National TV Listings:
(Note: If you do not have MLS Live or Univision Deportes, MLSSoccer.com is going to stream both Eastern Conference game for FREE on their website. Here is the link for details.)
Three Big Storylines (one per game makes this targeted commentary):
- New England is 8-1-1 in their last ten games which corresponds with the addition of Jermaine Jones to the lineup. The addition of Jones has freed up Lee Nguyen to play higher up the field. Nguyen responded by making a legitimate run at the MLS MVP and the whispers of a USMNT call-up for Nguyen have become full out yelling. This opening round game is a matchup of what are probably the two hottest teams in MLS. (West of the Cascades at least.) The Crew won five of their last six and their last three in a row to go from playoff contender to the third seed. Federico Higuaín can single handedly turn a match for the Crew. and will be a prime target of Jones to bottle up.
- Possibly Landon Donovan's second to last or fourth to last ever professional game. Over the Donovan talk? Robbie Keane versus Nick Rimando. A preview of the next Gold Cup Final in Omar Gonzalez versus Alvaro Saborio? Let's be honest, if you have read this far then you are going to watch RSL host the LA Galaxy. RSL has largely been written off and the national punditry is overlooking the perennial contenders predicting an LA Galaxy walkover. Do not be surprised if RSL pull a result here and Nick Rimando is the hero.
- DC United won the Eastern Conference and along with the Galaxy had the best defense in MLS this year. But all the chatter coming into the Eastern Conference playoffs is about how New England and the Crew are on a roll or extolling the virtues of Thierry Henry. DC United is fine to let the attention go elsewhere and grind out a result just like they did in Concacaf Champions League en route to the overall #1 seed next spring in CCL. Thierry Henry played very well on Thursday in eliminating Sporting KC. How he will recover with two days rest is a something to watch here.
From a Sounders point of view, the Galaxy versus RSL will be of particular interest. With the Sounders playing the last return leg next Monday and also the last game of this opening weekend, Sounders fans will have a good idea how the MLS Semi-Final round is playing out before the squad takes the field.
Enjoy your MLS Playoffs Conference Semi-Final Gamethread.