Audi Player Index Playoffs Analysis

Audi Player Index Playoffs Analysis: Rapids, Sounders advance in the West

The Western Conference Semifinals concluded with the Colorado Rapids edging out the LA Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders finishing the job against Supporters' Shield winners FC Dallas.

Unlike the deficit that had been given up by Dallas, Colorado entered their home leg having conceded only a single goal. And although it took penalty kicks and only scoring once themselves, there was no doubt that the Rapids were the better team— righting almost all their wrongs from the first game in the second game of their series.

In the first leg, the top two overall performances on the field and in the Audi Player Index belonged to the Galaxy’s Giovani dos Santos and Landon Donovan. The only players near the top for Colorado were those primarily tasked with stopping their opponent: Tim Howard, right back Eric Miller and defensive midfielder Sam Cronin.

In contrast, Colorado figured out a way to get on the front foot in the second leg. At the conclusion of extratime, attacking midfielder Shkelzen Gashi had the third-most Audi Player Index points (despite having logged just 45 minutes) with Dominique Badji, playing the No. 9 role, only two slots below. LA’s top players were their central defenders (Jelle Van Damme, Daniel Steres) and goalkeeper (Brian Rowe) in this bout.

As closely contested as this Conference Semifinal was, the Rapids may have felt bizarrely comfortable. These two games echoed the sentiments of Colorado’s success all season long. Of their 34 contests, only four games were decided by a margin of more than a single goal. And what’s more, 13 of their 15 regular season wins came by way of just a one goal advantage, tying the MLS record. So as tight as this series was, Colorado was able to advance by staying true to the DNA they have developed over the course of this season.

For all the great things the Sounders did at home, they were not able to re-capture the same type of magic in Dallas. They gave up two goals and Jordan Morris and Nelson Valdez went from a combined Audi Index Player score of 1630 in Seattle to 271 in the second leg. Regardless of the team’s play in either leg, though, there was one reliably solid aspect to their performance: the consistently excellent work of Nicolas Lodeiro.

And this is no different than the recipe for success Seattle had during the second half of the regular season. The Sounders lost 12 of their first 20 games without their Uruguayan playmaker. Once Lodeiro entered the picture in late July, the team lost only two of their final 14. The Conference Semifinals series were no exception in this way. Lodeiro’s fingerprints permeated all 180 minutes, scoring three times in total while finishing atop the Audi Player Index in each match.

In both circumstances, the sides that came out on top did it the only way they knew how to— being true to what got them up to this point. The Conference Championships should be a very interesting stylistic battle, pitting two distinct ways to find success against one another.