual banter (we were supposed to be off and flying just after WC ’94). before Rothenberg smartly held off. Even with this sage decision, there was much intital silly Americanism.

    We had to suffer game clocks with no extra time. Yes, it perturbs some to no end not knowing how much time is left. But to quote many Catholics, this is one of the Great Mysteries of Life, an element of the unknown creating unbelievable tension when your team is down or up a goal in injury time.

    No discussion can be complete without the Shootout Farce. Why did we have to cringe when we were shown on inane blooper reels all over the world- “Look @ the American version”??? Why? Because American’s can’t tolerate ties- we were told if traditional soccer was offered to the US masses, the league would fail miserably. There HAS to be a winner. I wish I had kept my old Soccer America articles from these insanly laugable pioneering days.

    We also have the argument that pervades all US major league sports- not only must we have NY-LA teams but these must also be dominant. I think when the Raiders moved this argument lost some of its gumpf.

    These arguments have been recycled endlessly. Owners would balk if there was any chance of relegation. DOOOOM, CERTAIN DOOOOM! Most of these arguments have been disproven and/or dismantled. We actually have a pure product on the field sans the Barnum Baileyisms that were created to “draw ’em in”. This is good and hats off to a nonsoccer man (Garber) who did what the US soccer heads would not do.

    It should be interesting to see if US owners buy middle and second tier EPL teams. Marty, you make a good argument about the EPL not being a competition outside the Big Four. Agreed. But I don’t think a tourney is the solution for that.

    I could stomach a four team playoff- think Chivas-Houston and New England-DC.- preventing a 7th or 8th ranked team to sneak then go on a tear until the
    Finals (LAG ’05 COR ’97). With 4 teams, I’m okay with teams winning anyway they can. Yet with all teams seemingly playing a Czech Nat Team Euro ’96 sort of strategy, we have some excitement cuz who knows what’ll happen but little expectation of seeing offesnsive football.

    I like Blue Blood’s prediction but would rather not see a lopsided affair.

    Again- if you’re gonna put all the MLS eggs in a playoff basket- making the regular season somewhat meaningless- and advertise the Playoffs as “all that” (Socctober anyone?), then the competition MUST deliver. Has it?

  24. Been watchin’ the Red Bulls all season from the press box – Arena’s play on Angel the other day wasn’t that bad – there was a piece of shit reporter there playing the role of antagonist. You could tell Angel was surprised…

    With that said – RBNY 2, NER 1 (they avenge the fodder that was Carlos Mendes/Conway’s own goal)

    HOU 1 ,FCD 0 (Hou wins on PKs)

    CHI 1, DCU 1 (Chi advances)

    CHV 2, KCW 0 (Nunez, Panchito, Kljestan come through)

  25. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the arguments against promotion/relegation in this country dismantled, never mind disproven. I’m curious, though, so feel free to give it a whirl…at your leisure, of course.

  26. Breton: Ah….thanks for the reinforcement of the smoke/fire thing on the alleged Arena/Angel feud. Deliciously weird, that one.

    Good picks. We’ll see how they pan out.

  27. […] me, I wish I could take back/modify my call on this one. DC will have both Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio available and Moreno, in particular, […]

  28. My picks are

    NY 2 —NE 1

    HOU 0 FC Dallas 1

    CHI 1 DCU 2

    CHV1 KCW 0

  29. My picks are up on the Cupcakes, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

    DC 2, CHI 0 (after extra time): Moreno, Olsen
    HOU 3, DAL 1: Ching (2), DDR; Alvarez
    NE 2, NY 0: Twellman (2)
    CHV 0, KC 0

  30. Thought I’d get the one-stop shopping thing in order by placing the rest of Team Cupcakes picks in this space.

    E. Charles Blanco

    El Guero (my nemesis)

  31. Thought I’d get the one-stop shopping thing in order by placing the rest of Team Cupcakes picks in this space.

    E. Charles Blanco

    El Guero (my nemesis)

  32. […] to Fill 10 Outhouses – Before looking backward, let’s take a glance forward. I’ve got my picks laid out, but here’s what people have to say about this weekend’s conference semis – all except […]

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