The play-in round is over and now the MLS playoffs are in full-swing with four matches set for today. Now the competition moves to a two-game home-and-away series decided on aggregate goals. Crucially, the tiebreaker for these two-leg match-ups is away goals — whoever scores the most road goals over the two legs would win. If they are level on away goals at the end of the second leg, that match goes to extra time but away goals no longer count toward the tiebreaker. Here's how we see things shaking out.
Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
FC Dallas beat Seattle two weeks ago in a thrilling come-from-behind victory, but there is one major difference this time around: Dallas will not have Mauro Diaz, their magician in the midfield, who tore his Achilles in that match's stoppage time. They can slot Mauro Rosales into the No. 10 role, but they will probably look to make up for his absence by committee — instead of playing through Diaz, like they so often do, they can move the ball around a bit more.
The problem is, Dallas are still adjusting to life without Diaz, and the Sounders won't make it easy. They have their own talismanic No. 10, Nicolas Lodieiro, whose game-changing ability will be hard for Dallas to match. The Sounders are at home, but after a very physical battle against Sporting Kansas City on Thursday, there may be some tired legs, too. If they can score early, however, they should be able to contain Dallas' attack.
Prediction: Seattle 1-0 Dallas
Jennifer BuchananJennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Spor
Toronto FC vs. New York City FC (7 p.m. ET, FS1)
This is a particularly interesting match-up because these two sides haven't faced each other since May, when they settled for a 1-1 draw. Toronto FC are coming off a midweek play-in game where they blew past the Philadelphia Union with relative ease. They could be in for a bit of a jolt when NYCFC comes to town, though.
Part of TFC's success may depend on how well the team, including goal-scorers Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, can manage the quick turnaround. While Philadelphia's defending was awful in that play-in game, a rested New York City FC team will present a much tougher challenge. Although Toronto get to stay at home to open the series, New York City should be able to help their case up north.
Score prediction: Toronto 1-1 New York City
Greg BartramGreg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
LA Galaxy vs. the Colorado Rapids (5 p.m. ET)
This match pits one of the league's best attacking teams (LA) vs. one of the best defensive teams (Colorado). Interestingly enough, Colorado's defense has been a bit less effective in recent weeks than it was early in the season, when the Rapids started out so strong. That could help the Galaxy, who are having trouble getting much out of striker Robbie Keane these days and are still hoping Gyasi Zardes could see his first action in about six weeks.
The Galaxy relied on Alan Gordon as their target striker in their play-in match vs. Real Salt Lake, and they looked good having a target striker to play the ball off. But Gordon is 35 and 36-year-old Keane as an alternative isn't very promising. It will be a tough turnaround for the Galaxy attacking force, especially against a Rapids team that plays such defensive, physical soccer. There's also the looming possibility of Jermaine Jones making his return at some point after an injury in July, and he could disrupt the LA attack if he's fit.
Score prediction: LA 0-1 Rapids
USA TODAY SportsTim Heitman
Montreal Impact vs. the New York Red Bulls (3 p.m. ET)
Everything in this match-up favors the Red Bulls. After enjoying a bye for the play-in round, they are fresh, while Montreal had to fight to advance in a midweek road match on Wednesday. The Red Bulls have also just been the better, more consistent team this season with a far better roster player-for-player. A big part of that is Sacha Klejstan's playmaking and Bradley Wright-Phillips' finishing — Klejstan finished the season with the lead in assists, while Wright-Phillips won the Golden Boot.
Sometimes momentum can be a powerful thing in the playoffs, though, and the Impact are coming off a big upset, having thumped D.C. United. The connection among the attacking three — Ignacio Piatti, Dominic Oduro and Matteo Mancosu — was firing on all cylinders and looked like a three-man battering ram. The problem is, there just might not be enough momentum to get past a rested and talented Red Bulls team. The Impact can hope maybe Didier Drogba will actually play as a substitute where he belongs and be a game-changer, but the Red Bulls should steal some points here.