MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs New York City FC

2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Eastern Conference Semifinal (1st Leg): Columbus Crew vs New York City FC

MAPFRE Stadium – Tuesday, October 1 – 20:00 ET (00:00 BST)

Match Odds: Columbus Crew 21/20 – Draw 5/2  – NYCFC 9/4

Columbus Crew vs New York City FC: Preview

Columbus Crew welcome New York City FC to MAPFRE Stadium for what promises to be a thrilling Eastern Conference Semifinal showdown. One of these sides is 180 minutes away from a place in the Conference Final. The other will be sent packing.

Few people believed Columbus would make it to this stage. They travelled to Atlanta as underdogs for their Knockout Round clash last Thursday. But they prevailed on penalties after a dramatic 120 minutes of action, in which the woodwork was hit three times in total.

The Crew are riding high. They’ve not lost in 11 and have won six of their last seven at home. This will be the first game at MAPFRE Stadium since the news of a possible relocation to Austin surfaced a couple of weeks ago. So expect an emotional atmosphere for Tuesday’s clash.

NYCFC have had over a week to prepare for this game. They rounded off the regular season with a 2-2 draw against the Crew at Citi Field. They come into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the East, but they cannot take Columbus for granted.

New York City FC’s recent form will concern Patrick Vieira. They only won one of their last seven regular season outings and don’t come into the playoffs in the highest of spirits.

However, they knew for a long while that they’d be playing postseason soccer. And they need their stars to shine at this stage. Particularly after last year’s humiliating playoff exit to Toronto.

Another boost for the visitors could be that they picked up their first ever away win at Columbus earlier in the campaign. That 3-2 win back in April was then followed by that 2-2 draw at Citi Field on Decision Day.

Columbus Crew vs New York City FC: Team News

Gregg Berhalter is unlikely to make any changes to the starting XI from the win in Atlanta. They did go 120 minutes but they’ve had four days to recover and should be fresh to go here. Alex Crognale, Gaston Sauro and Ben Swanson are all ruled out.

New York City FC have just two players ruled out as they begin their playoff campaign. Miguel Camargo and Maxime Chanot remain sidelined and won’t play again this year.

Columbus Crew vs New York City FC: Key Points

Columbus Crew’s last five: W/W/W/D/W

NYCFC’s last five: D/W/D/L/D

Key Stat: There have been 32 goals in the seven previous meetings between the two sides. That’s an average of 4.5 per game. Neither side has ever kept a clean sheet against the other.

Key Player: Zach Steffen – The Crew’s penalty shootout hero from Thursday night comes into the game in great form. He also saved David Villa’s stoppage time penalty in the 2-2 draw against NYCFC last week. So if he can keep his form up, the visitors might struggle to break through.

Columbus Crew vs New York City FC: Prediction

Columbus Crew 3-1 New York City FC – Making a football prediction for a game as big as this is always difficult. But it’s impossible to see the Crew’s fine form ending in Tuesday’s first leg. NYCFC know they have to keep the tie as close as possible and might set up for a draw ahead of the return leg. But Columbus have attacking weapons that will be looking to hurt them. An early goal could blow the game wide open, and we’re expecting goals. But the Crew look set to edge it, given their impressive hot streak.

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MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs New York City FC

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Eastern Conference Semifinal – First Leg) – Toronto FC vs. New York City FC

Venue: BMO Field – Sunday, October 30 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT) 

Match Odds: Toronto 4/5 – Draw 5/2 – NYCFC 16/5

Match Preview

Toronto FC welcome New York City FC to BMO Field for the first-leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal showdown on Sunday night, with both sides surely fancying their chances of progressing in what is an excellent fixture.

Neither of these sides have ever been in this position before. But they both deserve to be here after excellent seasons and that’s what makes this all the more exciting.

Some of the league’s biggest names will go head-to-head, with NYCFC’s Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and David Villa facing off against Toronto’s Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.

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Toronto advanced through the Knockout Round with a 3-1 home win over Philadelphia on Wednesday night. They will need another strong performance in front of their own fans here, but need to hope the short rest doesn’t leave them fatigued.

Greg Vanney’s men are favourites for this match and they will fully expect to travel to Yankee Stadium with an aggregate lead ahead of the return leg next weekend.

Toronto’s only home game against NYCFC this season ended 1-1 so the Reds need to ensure they do enough to win what is going to be a tough game.

New York City enjoyed a Knockout Round bye after finishing the regular season in second place in the East. Patrick Vieira’s men rounded off a fine season with a 4-1 win over Columbus last Sunday and will be hoping the full week’s rest gives them an advantage here.

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NYCFC are appearing in the playoffs for the first time in what is just their second season in MLS. That might affect some of their squad, but the experience of Pirlo, Lampard and Villa should ensure they remain in this tie beyond the first leg.

The visitors have only won one of their last seven away games in MLS and that will be a concern heading into a very difficult road game here.

This will be the sixth clash between the two sides since NYCFC entered MLS in 2015. Toronto have yet to beat New York City, with three of the five previous games ending in draws.

Team News

Ashtone Morgan remains Toronto’s only injury concern ahead of the game and he is expected to remain sidelined here. Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore will continue up front after tearing apart the Philadelphia defence on Wednesday evening.

New York City FC remain without Connor Brandt and Shannon Gomez. Frank Lampard returned to action against Columbus Crew last weekend and should be ready to start this one, with Jack Harrison perhaps dropping to the bench.

Key Points

Toronto FC’s last five: D/L/D/W/W

NYCFC’s last five: D/W/W/L/W

Key Stat: Away troubles – New York City have only won one of their last seven away games in MLS and have conceded 15 goals in that time.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – There is no doubt that Toronto are a much better side when the incredible Italian takes to the field. He shone in Wednesday’s win over Philadelphia and is looking back to full fitness at the perfect time for his side. He delivers when it matters most and will need to do so again here to give the hosts the advantage after the first leg.

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Score Prediction

Toronto FC 2-1 New York City FC – Toronto to beat New York City for the first time to take a slim advantage into the second leg next weekend. This is a huge game for both, but Toronto know that failure to win here would leave them with a mountain to climb at Yankee Stadium next weekend. There should be a few goals here, but ultimately the Reds look likely to edge it by the odd goal.

GALLERY: Exclusive photos from Portland’s playoff win at Vancouver

The Portland Timbers managed to seal a place in the Western Conference Final after beating Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 in the second leg of their conference semifinal clash on Sunday night.

The two rivals entered the game off the back of their 0-0 draw in Portland in the first leg with everything at stake on Sunday. But it was Portland who shone through thanks to goals from Fanendo Adi and Diego Chara.

Vancouver’s chances were hampered when Kekuta Manneh was taken off injured in the first half but they will be disappointed by the loss, especially as it came in front of their own fans.

Portland will now face FC Dallas in the Western Conference final over two legs starting on November 22.

Check out some exclusive photos from Sunday’s game in Vancouver, courtesy of Denise McCooey.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland TImbers Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland TImbers Matias Laba Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland TImbers Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland TImbers Kekuta Manneh Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland TImbers Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland TImbers David Ousted Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland TImbers Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland TImbers

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland Timbers

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg) – Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers

Venue: BC Place – Sunday, November 8 – 22:00 ET (03:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Vancouver 11/10 – Draw 23/10 – Portland 5/2

Match Preview

Vancouver Whitecaps host the Portland Timbers in the closest Conference Semifinal heading into the second legs following last Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Providence Park.

The Cascadia rivals played out a tight affair in the first leg with neither side able to find a much-needed goal. Vancouver are now favourites as they prepare for the home leg but Portland know an away goal could prove pivotal.

The Whitecaps boast the best defensive record in MLS in 2015 and a clean sheet here will give them a huge chance of progressing to the Western Conference final.

Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2015 MLS record: P35 – W16 – D6 – L13

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Vancouver have only won one of their last seven MLS games though and need to improve their form quickly if they’re to make the MLS Cup final in a month’s time.

Portland are unlikely to be phased by the away trip as they’ve only lost once in their last six games at BC Place (W3 D2). A score draw here will send them through on away goals so they will set up to negate the Whitecaps attack as much as they can.

Portland Timbers’ 2015 MLS record: P36 – W15 – D10 – L11

The Timbers are unbeaten in five now and will be in a confident mood ahead of what looks a tricky tie on paper.

Vancouver won this season’s only meeting at BC Place 2-1 back in March and will hope for a repeat result here. Though this could go either way.

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Team News

Vancouver are still sweating on the match fitness of Pedro Morales, though the playmaker will at least make the bench again. Ben McKendry and Caleb Clarke are definitely out, while Cristian Techera also remains a doubt. Octavio Rivero will spearhead the attack once again.

Portland will be remain without Ben Zemanski, while Will Johnson is a doubt. Caleb Porter could name an unchanged side, though Diego Chara is expected to be back and could be in line to start should he be fit enough.

Key Points

Vancouver Whitecaps’ last five: D/D/L/W/D

Portland Timbers’ last five: W/W/W/D/D

Key Stat: Vancouver have only won one of their last six home games against Portland in all competitions.

Key Player: Matias Laba – Vancouver’s midfield general will be expecting a busy evening on Sunday night. He leads MLS in tackles this season with an average of more than five per game and will look to keep the Timbers attack at bay.

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Score Prediction

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-1 Portland Timbers – Expect another tight contest between these Cascadia Cup rivals on Sunday. Vancouver are solid defensively but if they concede the first goal they will be in trouble. A draw looks the most likely result and that would give Portland the advantage.