In Pictures: NYCFC stroll past Philadelphia Union in Eastern Conference Knockout Round

Maxi Moralez scored and picked up two assists as New York City FC strolled past Philadelphia Union 3-1 in Wednesday’s Eastern Conference Knockout Round. The result sees NYCFC through to the Conference Semifinals for the third-straight year. But it means Philadelphia are left searching for their first ever playoff win. A search they’ll have to wait another year to continue.

The game saw a repeat scoreline from Sunday’s Regular Season clash, which was also at Yankee Stadium. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and David Villa added NYCFC’s other goals on the night. While Corey Burke scored a late goal for the Union, which was little more than a consolation after a tough night for the East’s sixth-seed.

NYCFC will now face Atlanta United over two legs in the Eastern Conference Semifinal, with the first leg on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Check out exclusive photos from Wednesday’s Playoff game, courtesy of MLSGB photographer Ashley Marshall.

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MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls

2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Knockout Round: Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls

Toyota Park – Wednesday, October 25 – 20:30 ET (01:30 BST)

Match Odds: Chicago Fire 21/10 – Draw 5/2 – NY Red Bulls 23/10

Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls: Preview

The 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs are here. It all kicks off with the Chicago Fire hosting the New York Red Bulls in the first of four midweek Knockout Round games.

Both teams have reason for optimism heading into Wednesday’s game but only one side will remain in the playoffs come the end of play. This is expected to be the tightest of the four Knockout Round games, as the below projections highlight.

Chicago Fire deserve enormous praise for even reaching the postseason, let alone earning home-field advantage. They haven’t played a postseason game since 2012 and so you can expect a special atmosphere at Toyota Park.

Most the focus in the build-up to the game will be on Dax McCarty. The midfielder joined the Fire from the Red Bulls before the start of the campaign and will now be looking to get past his former side for a place in the Conference Semifinals.

Embed from Getty ImagesThey have the 2017 Golden Boot winner in Nemanja Nikolic. The Serbian striker netted 24 goals and played every single regular season game in his debut season. A strong showing in the playoffs would give the Fire a great chance at success.

The worry for the home side is that their form has been anything but solid heading into the playoffs. They’ve posted a 3-2-1 record over their last six and lost 3-0 at Houston on the final day of the regular season. But their strong home form still makes them narrow favourites here.

The New York Red Bulls had been stuck in sixth place for what seemed like an eternity. They didn’t lock down a playoff spot as soon as they’d have hoped. But challenges from rivals faded and they’ve been able to prepare for the postseason for a couple of weeks.

Embed from Getty ImagesJesse Marsch’s men ended the regular season with a 2-1 win at DC United. They have only lost one of their last five and will arrive at Chicago looking to keep it tight and hit them on the break.

These two sides met twice during the regular season. The Red Bulls won 2-1 at Red Bull Arena early on in the season, before they drew 1-1 at Toyota Park in early September.

Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls: Team News

The big question mark heading into Wednesday’s game is the fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger. He hasn’t started a game in almost two months but is officially listed as ‘questionable’. The Fire will definitely be without Jorge Bava, John Goossens, Daniel Johnson, Christian Dean and Michael De Leeuw.

The Red Bulls have four players ruled out for Wednesday’s game. Gideon Baah, Mike Grella, Connor Lade and Aurelien Collin are all sidelined through injury.

Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls: Key Points

Chicago Fire’s last five: L/W/D/W/L

New York Red Bulls’ last five: D/L/W/D/W

Key Stat: Chicago only lost two of their 17 home games during the regular season. They outscored their opponents 44-14 in that time.

Key Player: Dax McCarty – The combative midfielder will be the centre of attention on Wednesday night. His job will be to disrupt his former teammate Sacha Kljestan from controlling the game. If he succeeds, it’s more than likely that Chicago will advance.

Embed from Getty ImagesChicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls: Prediction

Chicago Fire 1-2* (AET) New York Red Bulls – This should be the closest of all four Knockout Round games. The Fire are a force at home and will be relishing the prospect of a playoff game for the first time in five years. But the Red Bulls are experienced at this level and know how to get the job done. This looks poised to go beyond 90 minutes but we see the Red Bulls as the more likely to advance, with this one looking like it could go all the to penalties.

Home advantage shines through in playoffs again as Montreal & Portland advance

The knockout round of the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs concluded last night as Montreal Impact and Portland Timbers picked up home wins to advance to the conference semifinals on Sunday.

The goals continued to fly in on Thursday after an excellent opening night 24 hours earlier with a total of seven scored in the two games.

Montreal took on Canadian rivals Toronto FC at Stade Saputo in the first game and stunned the Reds by racing into a 3-0 halftime lead – a scoreline that eventually remained through the 90 minutes.

Goals from Patrice Bernier and Ignacio Piatti, who were both excellent on the night, were followed up by an inevitable Didier Drogba goal as Toronto were left dead and buried by the interval.

The loss means Toronto have lost back-to-back games to Montreal for the first time as their first ever playoff campaign ended in severe disappointment.

The second game of the night saw Portland Timbers host Sporting Kansas City in an intriguing Western Conference clash between two teams that normally play out very tight and low-scoring affairs.

The home side managed to eventually pull out a dramatic 7-6 penalty shootout win after a back and forth contest through normal time and extra-time.

Rodney Wallace opened the scoring for Portland in the 57th minute before Kevin Ellis equalised three minutes from time to send the game into extra-time.

Sporting Kansas City then took the lead through Krisztian Nemeth as he fired in a suberg goal from a tight angle. It looked like SKC would be going through until substitute Maximiliano Urruti pulled Portland back into it in the 118th minute.

Penalties then followed and Portland ended up winning 7-6 after all 22 players had to make the long walk to the penalty spot, ending in both goalkeepers squaring off in what was the greatest shootout in MLS history.

Timbers goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey scored against SKC stopper Jon Kempin – who replaced the injured Tim Melia at the end of normal time, before then saving Kempin’s effort to send Portland through to end a wild night in Oregon.

Portland will face Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps in the next round, while Montreal will face off against Columbus Crew.

What did you make of Thursday night’s games? Did Portland deserve to go through?

Six key stats for Thursday’s MLS Playoff knockout games

The 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs continue tonight after an incredible opening night on Wednesday. There are two key fixtures to enjoy on Thursday as the conference semifinals will be decided by the end of the night.

Montreal Impact host 401 Derby rivals Toronto FC in the first game before Sporting Kansas City head to the Portland Timbers later on.

Here are six key stats to consider as we head into Thursday’s games:

Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC (23:00 GMT – Match preview & prediction here)

1 – Montreal Impact have not won four straight MLS games since March 2013

Montreal Impact come into tonight’s game as favourites after winning their last three games of the regular season, including a 2-1 win against Toronto on Sunday. However, they have not won four on the bounce in 31 months.

The last time they won four in a row was at the start of the 2013 season in what turned out to be their only other season with playoff football until now. They lost in the knockout round that year and will be hoping to avoid the same fate tonight.

2 – Toronto FC have never lost back-to-back games against Montreal

Another stat that may concern Montreal fans is the fact that Toronto have never lost twice in a row to Montreal. This will be the sixth meeting of 2015 between the Canadian rivals but Toronto will be hoping they can continue to bounce back from defeats to Thursday’s opponents.

3 – Didier Drogba has scored 9 goals in his 5 home starts for Montreal

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Didier Drogba has be nothing short of sensational since arriving at Montreal in the summer. The powerful Ivorian ended the regular season as the team’s top goalscorer with 11 goals despite only playing the same number of games.

He has been particularly prolific at Stade Saputo and has netted nine times in his five home starts coming into the game, including a backheel brace against Toronto on Sunday.

Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City (02:00 GMT – Match preview & prediction here)

4 – Portland haven’t scored against Sporting Kansas City in 393 minutes

Portland come into the game with home-field advantage but need to end a serious goal drought against Sporting KC if they’re to advance to the conference semifinals.

It’s been more than six-and-a-half hours since Portland scored against Kansas City in all competitions and that will be a real concern for Caleb Porter.

5 – Sporting Kansas City are the only Western Conference side to win in Portland this season in MLS

Portland only lost three times at Providence Park during the regular season. They only suffered defeat to one Western Conference side and that was Sporting KC in a 1-0 defeat at the start of October.

That game will still be fairly fresh in the minds of both sets of players and Kansas City certainly have the psychological edge as a result.

6 – The Timbers have scored as many goals in their last two as SKC have in their last ten

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Goalscoring has been a major problem for Portland in this fixture but they will hope that their more recent form can prevail on Thursday night.

The Timbers have found the net nine times in their last two MLS games and look to be in the best form of their season.

Sporting Kansas City have only scored nine in their last ten MLS matches and could struggle if Portland come out firing as they did against LA and Colorado in their final two games of the regular season.

How do you see Thursday night’s MLS games going? Who will advance to the semifinals?

Six key stats for tonight’s MLS Cup Playoff games

The 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs get underway tonight as DC United host New England Revolution before Seattle Sounders face off against LA Galaxy later on.

Both are huge games and the losers will be eliminated from the postseason at the first hurdle. The knockout round always provides plenty of entertainment and here are six key stats to consider for both of this evening’s games.

DC United vs. New England Revolution (23:30 GMT – Match preview & prediction here)

1 – Both teams have scored in six of the last seven meetings

Goals are to be expected in the 2015 MLS Cup Playoff opener at RFK Stadium. DC shipped five away at Columbus on Sunday and will be in trouble if they put in a similarly poor defensive display against an attacking Revs side.

Both teams have scored in the last three games between these two – something that has only failed to happen once in their last seven meetings. There have been 20 goals in those seven games so this should entertain.

2 – Bill Hamid has only kept one clean sheet in his last seven home appearances

One man expected to be busy tonight is Bill Hamid. The USMNT goalkeeper has only kept one clean sheet in his last seven home games and is set to be tested by a New England side that averaged almost five shots on target per game during the regular season. He will be hoping Sunday’s nightmare is behind him.

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3 – Charlie Davies has scored four in his last five playoff games

The Revs striker seems to love finding form at this time of the year. He scored four in last year’s playoff run to the MLS Cup Final and found the net in Sunday’s 3-1 win at New York City. New England’s leading goalscorer will look to shine here against his former club.

Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy (02:00 GMT – Match preview & prediction here)

4 – The home side has won in the last five playoff meetings between the sides

Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy meet in the playoffs once again tonight. The Galaxy beat the Sounders in the Western Conference final last year to advance to the MLS Cup but they did suffer defeat at CenturyLink Field.

Home advantage is always a key factor in the playoffs and recent history between these two proves it as the home side has won in each of the last five games. Given LA Galaxy’s terrible away record in MLS this year, it’s likely that will become six in a row.

Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy

5 – Seattle have not lost in their last eight MLS games – the best form of their season

Another thing in Seattle’s favour tonight is the fact that they currently boast the second-best form of any side in Major League Soccer. They took 16 points from their last eight games, going unbeaten. LA only took half that amount of points from their last eight.

The Sounders are in the best form they have been in this season and will be confident of eliminating last year’s MLS Cup winners in Wednesday’s huge knockout game.

6 – LA Galaxy have the worst regular season away record of all 12 playoff teams

The Galaxy may have won three of the last four MLS Cup finals but they travel to Seattle on Wednesday with the worst 2015 regular season road record of all the MLS Playoff sides.

Only Houston Dynamo (11) and Chicago Fire (5) picked up fewer points than LA (12) away from home this year and so they face an uphill battle if they are to retain their title.

How do you see Wednesday night’s MLS Cup Playoff ties going?

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs Sporting Kansas City

Competition: MLS Playoffs Knockout Round – Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City 

Venue: Providence Park – Thursday, October 29 – 22:00 ET (02:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Portland Timbers 5/6 – Draw  5/2 – Sporting Kansas City 100/30

Match Preview

Portland Timbers face Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference knockout round on Thursday night in the final game from the opening round of MLS Cup Playoff games.

Separated by just two points in the regular season, Portland come into the game with the worrying stat that they haven’t scored in all three matches with SKC this season hanging over them.

Remarkably, Portland’s home form has been worse than their away form this year. So an away win for SKC is definitely not out of the question.

Portland Timbers’ 2015 MLS Record: P34 – W15 – D8 – L11

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

This will be just Portland’s second MLS Playoff campaign. They made it to the Western Conference finals in 2013 as Sporting Kansas City went on to lift the MLS Cup.

Sporting Kansas City managed to win the last meeting between the sides on October 4 so they have the advantage in that respect.

They come into this game off the back of a 2-1 win over LA Galaxy on Sunday and will hope that a poor second half of the season can be put behind them now they’ve made the playoffs.

Sporting Kansas City’s 2015 MLS Record in MLS: P34 – W14 – D9 – L11

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With just three wins from their last twelve, they are fortunate to have made the postseason and can be thankful for their very good start to the season.

These sides met three times during the regular season, with just one goal being scored over the 270 minutes as two 0-0 draws were followed by a 1-0 SKC win in Portland at the start of October.

Team News

Portland Timbers are without Ben Zemanski who is still recovering from an ACL injury, while Will Johnson is still a doubt with a leg injury.

Sporting Kansas City have four injury concerns. Ike Opara, Roger Espinoza, Seth Sinovic and Amadou Dia are all set to miss out as Peter Vermes may go with an unchanged team to the one that won on Sunday.

Key Points

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

Sporting Kansas City’s last five: D/W/L/L/W

Key Stat: Portland Timbers haven’t beaten Sporting KC in any of the last four games between the two sides. There has only been a total two goals in those matches.

Key Player: Benny Feilhaber – The USMNT midfielder has been the outstanding player in this SKC squad this season and if they are to progress he will need to play a huge part.

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Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 2-1 Sporting Kansas City – With the better form, Portland are favourites for this one. Although in a one-off playoff game, anything can happen. Sporting Kansas City will be in good spirits after Sunday’s win over the Galaxy but we’re edging more towards Portland than Kansas City here.

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy

Competition: MLS Playoffs Knockout Round – Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy  

Venue: CenturyLink Field – Wednesday, 28 October – 22:00 ET (02:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Seattle Sounders 11/8  – Draw 23/10 – LA Galaxy 19/10

Match Preview

Seattle Sounders entertain LA Galaxy on Wednesday night as the Western Conference rivals go to battle in the knockout round in what is arguably the juiciest fixture of the first round of postseason games.

The Sounders come into the tie off the back of their 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake in the final game of the regular season and have earned home-field advantage as a result of finishing higher than the Galaxy.

They will see this as a good chance to progress given LA Galaxy’s poor run of form away from home, but know they cannot take anything for granted.

In the last ten meetings between the sides when the Sounders have been at home they have only lost twice, winning six, but memories of last year’s Western Conference final exit at the hands of the Galaxy will still hurt.

Seattle Sounders vs Orlando City

LA Galaxy will be looking to replicate their playoff form of last year but know this is going to be a really tough task.

The sides met three times in the regular season, with the Galaxy going unbeaten (W2 D1) but they have failed to win at CenturyLink Field in each of their last three attempts.

Galaxy have the players to lead them in this game, but they cannot afford any slack performances. This is a huge chance for the likes of Steven Gerrard and Giovani Dos Santos to really make a name for themselves in their first MLS Cup Playoff appearances.

LA cannot afford to think about their dismal form on the road this season too much otherwise they’ll be in trouble from the off. The playoffs set up completely different types of games and Galaxy need to use that to their advantage in this monumental tie.

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Team News

Seattle Sounders are expecting to be without Roman Torres, Andres Correa and Andy Craven. Oniel Fisher, Marco Pappa and Nelson Valdez are all doubts.

LA Galaxy have four injury concerns. Brian Perk and Bradford Jamieson IV are set to miss out, while Todd Dunivant and Baggio Husidic are doubts.

Key Points

Seattle Sounders’ last five in MLS: W/D/D/D/W

LA Galaxy’s last five in MLS: L/W/D/L/L

Key Stat: LA Galaxy’s road struggles saw them fail to win in 17 of their 19 regular season games away from StubHub Center. Homesick.

Key Player: Robbie Keane – LA Galaxy’s goal machine netted an impressive 20 goals in 24 regular season appearances. He knows how to deliver in big knockout games and will no doubt look to terrorise the Sounders defence here.

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Score Prediction

Seattle Sounders 2-1 LA Galaxy – Sounders to progress in what looks set to be a really tight tie. Both sides will expect to find the net but home advantage should see Seattle advance. But don’t hold your breath as the lottery of the playoffs mean nothing is certain!

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: Montreal Impact vs Toronto

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Knockout Round) – Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC

Venue: Stade Saputo – Thursday, October 29 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT – Live on Sky Sports)

Match Odds: Montreal 19/20 – Draw 12/5 – Toronto 5/2

Match Preview

Montreal Impact face Toronto FC in the first ever all-Canadian MLS Playoff match on Thursday night in what will be the second meeting between these fierce rivals in just five days.

Montreal came from behind to beat Toronto 2-1 on Sunday’s MLS Decision Day, thanks to two Didier Drogba backheel goals, earning home-field advantage for the knockout round as a result.

That’s crucial for the Impact as they have won each of their last five at home in MLS and are a much more dangerous side in front of their own fans.

Montreal Impact’s 2015 MLS Record: P34 – W15 – D6 – L13

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Toronto will be concerned with their late drop in regular season form as they suffered defeat in their last two games. They had won four on the bounce before that and need to be at their best if they’re to win here.

They do have this year’s best player in MLS in the shape of Sebastian Giovinco, who ended the regular season with the Golden Boot as well as leading the league in assists. He hasn’t scored away from home since July though.

This will be the Reds’ first ever MLS Playoff game and the players must ensure they don’t let the huge occasion get the better of them.

Toronto FC’s 2015 MLS Record: P34 – W15 – D4 – L15

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Three Canadian sides have made the playoffs for the first time in MLS history this year but one will exit from the postseason at the first hurdle here.

This will be the sixth matchup between the 401 Derby rivals this year. The home side has won each of the past five games to this point.

Team News

Montreal Impact should have Didier Drogba fit and ready to start despite the fact he left Sunday’s game with what seemed to be a leg injury. Cameron Porter remains along with Kenny Cooper and Andres Romero. Justin Mapp and Kyle Bekker are doubts.

Toronto FC are expected to make a couple of changes to the team that lost on Sunday but they won’t be able to call on Mark Bloom, Clement Simonin or Damien Perquis. Daniel Lovitz remains a doubt.

Key Points

Montreal Impact’s last five: L/L/W/W/W

Toronto FC’s last five: W/W/W/L/L

Key Stat: Montreal have won their last five home games, while Toronto have lost their last five.

Key Player: Didier Drogba – The Montreal superstar gets the nod ahead of Sebastian Giovinco as this game’s key player. That’s because he single-handedly earned Montreal three points in this fixture on Sunday and because he has scored nine goals in his five home starts. Impact.

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Score Prediction

Montreal Impact 2-1 Toronto FC – Form suggests this one will only end one way and while form has to be disregarded somewhat in matches as big as this one, it’s tough to see Montreal losing. Toronto are more than capable of beating the Impact but their struggles away from home mean their first ever playoff run might end very early.

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: DC United vs New England Revolution

Competition: Major League Soccer Playoffs – DC United vs. New England Revolution

Venue: RFK Stadium – Wednesday, October 28 – 19:30 ET (23:30 GMT)

Match Odds: DC United 13/8 – Draw 9/4 – New England Revolution 13/8

Match Preview

DC United welcome New England Revolution to RFK Stadium in the first of the Eastern Conference playoff ties on Wednesday night as the two go head-to-head in the knockout round.

DC couldn’t have had a worse result heading into this game after they were thumped 5-0 by Columbus Crew on the final day of the regular season on Sunday.

The home side have won just two of their last five games, but as we know, knockout rounds see the form books chucked to one side.

DC need to come into this with a fresh approach and play the way they know they can. They won the second meeting between the sides in the regular season 2-1 back in June and can take confidence from that.

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Finishing 4th and subsequently earning home-field advantage has given DC a great chance of progressing into the next round of the playoffs. They need to make sure they come out of the blocks quickly and not give New England the upper hand early on in the game.

New England Revolution will be relieved to have made the playoffs after having to wait until the final day and will now be hoping to go one step further than last year and win the MLS Cup.

They come into this one off the back of their solid 3-1 win away at New York City FC, a result which put an end to a four-game winless run.

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The Revs failed to beat DC in the regular season, drawing the first meeting between the sides back in May before then, as previously mentioned, losing in June.

New England haven’t won at RFK Stadium since 2013, but will be feeling confident going into the game. They cannot, however, afford to let DC’s recent run of poor form make them complacent.

Team News

DC United have four injury concerns heading into this one. Eddie Johnson, Chris Korb, Davy Arnaud and Jared Jeffrey are all expect to miss out.

New England Revolution have just the one injury concern as Darrius Barnes looks set to miss out.

Key Points

DC United’s last five: L/L/W/W/L

New England Revolution’s last five: L/D/L/L/W

Key Stat: DC have only won two of their last six home games in the playoffs (W2 D3 L1).

Key Player: Charlie Davies – The Revs forward netted four times in last season’s playoff run. He played an influential role in their win over NYCFC on Sunday, with one assist and a goal and comes into the game in good form. His ten goals in the regular season make him his side’s top scorer for the campaign.

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Score Prediction

DC United 1-2 New England Revolution – This is an intriguing tie because so much hangs on what DC United side turn up. Sunday’s 5-0 hammering has raised plenty of questions and the Revs will look to capitalise. We’re predicting the Revs to edge a close tie and progress into the next round, heaping more misery on DC.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: FC Dallas vs Vancouver Whitecaps

FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps have both earned their spot in the playoff positions after successful regular seasons in the Western Conference but the dress rehearsals are over and now it’s time for the real thing as they clash in the knockout round at the Toyota Stadium on Wednesday.

Dallas are appearing in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 when they fell at this stage, losing 2-0 to New York Red Bulls – they were MLS Cup runners-up in 2010 which is the furthest they’ve ever been.

They’ve finished the regular season with slight inconsistency with four wins and five defeats from their last nine games.

Dallas met with Vancouver twice in the closing stages of the season, winning 2-1 at home in September and losing 2-0 away in October, so this is a game that couldn’t be harder to predict and should make for a fascinating tie.

FC Dallas home form: Played 17 – Won 12 – Drawn 1 – Lost 4

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Vancouver’s only appearance in the playoffs came in the 2012 season when they were beaten 2-1 in the knockout round by LA Galaxy so they will be hoping to make it through to the semi-finals this time around.

As the regular season was nearing its conclusion, Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey stressed the importance of going into the playoffs in a good run of form and they’ve certainly done that, winning four and drawing one of their last five games.

Picking up victories on the road has proven to be a slight issue for the Canadian outfit, but they don’t lose too many games either, so if they don’t win this in 90 minutes, they may be able to force extra-time and penalties.

Vancouver Whitecaps away form: Played 17 – Won 3 – Drawn 9 – Lost 5

This game marks the beginning of the MLS Cup 2014, so let’s hope these two sides can set the tone with an entertaining spectacle.

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Key Player: Pedro Morales – The Whitecaps playmaker has been crucial to their success this season (10 goals, 12 assists) and a lot of responsibility will fall on his shoulders again.

Key Stat: Vancouver Whitecaps have never beaten FC Dallas at the Toyota Stadium – is there a first time for everything?

FC Dallas last five: W/L/W/W/L

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

Prediction: FC Dallas 0 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps