The ties are leaning away from the underdog stories as the MLS Cup Conference Finals reach their second legs.
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Reigning champs Seattle are 90 minutes away from a return to the final after scoring a pair of away goals in Texas, while Toronto needs a win at home to bring out the fine china for a rematch of the 2016 title game at BMO Field.
Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew — 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday
Scoreless after one leg
The good news for Columbus Crew is that a scoring draw is good enough to take them through to a second MLS Cup Final in three seasons under Gregg Berhalter, taking the embarrassment of owner Anthony Precourt’s public desire to relocate an MLS original club to Austin, Texas.
The bad news? That scoring draw has to come at noisy BMO Field against the team with the best record in MLS history, a Toronto FC bunch which will be welcoming Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco back to the fold after suspension.
Columbus has veteran savvy and some wild cards like Pedro Santos, but it’s going to take a lot of defending to handle TFC’s field-switching work and busy full backs (let alone Altidore and Giovinco).
Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo — 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Seattle leads 2-0
Clint Dempsey is among the most important and accomplished players in American history, and his work since returning to Major League Soccer certainly ticks a lot of boxes: influential, clutch, prolific.
He’s helped the Sounders to an almost insurmountable advantage. At home for the second leg, the Sounders can make Houston’s task near impossible just by scoring a goal.
That said, Wilmer Cabrera is a heck of a coach and has assets that can attack and fire at will. While it may be improbable for Alberth Elis and Erick Torres to spring a massive comeback in Washington, it’s not quite impossible. That’s about as much as we can give the orange-clad men from Texas.