MLS Cup Playoffs: Conference Semifinals preview

AP
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With the knockout rounds complete, the MLS Cup Playoffs are down to four teams in each conference.

This round of the playoffs features two-legged matchups, as the team with the highest aggregate advances. The first leg will be played at the lower seed, with the second leg at the higher seed.

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Below, we take a look at all the matchups from the East and West, as the first leg of matches kick off this Sunday.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

New York Red Bulls (1) vs. D.C. United (4)

Leg 1: Sunday, November 1 — RFK Stadium, Washington D.C. (3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Leg 2: Sunday, November 8 — Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

Season series

March 22: New York 2-0 D.C.
April 11: D.C. 2-2 New York
August 30: New York 3-0 D.C.

One of the best rivalries in MLS will be renewed during the playoffs, as the Atlantic Cup between the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United kicks off the second round of the postseason. New York took the Cup this season, winning two of three matches.

New York won the Supporters’ Shield, finishing the regular season with the best record in Major League Soccer. Once again, the Red Bulls were led by Bradley Wright-Phillips, whose 17 goals were fifth-most in the league.

D.C. United held on to defeat New England 2-1 in the knockout round, and will hope that momentum carries over into this matchup with the Red Bulls. However, captain Bobby Boswell will be suspended for the first leg after an off-the-ball incident in the win over New England.

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Columbus Crew (2) vs. Montreal Impact (3)

Leg 1: Sunday, November 1 — Saputo Stadium, Montreal, Quebec (7 p.m. ET, FS1)
Leg 2: Sunday, November 8 — MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, OH

Season series

June 6: Columbus 1-2 Montreal
July 11: Montreal 3-0 Columbus

Montreal is the hottest team in the league, coming off of a massive 3-0 win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC in the knockout round. The Impact are 8-2-2 over their last 12 matches, and haven’t lost at home since August. Not surprisingly, the Impact’s fine run has been led by Didier Drogba, who has scored 12 goals in 12 matches this season.

For Columbus, Kei Kamara‘s 22 goals were tied for the league-lead, and they’ll look for the big striker to continue his production. The Crew thrashed D.C. United in the final game of the regular season, although they did lose both matches to Montreal this year.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE

FC Dallas (1) vs. Seattle Sounders (4)

Leg 1: Sunday, November 1 — CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Leg 2: Sunday, November 8 — Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX

Despite the fact that FC Dallas finished tied with the Red Bulls for the most points in the league, the Sounders are believed to be the favorites in this matchup. Seattle overcame a tough test in the Los Angeles Galaxy, eliminating the defending MLS Cup champions in the knockout round. With the combination of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins in fine form, a trip to Seattle is never fun for any opponent.

FC Dallas has their own attacking duo in Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz. The pair finished 1-2 on the team in goals and assists, and will be tasked with breaking down a Seattle defense that has been surprisingly stout late in the season.

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Season series

March 28: Dallas 0-0 Seattle
June 13: Seattle 3-0 Dallas

Vancouver Whitecaps (2) vs. Portland Timbers (3)

Leg 1: Sunday, November 1 — Providence Park, Portland, OR (5 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Leg 2: Sunday, November 8 — BC Place, Vancouver, British Columbia

Season series

March 28: Vancouver 2-1 Portland
May 2: Portland 0-0 Vancouver
July 18: Portland 1-1 Vancouver

From the Atlantic Cup rivalry in the East, to the Cascadia Cup rivalry in the West. Vancouver finished the highest of the Pacific northwest teams this season, just edging out the Timbers.

The Whitecaps conceded just 36 goals on the year, the fewest in all of Major League Soccer. By finishing second in the West, this is the first season in franchise history that Vancouver will play past the knockout round in the playoffs.

Portland enters this matchup on the heels of a wild win over Sporting KC that saw 11 rounds of penalty kicks in one of the most memorable playoff matches in MLS history. It’s only the second postseason appearance for the Timbers, who reached the Conference Finals back in 2013.