The MLS Playoffs begin tonight with a pair of knockout matches featuring regular playoff contenders. Both of last year's MLS Cup finalists are in action against familiar playoff foes. Tomorrow night, a pair of playoff newbies square off before
DC United vs. New England Revolution
I don't like the way United have slid as the season has went on. They started off on fire and in the lead in the East for quite some time, but ended up sliding to fourth. They welcome in a New England side who has started to find a bit of a thing with Lee Nguyen scoring goals for them. DC's best hope here is that home field advantage sinks the Revs, but I don't see it happening.
PREDICTION: DC United 1-2 New England
Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy
A rematch of last year's Western Conference final, only this time they play just one match in Seattle. This is a tough one to predict. Giovani dos Santos and Steven Gerrard didn't have quite the effect on the Galaxy as many would have hoped and they seemed to trail off at the tail end of the season. They finished the year with a disastrous loss at home to Portland and a rough go of things in Kansas City. It would be a result of fixture congestion, as Bruce Arena has suggested, or just complacency with their playoff spot having been wrapped up already. Either way, I like Seattle at home here as I think LA will be tired and in bad form.
PREDICTION: Seattle 2-1 LA Galaxy
Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC
Here are a pair of sides making their playoff debuts. Toronto spent big over the winter with the aim of making the playoffs for the first time, and it worked. Although I think they would have hoped to have been higher than the sixth seed facing a tough trip to Montreal. The Impact have been seemingly unstoppable since landing Didier Drogba over the summer and I don't think that will stop here.
PREDICTION: Montreal 3-1 Toronto
Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City
These two played three thrillers throughout the regular season. The first two ended in scoreless draws and the third required a late winner for Kansas City despite Portland really dominating the match. That one match that saw a result was at Sporting Park, this one is on the Timbers' home turf. Portland may have struggled to finish in their matches against Kansas City, but they are really finding their scoring form of late. I like them at home here.
PREDICTION: Portland 2-0 Sporting Kansas City
These all should be thrilling matches that will be fun to watch, but there's one problem. These games are broadcast exclusively on UniMas, an ultra premium Spanish language channel that many cable subscribers don't get, including myself. If you do get the channel, and don't speak Spanish, you can hit the SAP button on you remote to listen to some awful English speaking broadcasters. This is a problem, MLS. Your highest profile games should never be on a hard to watch channel. It shouldn't have mattered how much money UniMas threw at you for this, selling the rights to a station with more exposure would have brought in more viewers to help grow your miniscule fan base. ESPN or Fox Sports may not have paid as much for the share of games that UniMas is showing, but they would have allowed more viewers to tune in.