MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs Sporting Kansas City

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Western Conference Knockout Round) – Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City 

Venue: CenturyLink Field – Thursday, October 27 – 22:00 ET (03:00 BST) 

Match Odds: Seattle 10/11 – Draw 12/5 – Sporting KC 14/5

Match Preview

Seattle Sounders host Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Thursday night, with these two battling out in Western Conference Knockout Round at CenturyLink Field.

Few could have predicted Seattle would make the postseason, let alone hold home advantage, a few months ago. But the signing of Nicolas Lodeiro, coupled with interim head coach Brian Schmetzer taking over from Sigi Schmid, has inspired the team since the summer.

The Sounders have marched into the playoffs and rounded off their regular season with a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Sunday. They enter the playoffs unbeaten in their last eight home games and are favourites to advance here.

Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake - Sounders score

The worry for the hosts is that they were outclassed by Sporting Kansas City twice during the regular season, losing both games by an aggregate scoreline of 4-0.

The visitors have almost flown under the radar but enter the playoffs in fairly good form, losing just one of their last six MLS games to round off the regular season.

They have an experienced squad of players, some of whom lifted the MLS Cup in 2013, and will fancy their chances despite being labelled as underdogs here.

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SKC have some really dangerous attacking players and know they can unlock this Seattle defence, having proven their threat already this year.

This will be the first ever playoff clash between these two sides. Sporting Kansas City have been eliminated in the Knockout Round in each of the past two seasons. The last time they advanced through the first stage, they went on to lift the title.

Team News

Seattle Sounders star Clint Dempsey remains out with a heart problem and is unlikely to play again in 2016, while Andreas Ivanschitz and Dylan Remick are both sidelined through injury.

Sporting Kansas City are without Diego Rubio for the season, while Justin Mapp, Chance Myers and Brad Davis are all listed as ‘questionable’ ahead of Thursday’s game.

Key Points

Seattle Sounders’ last five: W/W/D/L/W

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

Key Stat: Sporting KC are unbeaten in their last five meetings with Seattle in MLS (W3 D2), conceding just one goal against their opponents in that time.

Key Player: Nicolas Lodeiro – It’s impossible to highlight anyone else other than Lodeiro as the key man for this clash. The Uruguayan playmaker has been sensational since joining MLS in August and is the main reason behind the Sounders’ resurgence during the late stages of the regular season. His creativity will be vital if the home side are to advance to the Conference Semifinals on Thursday evening.

Photo: Max Aquino

Photo: Max Aquino

Score Prediction

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Sporting Kansas City – This is likely to be the closest of all the midweek Knockout Round clashes to start the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Both sides are capable of winning this contest and will fancy their chances of going all the way if they can get through here. Seattle have home advantage on their side and have looked very impressive in recent weeks, but Sporting KC have big-game experience and will know how to cope with the occasion. This could go to extra-time, but ultimately, Seattle should edge it.

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MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Philadelphia Union

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Eastern Conference Knockout Round) – Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union

Venue: BMO Field – Wednesday, October 26 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST) 

Match Odds: Toronto 4/6 – Draw 11/4 – Philadelphia 15/4

Match Preview

Toronto FC host Philadelphia Union in the first MLS Playoff clash of 2016 on Wednesday night, with these Eastern Conference rivals both in fairly poor form coming into the Knockout Round.

Toronto won their first game in six on the final day of the regular season on Sunday, but Philadelphia fell 2-0 at home to the Red Bulls and are now winless in seven coming into the postseason.

Toronto are heavy favourites to advance here. This is just their second-ever playoff appearance, but they will be desperate to do better than last season’s Knockout Round exit at the hands of Montreal.

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Greg Vanney knows his side should be winning this game but he must ensure his players stick to the gameplan and avoid any silly mistakes if they are to advance to the Conference Semifinals on Sunday.

For Jim Curtin and his Philadelphia side, this is a worrying position to be in. Yes, they are in the playoffs and will be thrilled to have held on to a top six finish. But at the same time, they are in horrendous form and look to be dead and buried before this one has even started.

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That does mean the pressure is slightly off them though, and they may look to take advantage of the fact that Toronto need to take the game to them on Wednesday night.

The Union earned a 1-1 draw at Toronto just over a month ago and will be looking to frustrate the hosts again here in what should be an intriguing opener to the 2016 MLS Playoffs.

Team News

Toronto have just the one injury concern as Ashtone Morgan remains a doubt as he continues to recover from foot surgery. Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore look set to continue in attack, with Michael Bradley playing behind in midfield.

Philadelphia Union are fortunate to only have one player ruled out here too, with Joshua Yaro still sidelined with concussion as well as a knee sprain. Jim Curtin had six players overcome knocks to be involved in the final-day loss against the Red Bulls and will need to pick his best possible team to have any chance of getting a result here.

Key Points

Toronto FC’s last five: D/D/L/D/W

Philadelphia Union’s last five: L/D/L/L/L

Key Stat: Philadelphia have not beaten Toronto in any of their last five clashes in MLS, losing four of those to Wednesday’s hosts. The Reds had won four on the bounce against the Union before their 1-1 draw a month ago.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The Atomic Ant is well and truly back for Toronto. He spent around six weeks on the sidelines but is back just in time for the playoffs and will be looking to fire the Reds to success over the next few weeks. Philadelphia will struggle to cope with his attacking threat if he’s on song and he’ll be the centre of attention for sure.

Sebastian Giovinco Toronto FC 2016

 

 

Score Prediction

Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union – Neither of these sides come into the playoffs in the sort of form they would want, but home advantage is always a huge factor, especially in the single-legged Knockout Round. Toronto are tough to break down and have Giovinco back at their disposal, so they shouldn’t have too much trouble brushing the Union aside here.

FC Dallas first team to secure MLS Playoff spot with four weeks to go

The 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs are fast approaching. There are just five weeks until the postseason action begins so teams around the league are starting to sweat over where they will finish the regular season.

Supporters’ Shield leaders FC Dallas became the first MLS side to secure a playoff berth this weekend. Their 2-2 draw at New York City wasn’t enough to guarantee it, but Sunday’s 2-2 draw between Sporting KC and LA Galaxy meant that Dallas can no longer finish outside of the top six.

The aim for Oscar Pareja’s side now is to secure a first MLS Supporters’ Shield win. They sit top of the standings with four to play, but have LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC chasing in behind.

FC Dallas finished top of the Western Conference last season but finished behind the Red Bulls in the shield standings. They ended a 19-year trophy drought with this month’s US Open Cup win and look to be heading for a first-ever Supporters’ Shield off the back of a fine season.

Their biggest threat at this stage appears to be Colorado, who sit five points behind Dallas but have two games in hand over the league leaders.

Over in the East, Toronto FC’s 3-3 draw with the New York Red Bulls meant that both sides will have to wait another week to seal a playoff berth.

Toronto only need a point to guarantee a top six finish, while the Red Bulls and New York City FC need three more.

The top six in each conference will qualify for the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, with the top two in the East and West earning a bye through the Knockout Round.

The playoffs begin on October 26 with the Knockout Round matches taking place before the Conference Semifinals begin.