Friday, November 14, 2008

Will they or won't they? New York Red Bulls

Earlier this week, I wrote about Chicago and Columbus and their respective chances to win MLS Cup. Chicago's toast so only Columbus' is still valid.

Anyway, I'm going to take a look at reasons for and against the respective Western Conference finalists' chances of reaching and winning MLS Cup '08. First, the team nobody expected to get past the first round.

New York Red Bulls
Why they will win MLS Cup: Every so often, a team comes into the postseason looking like a team that does not belong, that wandered in territory it can't possibly handle. Then, the team somehow gets everything together correctly and glory is within reach. That is how the New York Red Bulls enter the Western Conference final, as a team of destiny.

New York was given up for dead after their 5-2 season-ending loss at Chicago, then had the fortune of making the playoffs only to have the misfortune of playing a Houston team that exactly zero home playoff losses in two seasons - that's four-of-four at Robertson Stadium. But the Red Bulls answered the call and routed Houston 3-0.

Now that the team has cleared the seemingly immovable obstacle, New York has all the confidence in their corner and no pressure to do much of anything. The season has already been salvaged and even a loss here would be a somewhat acceptable outcome given the way the final six weeks of the regular season went.

But of course, this team isn't playing for pride. This team has MLS Cup on its mind, and with confidence soaring, the players will be able to focus more clearly on a destination that seemed unreachable for so many months.

Why they won't win MLS Cup: New York knocked Houston off in impressive manner but one game does not make up for six weeks of futility. New York had one road victory, way back in May, before knocking Houston off on Sunday. Expecting another win away from Giants Stadium in six days time may be asking too much.

Juan Carlos Osorio has done well to pull the strings and alter the lineups according to the situation but that may also mess a bit with chemistry, or what little of that element exists. It's seemingly a crap shoot with the lineup these days and it seems that the team may have to catch lightning in a bottle once more.

Bottom line, though, this is a flawed team that had one glorious afternoon. And the real team of destiny is hosting this game.

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