Playoffs Scoreboard

Recap
Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1LA
0SEA
RECAP
Recap
Leg 2
11/30 9:20pm
SEA
LA
ESPN
Western Conference Championship
Recap
Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1NY
2NE
RECAP
Recap
Leg 2
11/29 3:00pm
NE
NY
NBCSN
Eastern Conference Championship

Riding the emotional wave

so everyone won.

Next up was New England at Chivas USA on Friday. The Chivas team has faced a difficult season. Miscalculations were made and a coaching change has also occurred. Chivas realizes they must play with a lot of emotion to have chances to win. On Friday, they played with fire in their bellies and late in the game wanted to make sure of the victory. One win and then hopefully two and then more are what they are hoping for. With each positive result the good feelings build and the next result is easier to come by.

Real Salt Lake and Colorado have both struggled this season. At this stage of the season, teams have sized each other up. No disrespect intended to the teams mentioned, but the West is a two-tiered division at this point of the year. The 'haves' are FC Dallas, San Jose and Los Angeles. Then there are the 'have nots': Colorado, Salt Lake and Chivas USA.

During this time of the year the 'haves' sometimes will take a game for granted. The 'have nots' know their backs are to the wall and they need a super effort. Playoffs, future roster spots and coaches' jobs are all at stake. This weekend the emotional teams won: Salt Lake with a convincing 3-0 win against Dallas and Colorado with an equally impressive 4-1 win against Chicago.

When things are going well a team sometimes relaxes and takes a game for granted. Often they play without passion and emotion and when that happens their concentration goes. The team that is not going well often finds their focus through emotion and urgency. Remember this if betting on sports: A team that has to win is a dangerous team.

Coaching changes lead to an emotional change within a team. Everyone is being evaluated anew and all players feel now is their chance. The intensity at practice picks up. All the players and staff concentrate a bit more.

When there is a coaching change, you usually see a spike in the team's results. That upswing is due to the added emotion that is generated. Look at Columbus this year, and Chivas to a lesser degree. In the past the same has happened for Steve Nicol at New England and I got to feel this benefit in 1999.

And so Columbus wins again. They have given some young players a chance and they have produced. That brings out more intensity and should help the roll.

Every player loves to play soccer. It is the best job in the world. But everything -- even the most fun things -- become a routine at times. There are also times when you take things for granted as a player and as a team. That combination often makes for negative results.

A coach's job is to keep the emotion there. The joy of training, the realization that this is a great life. Try as you might sometimes you cannot get your team to do it every game. The good coaches get the emotion from their teams more often then they do not.

Playing for titles, needing wins to make the playoffs, coaching changes - they are all things that bring out a renewed emotion from the players. That is why soccer is such a great game for the fans. On any given day, a team that believes and plays with passion and emotion has a chance. Look at Panama in the Gold Cup final, taking the game to penalty kicks.

After the All-Star Game the playoffs will be clearly in view. The result? More intense games as teams fight for their last chance. The emotion should be there.

Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at sigischmid@hotmail.com. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com.


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