CHESTER, Pa. – The 2011 MLS Cup playoffs have seen teams go out of their way to assign the tiles of underdogs and favorites in the race for a psychological edge.
The Philadelphia Union beat the Houston Dynamo to the punch ahead of Sunday night’s Eastern Conference Semifinal first leg (5 pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“I think certainly Houston is probably coming in here as the favorites,” Union defender Danny Califf told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re playing that underdog role and that’s good for us.”
That might sound like a strange statement considering the fact that just one point separated the two teams in the Eastern Conference standings. Also, the Union have the edge in the four all-time matches played between the two sides, going an undefeated 2-0-2.
But when Califf’s statement got to Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear upon his team’s arrival into Philadelphia on Friday night, he wasn’t buying it.
“When it comes to the playoffs, there are no favorites, especially when it’s [home-and-away],” says Kinnear. “Over 180 minutes, there is no clear favorite.”
Similar to what’s occurring with Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders series, the mind games are in full force in the East as well. Califf believes it gives his team an edge.
“I think we have a lot of character,” Califf said. “We’re never counted out of a game. We play better when our backs are against the wall and when you get into the playoffs you’re playing with your backs against the wall pretty much the entire time.”