MLS Cup Playoffs: Weekend Preview

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The Seattle Sounders booked their place in the MLS Cup Conference Finals, but there’s three places up for grabs that will be decided this Sunday.

Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew take advantages into their second-leg bouts with the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, respectively, while the Portland Timbers head back home to host the Houston Dynamo coming off a scoreless draw.

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TFC is edging closer to a second-consecutive appearance in the Eastern Conference final after their 2-1 win at the Red Bulls while the Crew ran riot past NYCFC at home, leaving Patrick Vieira’s season on the brink.

Here’s a look at what we can expect to see in the final three second-leg matchups of the conference semifinals.

Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls — Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET

Sebastian Giovinco may not win the league MVP award this season but he showed again how valuable he is to TFC’s success last Monday.

The Italian playmaker scored the game-winning goal on another free kick as TFC has a one-goal advantage as well as two road goals, meaning the Red Bulls would need to win 2-0 or beat TFC by three or more goals to advance. One thing working in the Red Bulls favor; TFC starters Victor Vasquez and Drew Moor are questionable to play. If the pair don’t play, it could be a big opportunity for Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips to combine in attacking areas and get the Red Bulls back in the tie.

New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew — Sunday, 5:00 p.m. ET

In spite of Anthony Precourt’s declaration that he may move the team to Austin, Texas, the Columbus Crew has responded about as well as anyone could have hoped. The team took its penalty kicks-victory momentum into an emotional and vibrant 4-1 rout last Tuesday at home and now the Crew will be looking to add to its lead, especially with NYCFC likely to push numbers forward throughout the game.

After suffering a crushing 7-0 defeat to Toronto FC a year ago in the MLS Cup Playoffs, NYCFC fans are having a miserable case of deja vu, and will need players such as Jack Harrison and David Villa to find the back of the net multiple times if they want to turn around the scoreline.

Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo — Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Timbers recorded an impressive result earlier this week in Houston but the team’s depth will be tested on Sunday evening.

Diego Chara is out and Fanendo Adi, Darlington Nagbe and Larrys Mabiala are all nursing injuries and could miss the crucial home match as well, putting more pressure on MVP candidate Diego Valeri’s shoulders. The Dynamo meanwhile will hope their youthful frontline of Alberth Elis, Rommel Quioto, Tomas Martinez and Mauro Manotas can overcome the atmosphere of the Timbers Army to move Houston on to the next round.

The Dynamo will be without starting goalkeeper Tyler Deric, who was suspended this week after an arrest on an alleged domestic violence charge.