(3) Toronto FC - (6) Philadelphia Union
Wednesday, October 26
7:30 PM ET
BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario
TV: ESPN2, UniMas & TSN2
Toronto FC Quick Season Summary:
TFC had one of its best seasons in history, finishing just four points off the top spot in the Eastern Conference and earning the right to host a knockout-round playoff game. The Reds survived stretches this season without Sebastian Giovinco (injury) and Michael Bradley (national team duty) thanks to play of forward Jozy Altidore. That trio gives TFC arguably the most talented roster in the league.
Philadelphia Union Quick Season Summary:
Philly showed real promise early in the season, even putting together an eight-game unbeaten stretch. It was rougher sledding in the second half, however. The midseason arrival of Alejandro Bedoya made the team better on paper, but the Union only took two points from the last seven games to limp into the playoffs as the six-seed.
Questionable, M, Will Johnson (knee)
Questionable, M, Ilsinho (foot)
Questionable M, Chris Pontius (hamstring)
Questionable F, CJ Sapong (concussion)
Questionable D, Ken Tribbett (toe)
X-factor: CJ Sapong
Sapong doesn’t get a lot of attention nationally, but he’s one of the best targets forwards in the league. When he’s on his game, the combination of strength, vision and aerial ability make him straight unplayable. CJ Sapong at his best can absolutely be difference that powers Philly past a heavily favored TFC.
Toronto wins if:
Its stars play to their potential. This is also the answer to: What needs to happen for TFC to win MLS Cup? Giovinco is the best player in the league when healthy. If Jozy can get hot in the playoffs, Toronto will have an unstoppable 1-2 punch that could easily carry the team to a title. Michael Bradley has had a disappointing season by his lofty standards if he can get right as well, look out.
Philadelphia wins if:
They can find three or more goals. The Union defense is not good. Philly has allowed 55 goals (second to only NYCFC among playoff teams), and only Montreal has a worse goal differential. This is not a unit that will hold Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco off the scoreboard so a shootout is Philadelphia’s best chance.
(3) LA Galaxy - (6) Real Salt Lake
Wednesday, October 26
10:30 PM ET
Stubhub Center, Carson, California
TV: UniMas & TSN2
LA Galaxy Quick Season Summary:
It’s been a bit of a strange season for the Galaxy. Robbie Keane has missed a ton of time because of injury and national team duty. Steven Gerrard looked like one of the best midfielders in the league for a six or seven game period, but now he’s hurt. Giovani Dos Santos has played at an MVP level one game and then disappeared the next. Landon Donovan made a stunning comeback from retirement down the stretch. Despite all that, LA quietly secured the third seed in an incredibly tough Western Conference.
Real Salt Lake Season Summary:
RSL rebounded after missing the playoffs in 2015. The Claret and Cobalt only lost once at home this year and found an attacking spark in the form of Yura Movsisyan. However, Jeff Cassar seems like he’s fighting for his job in his third year at the helm and it took a Portland Timbers collapse on Decision Day for RSL to sneak into the playoffs as the six-seed.
- Questionable F, Robbie Keane (undisclosed)
- Out, F, Gyasi Zardes (Broken foot)
- Probable, F, Yura Movsisyan (heel)
X-factor: Javier Morales
Morales wasn’t the impact player this season we’ve come to know him as over his nine-year MLS career. The Argentine hasn’t recorded a goal or an assist in an MLS game since August, and has only four goals and four assists despite playing 29 games and nearly 2200 minutes. For comparison, Javi had eight goals and 12 assists last year in three fewer games. Morales is a year older, sure, but his game has never relied on blazing speed or brute strength. If he can find the form that made him a three-time All-Star, it would go a long way to helping RSL move on.
LA Galaxy wins if:
Bruce Arena can get the right attacking combination in the starting XI. Arena is unquestionably the best coach in MLS history. He’s guided multiple teams through the MLS Cup Playoff minefield. The dude knows how to win in the playoffs. But he’s yet to solve how to effectively get Giovani Dos Santos and Robbie Keane on the field at same time. LA might be better off with Keane in a late-game, impact sub role so Dos Santos can be the clear focus of the offense.
RSL wins if:
The attack starts firing on all cylinders. Real Salt Lake needs Javier Morales to recover from his slump and get the ball to Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan in the channels where the attacking duo have absolutely killed opponents this year. RSL is a good defensive team, but they’re not likely to hold the high-powered LA offense off the board so goals are going to have to come from somewhere.