MLS Final Four is set

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Real_salt_lake_logoRed_bulls_logo

And then there were four.

After a weekend of clutch performances, and one historic upset, the final four teams are set for the MLS Conference finals. The Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire, the two best teams in the East this year, meet in the East final, while the underdog New York Red Bulls have crashed the Western Conference final, where they will meet fellow West final debutante Real Salt Lake.

If you were hoping for some even match-ups in the conference finals, you certainly have them. The Fire and Crew faced off twice and tied twice, while the Red Bulls posted a 1-0-1 mark against RSL this year, although you can argue they were outplayed in their 2-1 win.

In other words, picking the winners of these series won’t be easy. If you think you can, then go ahead and give us your picks for both conference finals:

What do you think of the Conference Final match-ups? What individual match-ups are you most looking forward to? Who do you see emerging as a surprise hero?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Major League Soccer, MLS- Chicago Fire, MLS- Columbus Crew, MLS- New York Red Bulls, MLS- Real Salt Lake. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to MLS Final Four is set

  1. Milo says:

    A NY vs Chi final! JCO vs his old squad one more time when it really matters!

  2. Jimmy Bobo says:

    I’ll bet the league is praying for a Chicago/NYRB matchup but I doubt it will happen. More likely is the dreaded (for the league) Columbus/RSL final. Very few fans from those small-market teams make the trip out West. I don’t want to see rows and rows of empty seats in the final. This is one of the reasons that MLS should not pick a neutral location for the MLS cup final.

  3. Caleb says:

    Juan Pablo for MLS CUP MVP!!

  4. kco says:

    No matter what anybody else says I think, no I KNOW, that MLS will be cheering for NY this weekend. With NY in the final, the NY Press may finally be aware that there is in fact a soccer team in NY and not just some walking Red Bull advertisement.

  5. Drew says:

    Is it just me, or would it be really weird to see NY win the Western Conference?

    As a biased Fire fan, I really wish the playoffs were determined by a 1-8 seeding and not a East and West Conference 1-4 seeding. Basically, I don’t like that we have to face Columbus away this round. Seems the Fire deserve the home game, not RSL. I know I’m being a whiny fan, but 90% of the time I don’t like how the MLS is set up rule and policy wise.

  6. Hincha Tim says:

    Overall, I see RSL as the better team. I think that their backline is better than NYRB’s and their midfield. However, the combination of JPA and Vandenberg are so good and so clutch that this game is really hard to call.

    The matchup is definitely going to be Vandenberg, JPA and Richards against the RSL backline of Olave, Russell, Borchers and Wingert. This backline has a lot more pace than Houston’s so should have less problems containing Richards but he will cause problems stretching them out and thus giving JPA and Vandenberg more toom to operate.

    I think the real key to the game is which midfield will be able control possession and which team converts its opportunities.

  7. Unoriginal Aaron says:

    Champs of the West: A play-off first-timer and an Eastern Conference team. If at the beginning of the season I was told this, I would have never believed it. Is this another sign of just how bad the West was this year?

  8. Hincha Tim says:

    I also fully expect to see referee calls to go in favor of Chicago and NY.

  9. Blake says:

    RSL would send a reasonable number of fans, being western and all. Either RSL-Columbus or RSL-Chicago would be a compelling matchup for the fans, I think. Sorry Ives, but I’m just not feeling the Red Bulls.

  10. MasterShake says:

    Looks like NYRB are the underdogs again…we got nothing to lose baby, making it this far was pretty historic to begin with.

  11. sugarfreeredbull says:

    The “man with the cigarette” has already picked the MLS Cup winner. It will be the New York Red Bulls. The MLS-conspiracy wants two big market teams and an underdog team with no history of a Cup (the Bulls) to win in order to draw attention to its league (the “Obama” effect). It already has the refs paid off to make sure it’s Chicago vs. NYRB with the refs paid off to ensure NYRB winning the final 2-1 in overtime. LOL

  12. I think I’d have an aneurysm if there were a New York/Chicago final. Way too intense. I’m predicting NY/C-Bus.

  13. Sad fact: If someone were to give me valid, undeniable documented evidence proving that the league put in the fix so NY wins the Cup . . .I wouldn’t care and I’d still celebrate that thing like I won the lottery.

  14. jmac says:

    Anyone notice that ALL of the final four DID NOT compete in the Concacaf Champions league????

  15. Chrös says:

    This is off topic, but has anybody else noticed that there is a Star of David behind the “C” in the Fire’s logo? Is there some sort of symbolism there?

  16. giaco says:

    Chros:

    it’s not a star of david, it is the same 6-sided star that is on the flag of the city of Chicago. There are 4 of those stars on the flag, representing major events in the cities history, and the one on the Fire crest is…..suprisingly, the star that represents the (historic) Chicago Fire of 1871.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  17. RS says:

    If I remember correctly, MLS Cup Finalists get a CONCACAF Champions League spot, right?

  18. cowtown says:

    Hard to say, but I’d be more inclined to think that there is an implied 6-point star the same shape as the ones from Chicago’s city flag. The very acute angles on those points make me think an actual Star of David wouldn’t work, but I haven’t busted out Photoshop’s or MS Paint’s line tool to check.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  19. cowtown says:

    Ha. I should spend more time hitting Refresh and less looking things up. :-)

    Good job giaco.

  20. Mikemike says:

    Chros, I think the angles are alittle off to be a star of david.

  21. ajr says:

    RSL and CHI

  22. A.S. says:

    Columbus-Salt Lake is surely the matchup that the broadcasters at ABC are looking for.

  23. brett says:

    chicago- obviously i picked them…. neither the crew nor the fire hold a dominating factor on each other, i think this could go either way, but i would place money on the Fire breaking through the crew defense before the crew would break through the fire’s defense…. their last match against each other, the crew took advantage of some sloppy uncharacteristic defense by the fire…. this wont be the case again…

    RSL- im just being realistic here…. they are firing on all cylinders and will be a formidable opponent for the redbulls

    i think a fire V RBNJ game would irritate me to no end….. not saying that it wouldnt be great drama for the league, but i simply like RSL better and think they deserve it with how well they’ve been playing lately…. oh and not to mention id rather not give the redbulls another chance at victory again… we are up on them something like 11-2 in the season, i would prefer not seeing them have another chance, yet on a larger platform O.o

  24. Tom R says:

    Will likely be a Crew-Red Bull rematch.

  25. brett says:

    A.S.- how so?? what does columbus have to offer the game to bring fans outside of columbus to watch??

    at least with the fire you have all the Mexican population watching the game, whether to cheer on Blanco or to root against him…

    im sure (just as why ESPN2 had 8, 9 if you are counting the game against CLB, of our games) ABC is wanting chicago to make it…

    chicago and RBNJ would be the larger target audience for coverage…

  26. Jason says:

    I know it isn’t the premier match-up on these boards, but CLB-CHI is the best game, and here’s why:

    1. Two best teams left. Winner has to be a big favorite in the final.

    2. Former Crew players on Chicago: Jon Busch (MLS GK of the Year, released by Sigi) and Brian McBride (Crew All-Time leading goal scorer). Rolfe is also an Ohio native and Crew fan.

    3. Will Blanco get a result at Crew Stadium, or are we headed for Dos & Zero one more time?

    4. Delicious matchups all over the field.

    Eddie Gaven and Frankie Hejduk vs. Justin Mapp and Gonzalo Segares.

    The best RB and the best LB in the league, both of whom can get forward, and two young attacking wingers. Mapp more of a one way threat, Gaven the more balanced (defensive) minded.

    Robbie Rogers and Gino Padula vs. Chris Rolfe and Brandon Prideaux.

    Columbus has lost 1 game with Padula at LB (NY game where 5-6 starter’s rested), and Robbie Rogers is the best LW this side of Huckerby, with the possible exception of Mapp. Rolfe has torched his native state and has been on fire of late.

    Brian McBride vs. Chad Marshall.

    Crew legend vs. the 2008 Defender of the year. Should be a great one.

    The middle of the Field:

    Carroll, Evans, and Schelotto have been fantastic for Columbus all year. Evans now a goalscoring threat coming forward on runs, how will Chicago deal with it?

    Blanco always has something special up his sleeve, can Carroll contain him?

    —————————————–

    Columbus weak spot = Danny O’Rourke

    Chicago weak spot = Brandon Prideaux

  27. brett says:

    Jason – “Chicago weak spot = Brandon Prideaux”

    especially with the likes of Rogers running at him O.o but lets not forget he’ll have to deal with Rolfe as well…. and will Rogers get back on defense to aid in the defending of Rolfe?? that was the big issue NE had….

  28. eric says:

    I wasn’t quite done complaining about Stuart Holden getting left on the bench until the 67th, but I can move on to the semi’s.

    I love the Chicago-Columbus match up, and it makes total sense they tied both games, they are almost the same team. It seems that Chitown should have the advantage at forward with McBride and the best central defense in the league, but Columbus was more consistent, and their superstar playmaker is better than the Fire’s.

  29. Tom P says:

    FOR NYRB:

    1. Richards has the speed to expose Borchers and Joy when playing combo with Angel because those 2 are way slow.

    2. The level of self belief and destiny must be off the charts right now

    3. All the pressure will be on RSL because they will be a huge favorite and that is not something they have ever had to deal with before.

    4. RSL has a lot of hot heads and more likely to pick up a stupid Red Card

    FOR RSL:

    1. the same goes for RSL with their wingers vs. NYRB defense

    2. has a far better midfield

    3. much more depth off the bench

    4. have the 2nd best play maker in the MLS.

    5. Rimando is so hot right now he is virtually unconscious.

    6. The home field /altitude thing

  30. Nick says:

    I think the big question mark is whether NY can handle Movsisyan. He’s always killed NY in the past, and he’s on better form than ever right now.

  31. A.S. says:

    “A.S.- how so?? what does columbus have to offer the game to bring fans outside of columbus to watch??”

    Sorry – I was being sarcastic.

  32. Hincha Tim says:

    Nick,

    Joy will most likely not play. Robbie Russell will play and has good pace. I don’t agree that Borchers is slow. And with Olave also in the middle, who has very good speed, I think Richards threat will be diminished but certainly not voided.

  33. St.L John says:

    New York is exactly why the playoffs should not be the big deal they are. They fell ass backwards into the playoffs and luck into a win and now they have a great shot to make the final. The reason NFL, NBA, NHL all have playoffs is because you don’t get a chance to play everyone. Well guess what MLSFO we do play every team in this league. As far as I’m concerned the Crew one the league and United the Playoffs, this stupid postseason bit makes no sense.

  34. mikemike says:

    St. L John -

    Explain how 3-0 is luck. Please.

    Also, what do you mean that the reason that the NFL have playoffs is that you don’t get to play everyone? NFL teams don’t play everyone in the playoffs.

    In my mind, the playoffs are like (and should be more like) a month long “premier” league. You have the statistically best teams playing each other for an additional trophy. After the playoffs are over though, everyone gets relegated to start the year over again. I think it makes the US game kind of unique.

    I think the players might get pumped about it too. Last year, Angel didn’t even know what playoffs are. This year, he wants to go to the “big party.”

    I have no problem with it.

    Though I do agree that USL teams need to be accounted for.

    -Mike

  35. Snare says:

    To St. John-

    In basketball every team plays each other at least twice. In baseball, hockey,and football you play everyone in your league/conference, and a few teams in the other league/conference through out the year. But in the playoffs the only time that they would play a team that they maybe did not play in the regular season would be in the championship game, which does not add that much more excitement to the other sports playoff system than to MLS. So not very good reason to say that the U.S. Open cup is the real playoff system for MLS since we play more teams that we usually don’t play. And especially since the casual MLS fan doesn’t even care for the U.S. open Cup.

  36. Lou says:

    I may be a little biased, but frankly i don’t really care. The red bulls have shown that when playing together they can beat all odds, and we have nothing to lose coming in as underdogs. COME ON YOU BULLS!

  37. Heffe says:

    I am not so sure RSL has a lot of pressure, it should be NYRB with the pressure. As an RSL fan, I feel like we have nothing to lose. This is our first time in the playoffs, and we make it to the Western Conference Finals and play at home??!! I am just happy to witness the game in person. Plus, NYRB have struggled lately. RSL may be favored, but I look at this way: if we win, how great is it that a first time playoff team makes it to the final game, and if we lose, at least we made here.

    Kries said at the beginning of the season that he wasn’t fully expecting to make the playoffs after shaking up the team so much, but here we are.

    This doesn’t mean I don’t want RSL to win though. I would love nothing more to send NYRB packing with nothing, and with RSL having the chance to play in this big of a game.

    Also, everybody says RSL has never had this kind of pressure. Sure, as a team they haven’t, but people are forgetting some of the players have played in big games before, and some of the players come from European teams, where they have played Champions League/UEFA games, and have had to help their teams fight for promotion/relegation, which everybody knows can be somewhat of a dog-fight. GO RSL!!

  38. brian says:

    this is getting a bit off-topic, but North American team sports never reward teams for being outstanding from start to finish. (Supporter’s Shield? come on).

    Each one has a “cup” style tournament that produces champions like the .500 Minnesota Twins and maybe the .500 Red Bulls or RSL this year. One hot streak and you’re a “champion.” The extension of the playoffs to the mediocre and downright weak is sheer profiteering. But I still hope RBNY win the Cup! LOL.

  39. Tom P says:

    brian,

    you’re 100% right and it should be brought up in every play off discussion.

    No matter what happens in this exciting little “play off” tournement the truth is Columbus should be the recognized Champion for the MLS season 2008 just as DC should be for 2007.

    I don’t want to be a hypocite- I do enjoy the play off’s because intesity is full bore but the fact is it should be the consistent body of work that counts the most in soccer and not who got hot at the right time.

    The league has really got to fix this ASAP.