Viewer's Guide To Thursday's Knockout Round Games

(Home teams in bold)

Seattle Sounders FC - Sporting Kansas City

Thursday, October 27

Match info:

10:00 PM ET

CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington

TV: FS1, UniMas & TSN1

Last 5:

Seattle: W-W-D-L-W

Kansas City: D-W-L-D-W

Seattle Sounders Quick Season Summary: It was truly a tale of two halves for the Sounders. Seattle was floundering near the bottom of the Western Conference at midseason, but the dismissal of long-time coach Sigi Schmid and the arrival of Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro saved the season. The Sounders’ second-half tear culminated in grabbing the four seed with a 2-1 win over RSL on Decision Day. Led by Lodeiro and rookie-of-the-year favorite Jordan Morris, Seattle is arguably the hottest team in the league heading into the postseason.

Sporting Kansas City Quick Season Summary: Inconsistency was the name of the game for Sporting. SKC looked like world-beaters at times, but dropped points against teams like Houston and Chicago. Benny Feilhaber hasn’t quite played to the level he was at last year and Graham Zusi’s days as a best XI caliber winger seem like a lifetime ago. On the plus side, Dom Dwyer has continued to look like one of the top forwards in the league.

Key injuries:

Seattle:

  • Questionable, D/M Brad Evans (calf)
  • Out, M, Andreas Ivanschitz (knee)

Kansas City:

  • Questionable, D, Chance Myers (thigh)
  • Questionable, M, Jacob Peterson (thigh)

X-factor: Benny Feilhaber

Feilhaber at his best is a National Team caliber player (don’t care what you think, Jurgen). But that level of play hasn’t manifested itself consistently enough in 2016. The slim margins in MLS are decided by stars and that’s what Feilhaber is when he’s on. SKC needs out-to-prove-Jurgen-wrong Benny Thursday night.

Seattle wins if: Nico Lodeiro is allowed to dominate the game. When Lodeiro gets time and space on the ball he shreds teams. Seattle has tended to go as Lodeiro goes and if SKC doesn’t mark the Uruguayan tightly Brian Schmetzer is likely going to win his first playoff game.

Kansas City wins if: (see above). Sure, it’s kind of a cop-out, but SKC’s best chance is probably to play a physical game and knock Lodeiro down as much as possible. Dom Dwyer will be able to get behind Seattle’s high line once or twice during the game. Capitalize on that and take a smash-and-grab victory into the next round.

(4) DC United - (5) Montreal Impact

Thursday, November 27

Match info:

7:30 PM ET

RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

TV: UniMas & TSN1

Last 5:

DC: W-W-W-W-L

Montreal: L-W-W-D-L

DC United Quick Season Summary: It was another season of working with savvy veterans on a shoestring budget for Ben Olsen. The midseason arrivals of Patrick Mullins from NYCFC and Lloyd Sam from RBNY were key to United’s strong second half of the season. Luciano Acosta and Sam have been two of the best chance creators in the league, giving DC a formidable attack. The team also heads into the postseason on a good run of form.

Montreal Impact Quick Season Summary: Big things were expected of Montreal this year. Certainly bigger than the five-seed in the East. Ignacio Piatti was as good as advertised, but Didier Drogba didn’t exactly hold up his end of the bargain. The Ivorian missed time due to injury and then culminated a disappointing season by refusing to be in the 18 after learning he wasn’t starting. The talent is there, but it hasn’t shown over the second half of the season.

Key injuries:

DC:

  • Out, M/F Chris Rolfe (concussion)
  • Probable, D, Sean Franklin (calf)
  • Questionable, M, Marcelo Sarvas (MCL)

Montreal

  • Didier Drogba (lack of interest)

X-factor: Matteo Mancosu

Mancosu played well enough after arriving in Montreal to keep Drogba on the bench. We now know Drogba didn’t even travel with the team to DC so the task of Piatti’s sidekick falls on the Italian’s shoulders. If he can show the form that helped him notch three goals and four assists in just 15 games, it will go a long way to overcoming a very solid DC side.

DC wins if: They keep things “status quo.” DC doesn’t have the names other playoff teams do, but Olsen is an outstanding coach who knows how to win in October and November. Expect to see DC play good, solid soccer and find a way through to the conference semis.

Montreal wins if: Piatti plays lights out. DC is a good team in good form. It’s going to take an MVP-caliber effort from Montreal’s star to make the difference. It’s likely that any playoff success will come on magic of Piatti’s left foot.