Storylines to watch for in MLS conference semifinals

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While some teams are better suited than others to reach Major League Soccer’s conference finals, all eight sides remaining are still alive heading into Sunday’s action.

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FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids, New York Red Bulls and New York City FC all trail ahead of their second leg matchups over the weekend, but MLS has never been short of intriguing storylines.

PST takes a look at the four biggest talking points ahead of Sunday’s matches.

NYCFC needs Villa to be the MVP that he is

Okay, the discussion at to whom the MVP will be is certainly up for debate, but there’s no question which player drives New York City FC. Patrick Vieira has done an admirable job getting the most of a largely average team, so the squad’s success or failure hinges on David Villa in the second leg against Toronto. Finishing only one goal behind Bradley Wright-Phillips in this season’s Golden Boot, Villa has been the catalyst for the NYCFC attack all along, and he’ll need at least two more moments of brilliance to help give his side a shot at advancing in their first playoff trip.

FC Dallas seeks a miracle… and then some

Is it impossible to come back from 3-0? No. Is it likely? Eh (shrugs shoulders). If there is a team equipped to overcome such a feat it is undoubtedly Dallas. Oscar Pareja has arguably the most talented squad in MLS, and even without Mauro Diaz, this is a team that is capable of putting up goals. Dallas managed to score three or more goals on seven separate occasions during the regular season, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that they can replicate that feat once more. However, any lapse defensively that ends up with a Sounders goal will likely spell the end of Dallas’ chances at a treble.

BWP, Kljestan must show up for Red Bulls 

After putting up 61 regular season goals (second most in MLS) the New York Red Bulls shouldn’t have much difficulty coming back from their 1-0 deficit against the Montreal Impact. Wright-Phillips netted on 24 occasions for the Eastern Conference champions, while Sacha Kljestan posted a league-leading 20 assists. That was during the regular season though, and as the Impact showed in the first leg, their defense can stifle any team when playing at their best. Laurent Ciman has proven to be one of the top defenders in MLS, and his battle with BWP could very well decide if the Red Bulls complete the comeback. Kljestan was the only Red Bulls starter to post a shot on target in the opening leg, which will surely have to change at Red Bull Arena on Sunday.

Will Rapids muster up enough chances? 

Everyone knows what has brought the Colorado Rapids to this point, and it’s definitely not their attack. Pablo Mastroeni’s side posted 39 goals in 34 regular season matches, tied for the second-least in MLS. Now, the Rapids must come up with at least one goal if they are to continue their magical run in 2016. The problem for the Western Conference runners’ up is that they lack a go-to goalscorer that most of the remaining clubs possess. Will it be Shkelzen Gashi? Dominique Badji? At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, but the Rapids need one of their attacking players to step up at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.