The Lord knows that higher seeds in MLS are anything but invincible, but usually the best way to beat them in the playoffs is to Win Your Home Game.
Good news for San Jose fans - botching the home game is not just theoretically survivable. In 2006, the Rapids lost to Dallas 2-1, won the game in Dallas the next week 3-2, then advanced on penalties.
And in 2005, the Fire tied 0-0 before piling all over DC United 4-0 in RFK, thanks partially to a Christian Gomez red card and Peter Nowak running the defending champs ragged during the regular season.
So it's possible to get things done if the home cooking was burnt.
Slightly more rationally, the Red Bulls are probably going to advance because they're so much better than the Quakes. This would have carried a little bit more weight if I had managed to write it before last night, but this one man band thing San Jose has going isn't going to fly very far in the postseason. And hat tricks against Chivas USA don't mean a lot when the opponent isn't in relegation danger.
I assume this hasn't just occurred to Frank Yallop, although you never know:
I choose to see this as a call-out of his team, more than an admission of gameplan failure. I mean, it seems more likely a professional coach would say this than "Tell the other team we're going to run the offense through Geovanni, who by the way was an enormous disappointment for us tonight."
The only reason I'm not totally writing off the Quakes is because I'm a Galaxy fan with PTSD from 2003. The rest of you can probably plan on Red Bull Arena hosting the Eastern semifinal.
Probably against Colorado, even though they only won 1-0 at home. Gary Smith has built a team of veterans who largely have been through this sort of thing before - Larentowicz, Mullan, Moor, Thompson, Pickens in addition to Mastroeni and Casey - wow, what happened to the Rapids' youth movement? Mike Petke sneering at the Rapids ownership might theoretically have given some edge to this potential matchup, except that most everyone involved with the Rapids secretly agrees. Or not-so-secretly.
Meanwhile, in the West - and, of course, the game that was played the farthest east of any of the games this weekend - I learned, oh, about eleven months and three weeks ago that no, Salt Lake is not necessarily doomed if they don't have Javier Morales.
I'd go into a detailed breakdown about how the Rio Tinto game shapes up, how missing Atiba Harris frankly benefits Dallas in my opinion - but it's just going to be a big old fight. I suppose we can argue the relative merits of the red cards, but I think the bigger picture will be even more physical play. Both teams are complaining about their respective red cards, even though both teams don't have much of a case. Morales' yellow cards were moronic, and there's no way Hospital Harris should get the benefit of the doubt.
One thing's for sure - Real Salt Lake did not need a loss in Dallas.
Well, at least Salt Lake got a goal, which could easily end up being very important in a scenario where every score counts -
Oh, for GOD'S SAKE. What is it with these guys, reverse altitude sickness? Okay, Jason, give Dallas a 1-0 lead in the first five minutes next Saturday, I dare you.
And, last and least, two of the most annoying franchises in the hemisphere meet in what should be a wide-open, exciting series. The Sounders have looked really good, the Galaxy have not. The Sounders seem to be favorites, even though Buddle and Donovan are still two of the best players in the country - maybe the two best. I'm going to be counter-contrarian, and agree with the majority. The Galaxy have been very weak in central defense recently, and I think Montero, Nkufo and Zakuani are going to dive - er, skip right by them.