MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: FC Dallas vs Seattle Sounders

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg) – FC Dallas vs. Seattle Sounders

Venue: Toyota Stadium – Sunday, November 8 – 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

Match Odds: FC Dallas 10/11 – Draw 5/2 – Seattle Sounders 3/1

Match Preview

FC Dallas face Seattle Sounders on Sunday evening in the crucial second leg of their Western Conference MLS Playoff Semifinal.

The first leg ended with Dallas losing 2-1 late on after Clint Dempsey’s wonder-goal earned the Sounders a vital win. This tie is far from over though and Dallas will be aware of that.

FC Dallas boast brilliant home form, winning nine of their last ten, and they have the ability to turn this around. But recent form against Seattle would suggest this is going to be a tough task, having only won one of their last five against Sunday’s opponents.

Dallas have scored 24 goals in their last ten games, so are in great form in front of goal and there are plenty of positives despite being behind on aggregate. Dallas didn’t finish top of the Western Conference by chance.

Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas

Seattle Sounders have done half the job, but this a bigger challenge than the one they faced last week.

Dempsey’s late winner was a huge moment for them in the tie, but conceding the Dallas away goal was a real blow and could prove to be their undoing.

Sounders need to approach this positively and not be overly cautious. If Dallas sense any nerves it could be an evening of disappointment for the away side.

Seattle haven’t lost to Dallas this season (W2 D1) with the only meeting between the sides at Toyota Stadium ending 0-0, so Seattle know they have a great chance of progressing but will have to be at their best.

Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers

Team News

FC Dallas have three injury concerns. Rolando Escobar is out, while Bakary Soumare and Kellyn Acosta are doubts.

Seattle Sounders have seven injury concerns as Roman Torres, Andres Correa and Andy Craven are out. Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Leonardo Gonzalez and Marco Pappa are all doubts.

Key Points

FC Dallas’ form: D/W/W/W/L

Seattle Sounders’ form: D/D/W/W/W

Key Stat: Fortress – FC Dallas have won nine of their last ten home matches in Major League Soccer.

Key Player: Fabian Castillo – The Dallas star netted his side’s only goal in the first leg and FCD will need him to be at his best if they are to progress. His pace can cause any side problems and he could be the real star on Sunday.

Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas Fabian Castillo

Score Prediction

FC Dallas 3-1 Seattle Sounders – Dallas to turn the tie around and advance. You have to feel their crucial away goal will prove to be the difference in this one. If they are to score early on, the Sounders have to push, which will inevitably leave gaps in their defence. This one will be well worth the watch as goals look inevitable.

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MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Western Conference Semifinal First Leg) – Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas

Venue: CenturyLink Field – Sunday, November 1 – 21:30 ET (02:30 GMT)

Match Odds: Seattle Sounders 21/10 – Draw 12/5 – FC Dallas 13/5

Match Preview

Seattle Sounders take on FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field in the first leg of their Western Conference playoff semifinal on Sunday night as both sides look to move a step closer to the 2015 MLS Cup.

The Sounders come into this one off the back of their 3-2 home win over LA Galaxy in the knockout round on Wednesday, eliminating last year’s MLS Cup winners so they will be feeling confident, especially with home advantage again in the first leg here.

Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy MLS Playoffs 2015 Nelson Valdez

Seattle have an excellent record at home to Dallas and have won five of the last six meetings between the sides at CenturyLink Field.

The hosts are unbeaten in their last nine games and they have certainly hit form at the right time of the year. They need a big performance in this one in order to stand the best chances of progression over the two legs.

FC Dallas finished top of the Western Conference and will want to win the MLS Cup even more after missing out on the Supporters’ Shield on goal difference to the Red Bulls.

They come into this one off the back of beating San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on the final day of the regular season and are unbeaten in five now.

Photo: Denise McCooey

Dallas know all too well how hard it is to pick up results at CenturyLink Field, having not won there since 2011 but have had an extra week to prepare for this game and should be the fresher side as a result of their first-round playoff bye.

If they can avoid defeat here they stand a great chance of progressing but know this is going to be a difficult tie in front of one of the league’s most intimidating crowds.

Team News

Seattle Sounders have five injury concerns heading into this one. Roman Torres, Andres Correa and Andy Craven are set to miss out while Oniel Fisher and Marco Pappa are doubts.

FC Dallas have three injuries to worry about. Rolando Escobar is expected to miss out while Bakary Soumare and Kellyn Acosta are doubts.

Key Points

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

FC Dallas’ last five: W/D/W/W/W

Key Stat: Seattle have kept a clean sheet against Dallas in each of their last three meetings in all competitions.

Key Player: Obafemi Martins – The Sounders forward has had another brilliant season in front of goal and he will be looking to make things tough for Dallas on home soil.

Seattle Sounders vs Orlando City Obafemi Martins

Score Prediction

Seattle Sounders 2-1 FC Dallas – Seattle to continue their strong run of form at home to Dallas and set themselves up nicely for the second leg next weekend.

FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Reading vs Arsenal

Competition: FA Cup semi-final – Reading vs. Arsenal

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Saturday, April 18 – 17:20 BST (12:20 ET)

Match Odds: Reading 12/1 – Draw 5/1 – Arsenal 1/4

Match Preview

Reading and Arsenal clash at Wembley Stadium for the first FA Cup semi-final on Saturday evening as the Gunners look to reach a second successive final and continue the defence of their title.

Reading are undoubtedly major underdogs coming into the game as they sit eighteenth in the Championship and many will struggle to see how they can overturn Arsenal, but the beauty of this competition is that anything can happen.

Few would’ve predicted Bradford winning at Chelsea or Middlesbrough winning at Manchester City in the fourth round, so the Royals can approach the game with a nothing to lose attitude.

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Steve Clarke’s side are without a win in five games in all competitions and their last victory came in the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Bradford – the Royals have won just two of their last 12 (D5, L5). Reading have also seen off Huddersfield, Cardiff and Derby in their run to the semi-final.

Arsenal are the FA Cup holders and arguably the best team in the country right now after a run of eight straight wins has lifted them to second in the Premier League – the Gunners have also won 15 out of their last 16 domestic fixtures.

Arsene Wenger‘s last taste of defeat in the FA Cup was against Championship opposition in February 2013 when Blackburn Rovers won 1-0 in a fifth round tie at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal are undefeated in 10 FA Cup ties since then, including victories over Hull, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Manchester United in this season’s competition.

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It will be the Arsenal manager’s tenth FA Cup semi-final and should the Gunners go on to lift the famous trophy once again, they will become the most successful club in the history of the competition – they currently share the record for most FA Cup titles (11) with Manchester United.

The last time these two sides met, Arsenal ran out as 4-1 winners in a Premier League game back in March 2013. The last cup meeting between the two was that enthralling 7-5 League Cup comeback win for Arsenal in October 2012 at the Madejski Stadium after Reading had taken a 4-0 lead.

The Wembley stage is set and the FA Cup semi-final is always a great day for both sets of players and fans alike. Arsenal are heavy favourites, but Reading will relish the occasion that marks their best achievement in the competition since 1927 as they attempt to reach their first ever FA Cup final.

Team News

Reading will be delighted that striker Pavel Pogrebnyak will be available after struggling with a knee injury, although they will be without the on-loan Nathan Ake and Kwesi Appiah as they are both cup tied.

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Arsenal have rarely had so many options at their disposal in recent years as only Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are unavailable with injury. Wojciech Szczesny will start in goal as he continues his role as the ‘cup goalkeeper’, while Wenger could also rotate on-pitch slightly from the team that faced Burnley last weekend. Mathieu Debuchy and Jack Wilshere are both fully fit and available for selection.

Key Points

Reading’s last five in all competitions: L/D/D/D/L

Arsenal’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Arsenal have won all 12 of their previous matches against Reading, so the Royals will be making history if they win this one.

Key Player: Mesut Ozil – The German has put in some excellent performances in the last few months and on a big Wembley pitch, this is the type of game where he could really pull the strings and open up Reading’s defence.

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Score Prediction

Arsenal 2-0 Reading – The FA Cup is a magical competition but it’s so hard to see how a struggling Reading side are going to upset the rhythm of an Arsenal team that can’t stop winning. The Gunners will be made to work hard but should ultimately win the game comfortably.

Sheffield United vs. Tottenham: League Cup Preview and Prediction

Competition: Capital One Cup Semi-Final Second-Leg

Venue: Bramall Lane – Wednesday, January 28 – 19:45 

Match odds: Sheffield United 7/2 – Draw 13/5 – Tottenham 17/20

Sheffield United host Spurs in the second-leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final tonight with a place in the final at Wembley up for grabs.

The tie is perfectly poised after Spurs earned a narrow 1-0 victory in the first-leg last week but the Blades know they need to attack a lot more than they did at White Hart Lane.

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Andros Townsend converted the winning penalty in the 74th minute after Jay McEveley was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball in the box, but Sheffield United defended well throughout and limited Spurs to just five shots on target.

Nigel Clough will have been pleased with what he saw but he knows his side must now attack Spurs if they are to reach Wembley for the second year in succession after facing Hull City in the FA Cup semi-final last term.

Sheffield United home record in all competitions: Played 16 – Won 9 – Drawn 4 – Lost 3

That will suit Spurs as they will look to counter-attack at every opportunity and Mauricio Pochettino’s side always look most dangerous when they can hit teams on the break.

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Tottenham were knocked out of the FA Cup by Leicester on Saturday as they conceded two late goals against the Foxes, and so the League Cup has become even more important as the club look to win their first trophy in seven years.

Tottenham’s away record in all competitions: Played 15 – Won 7 – Drawn 4 – Lost 4

Sheffield United earned an FA Cup replay with Preston North End after drawing 1-1 on Saturday but the home fans will hope to see off the challenge of Premier League opposition once again, and will take confidence from their 1-0 win against Southampton in the fifth round of the competition.

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This will be the the fourth meeting between the two sides in the League Cup and Spurs have won all three of the previous encounters, including last week’s 1-0 victory.

The game will be Tottenham’s first away from home in the League Cup this season. Their last loss away from home in the competition came against Norwich in October 2012.

Sheffield United’s last five in all competitions: W/W/L/L/D

Tottenham’s last five in all competitions: L/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: Spurs have not won at Bramall Lane in their past five attempts, spanning 25 years. Their last win at Sheffield United came in the League Cup in 1990.

Key Player: Jamal Campbell-Ryce – The 31-year-old winger has scored four goals in his last five and was the Blades’ main threat last week. He will give Spurs left-back Ben Davies plenty to think about.

Sheffield United vs Tottenham Prediction: Sheffield United 1–1 Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs to advance to the final on aggregate but they will find it tricky at Bramall Lane.

Chelsea vs Liverpool: League Cup Semi-Final Preview and Prediction

Competition: Capital One Cup Semi-Final Second-Leg

Venue: Stamford Bridge

Odds: Chelsea 8/13 – Draw 16/5 – Liverpool 9/2

Chelsea and Liverpool will lock horns once again as they meet for the second-leg of their League Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge with a place in the final at Wembley at stake.

The first-leg ended all square at Anfield after Eden Hazard put the Blues 1-0 up from the penalty spot before Raheem Sterling scored a deserved equaliser for Liverpool, who will be kicking themselves that they didn’t get more out of the game after having 19 shots to Chelsea’s two.

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The Reds dominated large periods but Chelsea held firm and will fancy themselves to get over the line on home soil and combining that fact with their away goal, it makes them the slight favourites. But after the events of the weekend just gone, it shows that anything can happen – especially in a cup tie.

Chelsea’s home record in all competitions: Played 16 – Won 14 – Drawn 1 – Lost 1

Liverpool haven’t lost since December 14 when they suffered a 3-0 league defeat against Manchester United, and since then they have gone on a 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

By Chelsea’s standards, the last month will be considered as an average and inconsistent return having won just three of their last seven in all competitions, drawing two and losing two, most notably a 4-2 defeat at home to League One Bradford in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday – their first home loss of the season.

Liverpool’s away record in all competitions: Played 16 – Won 8 – Drawn 1 – Lost 7

Jose Mourinho’s sides aren’t used to conceding too many goals in a game, so the 5-3 defeat at Tottenham, and the Bradford game, will almost certainly be in the back of their minds, so despite being at home, we could see a very similar game to the first-leg as Chelsea will look to keep it tight.

These two side have previously met six times in this competition, with Liverpool coming out on top three times to Chelsea’s two, with last week’s first-leg the first League Cup tie that has ended level between them.

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Liverpool triumphed 2-0 the last time these two met at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup, which came back in November 2011, so they will be hoping that history can repeat itself on Tuesday night.

Chelsea’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/D/L

Liverpool’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/D/D

Key Stat: Liverpool are without a win in their last six games against Chelsea.

Key Player: Raheem Sterling – The young Englishman is Liverpool’s top goalscorer in the League Cup and his attacking flair causes concerns for any defence.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool – Chelsea to edge it and seal their place in the final.

The 2014 MLS Cup guarantees to make history

The team that now goes on to win the 2014 MLS Cup will be making new history in some way or another which only adds to the excitement and intensity we’re all expecting.

Seattle Sounders have had a fantastic season irrelevant of the eventual outcome of their MLS Cup campaign as they scooped the Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup double.

However, should they manage to seal MLS Cup glory, they will become the first ever team to complete the treble and thereby print their name in the record books, which would be a remarkable achievement and truly cement the fact that they have been the best team this season.

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[Seattle Sounders enjoyed success in this year’s U.S. Open Cup]

LA Galaxy narrowly missed out on the Supporters’ Shield title when they lost 2-0 to Seattle Sounders, but they can focus all their attention on trying to bring home the MLS Cup.

If they go on to win it, they will become the most successful team in the history of the competition with five titles – they are currently tied on four with DC United.

Meanwhile, both New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls are hunting down their first ever title in this competition.

The Revs are probably the unluckiest team in MLS Cup history having been to four finals and finished on the losing end on every occasion, twice losing 1-0 after extra-time and once losing on penalties.

Title winners since 1996:

MLS HistoryWhatever happens, it promises to be entertaining and will also set new history for one of the clubs.

Who do you think will win the 2014 MLS Cup?

Playoff Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Real Salt Lake

LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake meet again in the reverse leg of their Western Conference playoff semi-final at the StubHub Center on Sunday.

This second leg is so delicately poised after a hard-fought goalless draw in the blustery wind at the Rio Tinto Stadium last weekend, much to the credit of the Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo who kept them in it.

The onus will very much be on LA Galaxy to produce after they’ve now gone four games without a win if you include the three games at the end of the regular season and have hit a stale run of form at the worst possible time.

The Galaxy have drawn two and lost two of the last four and it equals their worst run of form since the turn of April in to May when they went on a four game winless streak, also recording two draws and two defeats.

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[Jaime Penedo kept his side in it last time out]

LA will be looking to their strong home form and desperately hoping that it’s going to come up trumps for them once again.

With just one home defeat in the entire regular season, they will take some confidence from that, but they need to win this game or they risk being eliminated on away goals.

LA Galaxy’s home form: Played 17 – Won 12 – Drawn 4 – Lost 1

Real Salt Lake will come away from the first-leg with mixed emotions after they spurned the opportunity to take a lead with them to LA.

They dominated the majority of their home game but couldn’t capitalise on it and it may come back to haunt them.

However, a 0-0 draw at home is never a bad result in the first-leg as they know that a score draw sees them through on the away goal rule.

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[Main man: Joao Plata has had a great season for RSL]

They haven’t won on the road for six games since a 1-0 win in Colorado at the beginning of August, so they’ll be thankful that a draw could be enough to see them home.

Real Salt Lake’s away form: Played 17 – Won 4 – Drawn 6 – Lost 7

With the game on such a knife edge, it promises excitement and drama, especially as the newly introduced away goals rule may well play a crucial role in the final outcome.

Many will be expecting another tightly contested game and it could take a moment of magic or a moment of madness from someone to turn the tide in favour of either side.

Extra-time and penalties are looming if we see a repeat result of last weekend’s game, so can either side take the initiative?

Key Player: Landon Donovan – he will be desperate to ensure that this isn’t his last ever game for LA Galaxy and there isn’t a better moment for him to shine.

Key Stat: These two sides have only produced four goals in their last four meetings so we expect another cagey affair.

LA Galaxy’s last five: W/L/D/L/D

Real Salt Lake’s last five: L/W/D/W/D

Prediction: LA Galaxy 1 – 1 Real Salt Lake – The Galaxy to suffer the pain of an away goals defeat for the first time in Major League Soccer.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: Real Salt Lake vs LA Galaxy

Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy will meet in a Western Conference heavyweight clash at the Rio Tinto Stadium in their playoff semi-final first leg on Saturday night.

Both sides share a vast experience of competing in the MLS Cup, so they’re certainly no strangers to the responsibility and pressure that comes with playoff matches.

Real Salt Lake were runners-up in the final last year following a penalty shootout defeat to Sporting Kansas City after they had tied the game 1-1 and have qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs every season since 2008.

They won the competition in 2009 when they beat LA Galaxy on penalties – their only MLS Cup title to date.

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Real Salt Lake will look to their home advantage to try and get themselves ahead in this tie as their form at the Rio Tinto Stadium has been excellent this year, with 11 wins and just the one defeat.

Real Salt Lake’s home form: Played 17 – Won 11 – Drawn 5 – Lost 1

LA Galaxy are the joint most successful team in the history of the MLS Cup alongside DC United with both sides having won four titles.

However, the Galaxy were dumped out of the competition at this stage last year by the same opponents, losing 2-1 on aggregate, so they will be looking to avoid a repeat performance.

They will also have to recover from their Supporters’ Shield disappointment after their 2-0 defeat against Seattle Sounders in the last game of the season saw them finish in second place, while the Sounders lifted the title.

They’ve struggled for consistency away from home and their last win on the road was a 3-0 win at Chivas USA on September 1, so the key will be to keep it tight on Saturday night.

LA Galaxy’s away form: Played 17 – Won 5 – Drawn 6 – Lost 6

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It’s crucial to still be alive in the tie when the second leg comes around, so neither side will want to hand the initiative to the opposition, so this should make for a tense but entertaining affair.

Key Player: Alvaro Saborio – Real Salt Lake’s Costa-Rican forward has been in fine form this season, having scored 8 goals from just 13 starts. He boasts the best goals-per-game ratio for the home side and if he plays a part, he could make the difference.

Key Stat: LA Galaxy have faced Real Salt Lake twice before in the MLS Cup and have been on the losing end both times:

  • 2013 – Western Conference semi-final – Real Salt Lake 2-1 LA Galaxy (aggregate score)
  • 2009 – MLS Cup Final – Real Salt Lake 1-1 LA Galaxy (Real Salt Lake won 5-4 on penalties)

Real Salt Lake’s last five: L/L/W/D/W

LA Galaxy’s last five: W/W/L/D/L

Prediction: Real Salt Lake 1 – 1 LA Galaxy