After progressing through from the first round of the postseason, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact face tougher tests ahead as the MLS Cup Playoffs continue.
The Eastern Conference semifinals are set to kick off Sunday, as D.C. United plays host to the rival New York Red Bulls, while Columbus Crew visit Didier Drogba and the Impact. The matchups will be the first of two legs, with the second contests set for Nov. 8.
D.C. heads into the second round after toppling the reigning Eastern Conference champions, the New England Revolution. Meanwhile, riding a 3-0 stomping of Toronto FC, the high-flying Impact take on a team that’s just as potent, with Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain returning to action for the Crew.
Here is a closer look at this weekend’s Eastern Conference playoff matchups:
D.C. UNITED vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Sunday, 3 p.m., ESPN)
One of the league’s most historic rivalries is set for another chapter.
For the second straight season, D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls are set to collide in the Eastern Conference semis, and, for the second straight season, the Red Bulls will be looking to advance at the expense of their rivals.
After advancing, 3-2, on aggregate last season, the Red Bulls have looked virtually unstoppable this season against D.C. United. In three clashes this season, the Red Bulls have collected seven points while outscoring D.C., 7-2. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam have proven particularly dangerous, combining for five of the seven Red Bull goals.
Adding to D.C.’s frustrations will be a suspension to centerback Bobby Boswell, who will miss out after an incident involving Juan Agudelo in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution. The win was D.C.’s third in four games, a streak that put an end to a six-game winless run that extended from mid-August to early October.
The clash will be the sixth all-time postseason series between the two sides, with D.C. amassing a 7-2-2 record in playoff clashes to this point.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Sunday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Columbus Crew will be the latest team tasked with stopping Didier Drogba.
Drogba netted yet again in Thursday’s 3-0 stomping of Toronto FC, netting his 12th goal in as many games since making the move to the Montreal Impact. Now, Drogba and co. are set to go head-to-head with an attack that is just as fearsome.
While Drogba’s arrival has spurred on the Impact, the Crew have ridden the trio of Kei Kamara, Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain all season. The three combined for 42 goals in the regular season, more than four MLS teams.
To this point, the Impact have done well in containing opposing stars, with Sebastian Giovinco being the latest scoring superstar held in check. Against the Crew, the Impact, sans Drogba, went 2-0 this season, with just one consolation goal conceded in the season series.
The Crew, meanwhile, enter with a bit of experience on their side following last season’s resounding postseason defeat to the New England Revolution. However, the Impact have do-or-die experience of their own following this season’s run through the CONCACAF Champions League.
What do you expect from this weekend’s games? What players will you be looking out for?
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