The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers survived the intensity and drama of the first round of the MLS Playoffs.
Now, teams with explosive firepower and a week’s worth of rest await.
The Western Conference Semifinals begin on Sunday with the first matches in a pair of two-legged series. The Seattle Sounders and Western Conference regular season winner FC Dallas will do battle in one of those games while Cascadia rivals the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps meet in the other.
Both showdowns hold plenty of intriguing, but the Sounders and Timbers are facing short rest after competing in the first round of the MLS playoffs during the midweek. The Sounders eliminated the defending champion LA Galaxy, 3-2, on Wednesday, and the Timbers survived an astonishing 2-2 match with Sporting Kansas City that went 11 rounds into penalty kicks to decide a winner.
Here is a closer look at the Western Conference semifinals matches:
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN)
There is no rest for the weary, and the Timbers are going to have to move on quickly from the intense victory they enjoyed on Thursday in order to have a shot at defeating a bitter Cascadia foe.
The Timbers will welcome the Whitecaps to Providence Park, site of Thursday’s thrilling first-round bout between Caleb Porter’s men and Sporting KC. This first leg is sure to be just as chippy given what is at stake and the rivalry that exists between these two clubs.
The Whitecaps had the slight edge in the regular-season series in 2015, winning one game at home back in March, 2-1, while the two clubs settled for a pair of draws in the ensuing two fixtures. Carl Robinson’s side will surely be eager to serve as the aggressor despite being on the road because of the fact that the Timbers played 120 minutes, but that will require attackers like Kekuta Manneh and Octavio Rivero to be sharp with the ball and in front of goal.
For the Timbers, the onus will be on recovering physically and emotionally. The club has the talent in the attack to punish the Whitecaps – which ended the year on a bit of a slide – but will need to be more clinical and avoid the kind of lapses that were seen on Thursday.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. FC DALLAS (Sunday, 9:30 p.m., FS1)
The Sounders overcame a Galaxy team on Wednesday that was sputtering at the end of the regular season, but now must face a team that was consistently good throughout the year.
FC Dallas visits CenturyLink Field to lock horns with the Sounders, and the match will be a clash of two teams with potent attacks. The explosive and dynamic Fabian Castillo will attempt to lead FC Dallas to a first-leg victory, but Sigi Schmid’s side also has more than enough in its arsenal through the likes of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins.
As potent as the Sounders’ attack is, the club will need to eliminate the defensive mistakes that allowed the Galaxy to continuously claw back into their game on Wednesday. The Sounders took two separate leads early in that match, but conceded quick equalizers before finally putting the Galaxy away for good in the second half.
FC Dallas was surely taking notes on how to exploit the spaces that the Sounders’ allow, and Castillo, Mauro Diaz, and Co. will surely aim to capitalize on that and tired legs. Oscar Pareja’s team will want to forget about the regular-season encounters, however, as FC Dallas went 0-1-1 in the two meetings with the Sounders.
What do you think of these Western Conference semifinals matches? Who do you see winning each one of these first legs? What will be the key to them on Sunday?
Share your thoughts below.
Last years FCD-SS matchup (1-1 in TX and 0-0 in WA) was pretty entertaining. FCD defiantly have the speed and quick passing that works well on turf. If they can contain Seattle’s star attackers I like their chances.
Three of the four semi-final teams play on Field Turf. It’s a non-issue in the Portland v. Vancouver semi. Dallas has to manage the Seattle visit. If Seattle advances it’s a non-issue in the conference final. Interesting.
Thankfully,…in the East it is not an issue at all.
I think Dallas will be fine but mostly because we have a lot of speed. Between that and the fact that the Sounders aren’t exactly a young team. I think we can pick and away goal then control the game at home.
Mind you this all relies on Diaz staying healthy. If he goes down, its a different picture. You have to assume he will be fine though or why bother planning.
No rest for the WEARY.