2020 MLS Playoffs preview: Conference Semifinals

Photo via Nashville Tennesseean

The first round of MLS Playoffs came out with a bang as we saw everything. Extra time goals, penalty kick shootouts and the top two seeds in the East had to pack their bags early. That is right, Nashville SC and New England both sent Eastern Conference favorites Philadelphia and Toronto out both in convincing wins. Orlando won on one of the most dramatic penalty shootouts this league will ever see. The Columbus Crew held off a comeback from the New York Red Bulls to punch their ticket into the Conference Semifinals. However, the West was a different story.

Out west, Sporting Kansas City were dealt a blow with conceding an equalizer in stoppage time of the second half to be forced into extra time and then penalty kicks. Three Tim Melia saves later, and they moved on past the San Jose Earthquakes. The Kevin Molino show was on full display as Minnesota easily dispatched Colorado. FC Dallas played upset to the Portland Timbers in Portland as a Ricardo Pepi game-tying goal happened in the 90+3 minute and later, Dallas shot their way through penalties onto the next round. The final game in the West was much more comfortable as a weakened LAFC side could not handle MVP nominees Jordan Morris and Nico Lodeiro. The Seattle Sounders moved on easily. But the first round is gone and it is time to look forward to the Conference Semifinals.

All game times will be in Eastern Standard Time

11/29/2020: Orlando City vs. New England Revolution @ 3pm on ABC

New England played spoilers to Supporter’s Shield Champions, Philadelphia Union. Head Coach Bruce Arena showed his playoff prowess with his experience and strategy as he shut down Philadelphia. The Revolution showed their quality through Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou while the Union struggled to find any offensive life. Orlando on the other hand had more than enough drama as their goalkeeper, Pedro Gallese, saw a red card during the penalty shootout. It was up to centre back, Rodrigo Schlegel, to fill in. He ultimately made the save that would lead to Benji Michel to score the game-winner for Orlando.

Game Prediction:

In a game that will ultimately be decided through tactics, I think the New England Revolution will move on to the Conference Final. The quality they have in the midfield and in their depth will be too much for Orlando to handle. Oscar Pareja’s Orlando side will be without starting rightback, Ruan, along with goalkeeper, Gallese. Ruan provides key movement for Chris Mueller along the right side of the pitch and this will hinder their attack too much.

11/29/2020: Columbus Crew vs. Nashville SC @ 8pm on ESPN

Columbus showed their resilience as they went down early to New York Red Bulls but they later scored three unanswered goals to see themselves into this round. Nashville looked like they were the defending conference champions as they dominated the field against Toronto. Toronto seemed to have no clue how to handle the attack of Nashville. Even after three goals were called back due to offsides, they finally found their winner in extra time.

Game Prediction:

Caleb Porter led the Portland Timbers to their first MLS Cup appearance and win back in 2015. I believe he will do it again with Columbus. Columbus has too much star power and can counter quickly through different options. Whether it is Lucas Zelarayan, Pedro Santos or Gyasi Zardes, Columbus just scores. However, Nashville will not make it easy as they have yet to allow a goal in these playoffs.

12/1/2020: Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas @ 9:30pm on FS1

FC Dallas played upset to the Portland Timbers in a match that they honestly should not have won. They were pressured by the Timbers offense but came up with the big defensive plays when needed. The whole match changed when Yimmi Chara came off for Portland and Michael Barrios came on for Dallas. Extra time was all Dallas and proved it was worth the wait after they won on penaltiles. Seattle got their goals from their big three with Lodeiro, Morris and the dubbed “Assassin” Raul Ruidiaz. This match should have been 5 or 6-1 for Seattle but missed chances happen.

Game Prediction:

As a stated about FC Dallas, Portland dominated almost all of regular time but did not capitalize on their chances. Seattle will be sure to see they do not make the same mistakes. Ruidiaz has scored eight goals now in seven playoff matches since joining Seattle. Morris had an outstanding game last season against Dallas as he had a hat-trick against them in the playoffs. I think Seattle takes this but this will be a matchup to watch. Seattle have had the number of FC Dallas as they are 3-0-1 in playoffs at home against them. However, after getting by one rival in the Pacific Northwest, Dallas will be eager to get rid of another.

12/2/2020: Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United @ 9pm on FS1

The final Conference Semi-final matchup is back at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. SKC had a thriller against San Jose which ended 3-3 in regular time. But Tim Melia did his best Nick Rimando impression and saved all three penalties he faced. Minnesota won their match through two Kevin Molino goals and stout defending. A 3-0 win over a hot Colorado club was the step they needed as they had their first franchise playoff win.

Game Prediction:

I think Minnesota steals this one from Kansas City. Adrian Heath has his club ticking in the right direction and has the guys to get it done. When it comes to one-on-one matchups, I think Minnesota has the better end. Kevin Molino, Ozzie Alonso, Jan Gregus, Robin Lod and Emanuel Reynoso will be a massive threat to the SKC backline. But Khiry Shelton, Gerso Fernandes, and Johnny Russell will be willing to fight back.

Be sure to tune in because we saw some wild matches in the first round so the second round will only be better. Especially since we have lower seeds still looking to play upset.

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