MLS Knockout Round Preview, Part 2

Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC

Bradley and Giovinco

At the end of last season, few people would’ve predicted that both of these clubs would be competing in the playoffs this time around. 2014 saw Toronto finish eight points away from playoff qualification while Montreal sat dead last in not just the Eastern Conference, but the league. The introduction of star players, and some coaching changes, however, has sparked a revival north of the border. Which of these Canadian clubs will represent the great white north in the conference semifinals?

I know this will probably sound like a broken record, but it’s nearly impossible to talk about Toronto without talking about Sebastian Giovinco. Playing for a franchise that has been plagued by poor investments and personnel choices, the Italian striker has made fans forget the pain and sorrow that once accompanied the club with his marvelous goals and mesmerizing moves. In his first season in MLS, the 28-year-old has secured the league’s scoring title, while also providing more assists than any other player. On the final day of the regular season against Montreal, the Atomic Ant managed to find an assist in a heartbeaking 2-1 loss. Against the Impact, Giovinco has only found the back of the net once in three matches, but I highly doubt he’ll be stopped in such a crucial match. Look for the MVP-favorite to shine in his first playoff appearance.

The first round of the playoffs appear to be defined by world-class strikers. For the Impact, this player can be found in Didier Drogba. Despite playing just 11 games for his new club, the Chelsea legend already leads the team with 11 goals. Against Toronto last weekend, Drogba flashed his class with not one, but two backheel goals in the span of a minute. Through his illustrious 17-year career, Drogba has won 14 team titles while also racking up countless individual awards. The pressure of an MLS playoff game is highly unlikely to phase the man who scored the winning penalty kick in the Champions League. Can he outshine his Italian counterpart?

In their three regular season meetings this year, Toronto has bested Montreal twice, but the Impact claimed a massive victory over their Canadian counterparts in the last weekend of the season. It’s always difficult to pull off back-to-back results against a team, especially when the break between matches is so short. With that being said, I think that Giovinco and Toronto eek out a crucial victory and continue their playoff run. Final Score: Montreal 2-2 Toronto (Toronto advances on penalties)

Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC win

Image: HH Footy

The matchup between Portland and Kansas City pits two of the best fan groups in the league against each other. A raucous atmosphere is pretty much a guarantee for any of the Timbers’ matches, but the attendance of the Kansas City’s “Blue Hell” paired with the intensity of the playoffs should make this game something special. It’s a shame that this will be the only home game played in the wild confines of Providence Park, but will the hosts be able to give their fans a happy memory to close out their home season?

For a large part of the year, Sporting KC was arguably the best team in the Western Conference. A first round bye this time of year looked like a certainty to fans in the Midwest. A poor stretch of games spanning from late August to October, however, saw Peter Vermes’ slide dangerously close to missing the playoffs altogether. In their final 12 games of the season, Kansas City claimed just 12 points out of a possible 36. Going into Decision Day last weekend, Sporting needed to win to guarantee them a spot in the postseason and luckily they were able to sneak by the LA Galaxy 2-1 at Sporting Park. This horrendous run to end the season has the potential to shake the confidence of the 2013 champions, but a victory away at Portland early in October shows that they have the talent to beat Wednesday’s opponent.

The two men to watch for the Timbers have to be Fanendo Adi and Darlington Nagbe. In their final game of the season against the Colorado Rapids, they managed to combine for three goals including a wonderful freekick from Nagbe to open proceedings. In their previous three meetings with Kansas City, Adi, Nagbe and the entire Timbers squad have failed to find the back of the net. In such a crucial fixture, can the team’s two leading scorers finally break Kansas City’s defense and advance to the conference semifinals? If Sporting shuts these two down, however, the Timbers are left with very little in terms of an offensive threat.

Despite the great home atmosphere that the Timbers’ Army provides every match, the lack of scoring depth will spell the end for Portland. Kansas City, even with their poor run to end the season, still possess one of the most talented lineups in the league and this talent should push them through in the playoffs. Final Score: Portland 0-2 Sporting KC

 

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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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