The BRKDWN: MLS Conference Semifinals Playoff Predictions

By: Christopher Smith (@WannabeaCPA) and Rex Eastwood (@REast_Eazy)

The first round of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs is in the books and this week we have four matchups in the middle of the week. The BRKDWN top two soccer analysts are back to breakdown (see what I did there?) the Conference Semifinals and give out our picks of who will advance to the Conference Finals. 

Conference Semifinals

Toronto @ NYCFC– October 23, 2019 – FS1, TSN, & TVAS

Chris – NYCFC

Toronto came to play against DC United in the first round. During the regular season both sides could barely score against each other. Their next match is against NYCFC in New York and since the Mets won’t be needing their stadium for the near future the game will be at Citi Field. The main advantage NYCFC has over most of the other MLS teams is where they play. They play at Yankee Stadium which messes with the dimensions of the field and can ultimately mess with a team’s flow if they aren’t used to the dimensions.

Toronto will be looking to get Omar Gonzalez back to health come Wednesday along with Jozy Altidore. They will need them against an NYCFC team that has gone 7-2-1 in there last ten matches. During the same stretch they averaged 2.3 goals per game. The last match these two teams played resulted in a 1-1 draw in New York. I think that this will be another close one where the key factor in deciding this match is the home field advantage that NYCFC has.

Rex – Toronto 

Even if two of their stars may not be fully healthy, TFC has a stud of a lineup. Bradley, Pozuleo and Osorio lock down the midfield and should control the middle on a short pitch. They have proven they can play on the smaller dimensions drawing at Yankee Stadium in September. 

NYCFC cannot play at home because of a baseball conflict. No worries, we’ll play in the other baseball field in New York City. They have nightmares of past playoffs and a similar fate may be in store. After dominating regular season capgains, NYCFC have yet to prove themselves in the playoffs. It does not begin in 2019. 

Mavinga sustained an ankle injury which is unneeded. Altidore and Gonzalez were held out of Saturday’s game in hopes they will be ready for Wednesday. If they are all healthy, I feel more confident backing TFC. 

Salt Lake @ Seattle – October 23, 2019 – FS1, TSN, & TVAS

Chris – Seattle

Seattle somehow overcame FC Dallas in a 4-3 match that took 120-plus minutes to complete. Seattle is a great home team sporting a 11-2-4 home record. Salt Lake isn’t great on the road with a 5-8-4 record, so they will have an uphill battle with Seattle’s fanbase showing up. Salt Lake is also dealing with injuries with Jordan Allan and Nick Besler both remaining out of the Wednesday matchup. I think Seattle will squeak by with a win in this one. 

Rex – Real Salt Lake 

Seattle were less than impressive against Dallas. They let a much weaker team take it to them at home. If they play that same style, they won’t be as lucky to get to extra time. 

RSL has the most complete team through and through. There isn’t a doubt in their starting XII. They deploy the best team defense in the MLS. Teams cannot beat them in transition which is an added boost. However, they are susceptible to giving up goals on set pieces. Avoid those and they have more than a fighting chance.

Finishing their chances is RSL’s bigger issue. They have squandered points against top caliber teams in the West. Now, they’re playing in the second toughest road environment. If RSL is not sharp on their attack, their season will end in Seattle. 

Philadelphia @ Atlanta – October 24, 2019 – ESPN2, TSN, & TVAS

Chris – Atlanta

The former MLS Champions gear up to host the comeback kids in the Philadelphia Union. As much as I would love for the Union to come to Atlanta and beat them, I can’t see it happening. Atlanta is so dominant at home that I can’t see Philadelphia taking it. Philadelphia, at times, tends to shoot themselves in the foot and have lost matches because of it. They have problems with avoiding errors and if Atlanta can capitalize on those Atlanta can put this game away early. If Philadelphia can limit the errors they have a chance against Atlanta. Atlanta at times have shown that they can be exposed and scored on. The Union will need to play the best soccer they’ve played all year if they want to take it from the champs. 

Rex – Union

All signs point to ATL, so let’s stray from the public. The Union looked like two different teams versus the Red Bulls and playing consistent is key against a Frank de Boer side. Let’s hope the Union ride that momentum into Mercedes Benz. In their meeting in Atlanta, the Union tied but that was in April and the third match of the season. Many things have changed for both sides since that meeting. 

Atlanta’s depth will be tested and will be the determining factor if they advance. Now without Michael Parkhurst on top of Miles Robinson, their bench will need to step up. Philly has the firepower and can score off open play or set pieces. ATL will need to build chemistry quick among a new back four parking. Additionally, Atlanta pushes their full backs up the wing on the attack. This leaves the counter strike potential for the Union. 

We could be in for another high scoring game. Josef Martínez has been quiet for his standards and can break out against a shaky Union defense. Andre Blake struggled mightily, but the back four did not help his case by any means. The Red Bulls struggled to keep their foot on the throttle which is something Atlanta excels. 

In their more recent meeting in Philly, the Union won 3-1, proving their ability to capitalize on Atlanta’s already suspect backline. The Union’s midfield can hang with Atalanta’s so I’m backing the road underdog. 

LA Galaxy @ LAFC – October 24, 2019 – ESPN, TSN, & TVAS

Chris – LA Galaxy

Everyone has been saying that LAFC is the team to beat and that they are going to win it all. LAFC has been a great team this year with a slight blot on their defense. They have not been near as strong on the opposite side of the ball. The reason I’m going with LA Galaxy in this one is that they show up for this game. Zlatan has repeatedly stated that he is MLS and that he’s the greatest player in this country. It’s time from him and his team to put up or shut up. LA Galaxy has dominated El Clasico since the creation of LAFC. I think that Zlatan and Co. show up to give the late night matchup a performance that will give the crowd something to talk about. 

Rex – LAFC

What an opportunity to finally beat the Galaxy. No team is hungrier in the playoffs than LAFC and the extra motivation will not be needed. LAFC comes fresh off rest with the Galaxy playing 4 days ago. 

LAFC have been burned by the counterattack by the Galaxy. Their midfield has had small lapses leading to the Galaxy capitalizing on the chances. Expect Bob Bradley to have his players well prepared. 

If LAFC can stop the counterattack, they will coast in this game. The Galaxy’s defense has been questionable and allows plenty of shots. David Bingham has led the league in saves due to this. LAFC will deploy a high press leading to more chances and Bingham can’t stop them all. Minnesota had their chances but could not finish. LAFC may have the best attack in MLS history and I expect them to finish at least 3 goals in a win. Vella will be the name to remember and not Zlatan after this match. 

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