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

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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 Western Conference, and what to watch for in these big matchups.

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Vancouver (2) vs. Portland (3)
Leg 1: Sunday, November 1 — Providence Park, Portland, OR (5 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Dallas (1) vs. Seattle (4)
Leg 1: Sunday, November 1 — CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

Can Portland recover from an exhausting win over Sporting KC?

While Vancouver has had a full week of rest for the playoffs, Portland had to play against Sporting KC in the knockout round. That match was extremely taxing both physically and emotionally, as it went 120 minutes and 11 rounds of penalty kicks. It will be interesting to see if the Timbers carry some momentum from that match, or if they will be battling a hangover against the Whitecaps in the first leg.

[ MORE: Complete MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals preview ]

The battle of attacking duos in Dallas vs. Seattle

Both sides in this matchup relied on a duo of offensive weapons to generate most of the attack throughout the regular season.

FC Dallas: Fabian Castillo — 9 goals, 9 assists / Mauro Diaz — 8 goals, 10 assists
Seattle: Obafemi Martins — 15 goals, 6 assists / Clint Dempsey — 10 goals, 10 assists

For both teams, production from these pairs is essential to their success, as the stats speak for themselves. Fabian Castillo has deadly speed for Dallas, while Obafemi Martins is one of the most potent goalscorers in the league (His 15 goals came in just 21 games). Out of these four players, only Mauro Diaz was not selected to the 2015 All-Star game.

While Dallas scored the second-most goals in the West this season, they failed to score in either match against Seattle.

How much will home-field advantage be a factor?

In the four Knockout Round matches, all four home teams advanced to the Conference Semifinals. With the semis being played as a two-legged matchup, each side will have a chance to play in front of their home crowd.

[ MORE: What to watch for in the Eastern Conference semifinals ]

For Vancouver and Portland, both sides had very similar home and away records, so on paper, it may not be as much of a factor.

In the Dallas and Seattle matchup, home-field could play a huge part in the outcome. FC Dallas had the best home-record in the league, winning 13 of 17 matches and taking 80% of the possible points at Toyota Stadium. For Seattle, the Sounders have led MLS attendance for seven straight seasons, and a postseason trip to CenturyLink Field is a daunting task. With the aggregate rule in play for advancing, it could come down to who can keep the match closest away from home.