MLS Cup Playoffs: Three things to watch in the Eastern Conference semifinals

AP
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The next round of the MLS Cup Playoffs kick off on Sunday, as all eight teams remaining play the first leg of the Conference Semifinals.

Below we take a closer look at the Eastern Conference, and what to watch for in these big matchups.

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New York (1) vs. D.C. (4)
Leg 1: Sunday, November 1 — RFK Stadium, Washington D.C. (3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Columbus (2) vs. Montreal (3)
Leg 1: Sunday, November 1 — Saputo Stadium, Montreal, Quebec (7 p.m. ET, FS1)

Can Columbus stop the red-hot Impact?

The Montreal Impact head into the playoffs as the hottest team in the league, 8-2-2 over their last 12 matches. After dominating Toronto in the Knockout Round, Montreal made a statement that they’re far from the team that finished bottom of the league last season. Columbus kicks off their playoff run with a tough trip to Saputo Stadium, where the Impact haven’t lost since August. If the Crew suffer a similar fate to Toronto, they could be out of the playoffs before the second leg begins.

[ MORE: Complete MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals preview ]

Will the Red Bulls break the Supporters’ Shield curse?

The New York Red Bulls claimed the Supporters’ Shield after finishing the regular season with the best record in MLS. The only problem is, the Supporters’ Shield winner has only gone on to win MLS Cup in two of the past 12 seasons. When the Red Bulls won the Shield in 2013, they were knocked out by Houston in the Conference Semifinals, something they will have to try to avoid against D.C. United.

[ MORE: What to watch for in the Western Conference Semifinals ]

Kamara vs. Drogba

The Crew’s Kei Kamara finished the season tied for the league-lead with 22 goals, which accounted for about 38-percent of the team’s total. Didier Drogba only made his Impact debut in late August, yet still led the team in scoring. He did that by tallying 12 goals in 12 games, as Drogba’s arrival was the turning point for Montreal’s season. It’s going to be a great battle between these two strikers, and whoever wins that battle could see his team advancing.