The conference finals of the MLS Cup playoffs kick off with the first legs for each conference today. As a reminder, there are two legs per the rules of MLS playoffs and the winner is decided on an aggregate score. Today, the Montreal Impact will host Toronto FC at 8 p.m. ET and then the Seattle Sounders host the Colorado Rapids at 10 p.m. ET on FS1.
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Can Jermaine Jones deliver?
It was a promising return from injury for Jones in the Western Conference semifinals. He hadn't played since July but did his part in helping the Rapids get past the LA Galaxy and prove their regular season success was for real. But the international break didn't go quite as well for Jones. He looked gassed too soon against both Costa Rica and Mexico and he struggled in ways he wouldn't be expected to with things like passing and winning the ball back. How well Jones can recover in the one week between his Costa Rica start for the USA and today's playoff match in Seattle may be the difference.
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Who will win the Giovinco vs. Piatti battle?
When neither Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco nor the Montreal Impact's Ignacio Piatti made the shortlist for the league's MVP award, there was plenty of outrage from fans. And the pair quickly proved why they belonged on the list by both dominating the Eastern Conference semifinals. Now, they need to face off against one another in the conference finals, and it should be a doozy. There's little doubt that each man is just as important to his team, so it may end up being a situation where as one of these stars goes, so too their team goes.
Will Zac MacMath rediscover his form as Tim Howard's replacement?
Before Tim Howard came to town, it was Zac MacMath who was the starting shot-stopper for the Colorado Rapids. And in fact, MacMath had been doing a very good job up until Howard arrived and bumped the 24-year-old to the bench. The question is, after mostly spending the last four months on the bench, can MacMath pick up where he left off?
Will Jordan Morris be ready?
The Sounders have been coy about the status of Jordan Morris since he pulled his hamstring in the conference semifinals. But as the team's top scorer this year, there's no question that if he can play, he will. But the Sounders and coach Brian Schmetzer have to worry about the repercussions of bringing him back too early when there is still a second leg ahead to get into the MLS Cup.
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Can Toronto FC make good on their potential?
Toronto FC has had all the ambition and the money to go around for the past few years, but not the results to match. They won their first-ever playoff games only weeks ago, and they are looking to continue that run. This is a team that has no playoff record to speak of, and even going out now would mark a major accomplishment in the franchise's history. But the question is whether they can keep it going as the stakes get even higher.
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Can the Seattle Sounders finally make MLS Cup after a rollercoaster year?
If you step into a time machine to five months ago, there was perhaps no team that looked less likely to make the MLS Cup than Seattle. Yet now, they are in maybe the best position they've ever been to get there. They've got a new coach who seems to have figured things out, late-arrival Nicolas Lodeiro has been every bit as good as advertised, and Nelson Valdez has suddenly emerged from a year-long goal drought at exactly the right time. With Clint Dempsey out for the season and longtime coach Sigi Schmid fired, it's not how anyone would've pictured it, but momentum is a powerful thing and the wind is at the backs of the Sounders.