MLS Knockout Round Preview, Part 1

New England Revolution vs. DC United

New England Revolution, 2015

The Revs and United spent most of this year’s MLS season as two of the hottest teams in a competitive Eastern Conference. A difficult stretch of games in the closing stages of the season, however, saw both of the clubs drop down in the standings and narrowly miss out on a first round bye. Whoever steps up in this winner-take-all match at RFK Stadium will travel to either Columbus or New York. Which team keeps their season alive, and which one will start an unceremoniously early vacation?

For a large part of this season, New England had one of the best strike forces in the league. On their roster sit three players that have played a combined 41 times for the US National Team, and together they have scored 21 goals this campaign. Charlie Davies, Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury provide the Revs with a wealth of options in attack and the emergence of Diego Fagundez as a consistent goal threat adds even more depth to the front line. Despite this glut of talent, the Revs have scored just five times in their last five matches, and have been shutout twice in that span, as well. A momentum-boosting three-goal performance over New York City FC on decision day should provide the forwards with some confidence, but a failure to produce in this fixture will surely spell doom for Jay Heaps’ club.

At home, DC United boasts one of the best records in the entire league. Through 17 matches, United have won 11 times, and have lost just three. However, when New England traveled to the nation’s capital back in June, Ben Olsen’s squad had to conjure up two second half goals to walk away with three points. As of late, United have looked less than stellar at RFK stadium claiming just nine points from their last five home fixtures. During this five-game stretch, DC’s defense has allowed 2+ goals three times, including a four during a 6-4 thriller with Real Salt Lake. The hosts, in particular goalkeeper Bill Hamid, will need to reestablish RFK as a fortress on Wednesday night to knock out New England.

I may be a tad biased because of my fandom towards Andrew Farrell, but I think that New England narrowly edge out a victory over DC United. DC’s shaky defensive trend at home doesn’t bode well when going up against New England’s potent attack and that will be the deciding factor in the Eastern Conference opener. Final Score: DC United 1-2 New England

Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

Robbie Keane for LA Galaxy

Not too long ago, these two teams would be shoo-ins for a spot in the conference finals. Now, they must compete just to stay alive past the first around of the postseason. Last season when these two teams met in the playoffs, a Landon Donovan-led Galaxy narrowly snuck past the Sounders on aggregate; can Seattle exact their revenge this time around?

Few teams can boast the star power that is present in the LA Galaxy’s lineup. European veterans like Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Giovani Dos Santos provide the California club with invaluable big-game experience, and they should give the squad some composure going into the match. Out of these three, the man to watch has to be Keane. The Irish striker currently leads the team in goals with 20, and also leads them in assists as well with seven. The former Tottenham star is the spark behind a Galaxy attack that led the conference in goals scored this season. Both times Keane has gone up against the Sounders this year he has found the back of the net. Can he make it three goals in three games Wednesday night?

Not to be outdone by their visitors, the Sounders have two star strikers of their own: Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey. The electric duo have combined for 25 goals this season despite both missing time through injury. Martins’ and Dempsey’s contrasting styles in attack compliment one another; while giving opposing defenses nightmares. Dempsey gives the Sounders a physically commanding presence upfront, and Martins gives the team a pacey striker that can seemingly get on the end of any ball you send his way. Will this dynamic duo be able to outscore their Galaxy counterparts?

In this match full of stars, I think fans are in store for a high scoring affair. The excitement of playoff soccer mixed with the typically electric atmosphere of CenturyLink field sets the stage for an exciting opening to the playoffs. In addition to their talent in attack, I think this amazing atmosphere provided by the home fans that Seattle advances to the next round. Final Score: Seattle 3-2 Galaxy

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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