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Major League Soccer

MLS Conference Finals: ASN's Roundtable Panel

The first leg of the MLS Conference Finals got off to a great start over the weekend, so five ASN pundits gathered around a virtual roundtable to discuss the results, and what happens next.
BY John Godfrey & Friends Posted
November 25, 2014
2:49 PM

On Sunday the New England Revolution made the trip down I-95 worthwhile, defeating the New York Red Bulls 2-1 thanks to a ridiculous left-footed golazo from Teal Bunbury and a late tap-in from Jermaine Jones.

The Los Angeles-Seattle showdown delivered a similar level of suspense—if a bit less quality—as the the Galaxy defeated the visiting Sounders 1-0 and maintained a clean sheet heading in to the second leg at CenturyLink Field.

American Soccer Now gathered a few of its scribes to discuss the two matches and to speculate on what might transpire over the Thanksgiving weekend. Let's hop to it.

JOHN GODFREY: Jon—what is your key takeaway from the New England-New York game? Bradley Wright-Phillips is suspended, the Revs are up—is it all over?

JON ARNOLD: I think so. It's not just BWP's absence, it's the fact that the Revolution played that game about as well as they could've as the road team. Patient but deadly when on the attack—and if Bunbury keeps playing like the guy U.S. fans dreamed he was when he picked the Stars and Stripes over the Maple Leaf, I don't see the Red Bulls getting back in it.

BROOKE TUNSTALL: They could have played this on a Saturday night at the Garden in the 1960s because it was like a prize fight. A damn good prize fight. Sure, it wasn’t always the prettiest soccer because of how intense it got, but it was most definitely entertaining and very compelling theater.

A colleague texted me that this was as good as anything he’d seen from the EPL this weekend and I couldn’t disagree.

Sad to see Wright-Phillips miss next week for such a bonehead play. It doesn’t make a New York comeback impossible, but toss in Henry’s reluctance to play on turf and it’s going to be really tough for the Red Bulls.

GODFREY: You agree with that, Travis?

TRAVIS CLARK: It ain't over 'til it's over (or insert any other fitting sports cliche here) but the Revolution has a significant advantage with two away goals. A win or draw at home is all they need, and we know that Henry's turf allergy, combined with BWP's brain-dead decision-making, leaves the Red Bulls with a mountain to climb.

BRIAN SCIARETTA: The Red Bulls are in very bad shape. They now have to head to New England and score at least two goals while shutting down New England. I don’t see that happening. New England is in the driver’s seat but there are some things the Red Bulls have going for them. The first is that expectations are low. The other is that there is still veteran leadership that should not be fazed about the deficit.

GODFREY: Same question, different coast. Does Seattle have the advantage now? Why or why not?

SCIARETTA: Los Angeles has the upper hand here. They did not surrender any away goals and have a one-goal advantage. CenturyLink will be rocking next week but the Galaxy is a veteran team and should be able to handle the environment. Seattle has all the pressure right now. They have to score and defend very carefully. L.A. still has a ton of offensive talent and if Seattle concedes a goal, it could be curtains.

TUNSTALL: This game was almost as intense as the Eastern final and just as worthy as being on a card at the Garden. At the end of the day it’s all about goals and it’s hard to not feel like you’re in the driver’s seat when you have one and the other team doesn’t. And Seattle not scoring on the road is an advantage in L.A.’s favor.

CLARK: Neither team played exceptionally well in this one, but the edge for me goes to L.A. Score just one goal in Seattle, and the home side will need three to advance.

GODFREY: Hard to imagine the Galaxy not scoring at least one. Even harder to imagine Seattle scoring three. Who most impressed you in these first legs, Brooke?

TUNSTALL: Jaime Pinedo showed why Bruce Arena has long coveted him. He’s a big reason why the Galaxy haven’t allowed a goal in the playoffs.

ARNOLD: I'll go with Penedo. He's struggled with consistency this season, which surprised me as a long-time believer in his skill, but there was nothing inconsistent about his display Sunday.


CLARK: Bunbury impressed me a lot. He's been thrust into a wide role for the Revolution this year which at times can get a little awkward. But he rose to the occasion on Sunday, showing off fancy footwork to curl home from distance, while also providing the cross for Jones' winner late in the game.

GODFREY: What surprised people about these two contests?

TUNSTALL: The re-emergence of Bunbury. It didn’t just happen yesterday; it just got overshadowed by Nguyen, Jermaine Jones, Charlie Davies, et al. But Bunbury playing like he did his first two years in MLS before he tore his ACL—some would argue he’s playing better—just makes New England that much more dangerous, especially with Red Bulls left back Roy Miller suspended. Bunbury owned Ambroise Oyongo and reminded us why it was once considered a big deal when he shunned Canada to play for the U.S.

SCIARETTA: Bunbury was given a lot of chances early on to impress at the national team level but he failed to take advantage. A long absence following knee surgery kind put him out of the picture in the minds of most U.S. national team fans. He has been quite effective recently for the Revolution and is certainly one to keep an eye on. He looks like he is back on track.

CLARK: I was impressed by how hard Lee Nguyen works when his team doesn't have the ball. Young American attackers should take note if they see their minutes shriveling up—no matter where they're playing.

ARNOLD: Nguyen is doing so much for the Revolution attack. His assist, his dangerous moves, he's the total package—and another reminder the best players come from Texas. Nguyen, Dempsey, Gonzalez. Lone Star pride, baby. What?

GODFREY: OK, prediction time. I will be glued to the TV for both contests but I have no reason to doubt New England or Los Angeles. Who ya got?

TUNSTALL: My prediction? Pain.

GODFREY: Thanks, Clubber. Travis?

CLARK: Seattle is sputtering of late, so I think it'll be a 1-1 draw in the Emerald City, with New England advancing on the other side and making the trip to Carson, Calif., for MLS Cup 2014. No reason to think any of these teams are going to suddenly be less intense and less physical in Game 2, and toss in both games being on turf and the trainers are going to need hazard pay.

GODFREY: So you're predicting pain too. Interesting. Jon?

ARNOLD: Revs and Galaxy. Speed kills.

SCIARETTA: New England hangs on with a 1-1 draw at home to eliminate the Red Bulls (which is kind of sad to see Henry’s potential last match in MLS played on turf after he went through such pains to avoid playing on it). I am also going to say that the Galaxy lose to Seattle 2-1 next weekend but advance on the away-goals rule. It will be Los Angeles and New England for the 2015 MLS Cup in a worthy final.

That's our take, ASN readers. Please share yours in the Comments section below.

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