MLS Playoff Preview: Knockout round matchups sure to provide fireworks

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The playoffs are here, and it’s time for the first round, which will see the weak weeded out from the strong.

Seattle Sounders/LA Galaxy. D.C. United/New England Revolution. Montreal Impact/Toronto FC. Portland Timbers/Sporting KC.

Seriously, who writes this stuff? Give them a raise.

And away…we…GO.

D.C. UNITED vs NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: Wednesday, Oct 28 @ 7:30 p.m.

Four mouth-watering matchups usher in the 2015 MLS Playoffs, starting with a good, old-fashioned east coast slugfest and getting better from there.

The 5th-seeded New England Revolution travel to D.C. United, whose hiccup down the stretch forced them into a knockout round game, but wasn’t enough to send them on the road. Ben Olsen’s squad appeared to have things figured out heading into the playoffs until along came Columbus and WHACK…everything’s out of control.

That 5-0 drubbing on the last day of the season has done enough to leave D.C. fans in a dizzying whirlwind of uncertainty at precisely the worst possible moment. Can the New England provide the knockout punch after Columbus knocked D.C. off its rocker? It would be two early exits in a row for Ben Olsen, an increasingly sour note after two stellar regular seasons. But it’s not over yet, not if Fabian Espindola has anything to say about it, which he surely will after the way he went off to winter vacation last season.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs LA GALAXYWednesday, Oct 28 @ 10:00 p.m.

On face value, this looks like a Western Conference finals matchup, but this season, things have been different. Seattle is led by its…defense? Yes, it’s true, as the Sounders owned the league-low for goals conceded with a hair over one per match. So naturally, they take on the Western Conference leaders in goals scored. Let the fun commence!

Unstoppable force and immovable object aside, we flip things around to find where the match will truly be won. One team has Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, the other has a suspect back line that conceded 11 goals in the final five regular season games. With a squad still looking for chemistry, the Galaxy have their work cut out for them to progress in the playoffs. But then again…don’t they every year? And yet they keep on winning.

MONTREAL IMPACT vs TORONTO FC: Thursday, Oct 29 @ 7:00 p.m.

Toronto controlled its own destiny. They had it all in front of them, seemingly galloping into the playoffs with a four-game winning streak and just two matches left. And then…*poof*…they went and lost both those last two, including the last one to this same Montreal team in this same Saputo Stadium.

So where to from here? Just like D.C. United, Toronto has to pick up the pieces, and they have to do it now. Sebastian Giovinco has carried the team into the playoffs with one of the most stunning individual seasons ever seen in Major League Soccer, but a first-round exit would be a disappointment for Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and the rest.

With that in mind, the task isn’t too tall…just take down a team that finished the regular season with six wins in its last eight matches, including a three-game streak to end the year. The Montreal of May is gone, like dust in the wind. The Drogba Effect has this team in its clutches, and as a result, they haven’t lost at home since August 22. Momentum is clearly on one side in this Canadian struggle.

PORTLAND TIMBERS vs SPORTING KC: Thursday, Oct 29 @ 10:00 p.m.

These two teams are very evenly matched. Sporting a pair of goalless draw and a stunning finish in their three meetings this season, this could prove to be a coin flip. Both teams finished two points apart in the table, a testament to the clogged Western Conference.

It’s going to be close, that much is for certain. Sporting KC conceded two goals or fewer in their last six league games, but also scored two or fewer in all those games as well. They aren’t in great form, but they grinded out the results needed to make the postseason, and it’s not all doom and gloom, having recently lifted the U.S. Open Cup, and there are no bad teams in the playoffs for KC to play down to.