Only one of the four knockout games this week were worth watching. Well, two if you have something out for the nation’s capital.
Much like the NBA playoffs, the first round of MLS’ postseason does not mean much. Hats off, to be sure, to Philadelphia, DC, Salt Lake and Kansas City for not being terrible. But the two-legged conference semifinals are where the playoffs really start.
These matches start on Sunday and can be heard on SiriusXM FC (Ch. 85). For the most part, they won’t be pretty. Each features a cynical team that will try and scrape its way to the next round and bring their opponent down to their level. Even, bizarrely, the Supporters’ Shield winners.
New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact — 3:00 p.m. ET
Okay, bad first example. Montreal is less cynical than purely counterattacking. Their 4-2 victory over DC United – the only road win in the knockout round – started with a set piece header and then just used deadly wingers Dominic Oduro and Ignacio Piatti to counter at the increasingly-desperate DCU defense. It was great coaching by Mauro Biello, and no small amount of luck.
The one catch about this Red Bulls team is that their defense is susceptible to speed on the wings, but that is pretty much the one catch about this Red Bulls team. They have been very, very, good and will probably have eight of the 10 best players on the field come Sunday. And unless Didier Drogba’s back heals in time, they will have the same advantage in the second leg.
Colorado Rapids vs. LA Galaxy — 5:00 p.m. ET
Pablo Mastroeni’s team surprised everyone to not only make the playoffs but come within a win of the Shield. They have done it mostly without Jermaine Jones, instead relying on pretty much every player on last year’s dreadful squad growing up. And Tim Howard/Shkelzen Gashi.
They’ll face the Galaxy, who have 35-year-old lug Alan Gordon filling in for Gyasi Zardes and it…works? The unkillable vampire of the West, LA has enough firepower to test Colorado’s defense. And despite their old legs, the Galaxy have not lost on a short week all season.
Colorado’s rebirth cannot really be considered complete unless they can defeat the taped-together, unsteady and yet incredibly dangerous Galaxy. If the altitude won’t get them the win, if Dominique Badji won’t get them the win, at least Tim Howard’s great big hands can keep them from losing.
New York City FC vs. Toronto FC — 7:00 ET
Probably the most attractive matchup of the round is also the most old-school. Toronto is running a 1990s-style striker duo with burly Jozy Altidore getting defenders in his orbit and launching Sebastian Giovinco into space. The two have been lethal and have allowed Michael Bradley to rebuild his reputation to the extent he’s getting calls to head back to Italy.
NYCFC is not quite as traditional, but have the same basic idea. Get David Villa into space, and don’t screw up anything else. The Bronx-based wingers are dangerous, but their defense is leaky.
If New York can run at Toronto, they can wrap up this matchup in a hurry. But if Bradley can snuff out attacks and hit Jozy or Seba at a run, then the Reds more than stand a chance. It took them a decade to win their first playoff game. Maybe their second will come a little quicker?
FC Dallas vs. Seattle Sounders — 9:30 p.m. ET
As a University of Cincinnati Bearcats fan circa 2000, I feel for FC Dallas. I remember Kenyon Martin breaking his leg, so I can imagine the pain of being on the brink of MLS’ first treble…only to see a playmaker like Mauro Diaz go down with a torn Achilles tendon.
Dallas still has the horses: that’s a very good defense back there, and Maximiliano Urruti has had a few games where he’s worth each and every one of those syllables. It’s just that they had this beautiful scimitar cutting through the league all summer, and they will have to go through the playoffs just beating teams with its pommel.
That will have to begin by dispatching the Sounders. Seattle is a team apart ever since Nicolas Lodeiro joined up, but they can get frustrated. They only got by a Kansas City team that ran them ragged thanks to Stefan Frei standing on his head and Nelson Valdez finally discovering a use for his. It would be a minor miracle for them to get past Dallas, but Seattle has been pulling those off on the reg these past few months.
This post was composed by freelance writer and swell guy, Asher Kohn. Reach out to him and discuss all the soccer happenings from around the world on Twitter at:@AJKhn. Catch up with all of the latest soccer happenings on SiriusXM FC.