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MLS Playoff Preview: Matchday 1

(Joshua Weisberg/Icon Sportswire)

MLS begins its first ever 12-team playoff tonight, featuring two more teams, and two more Knockout Round matches than last year’s 10-team format.

This week, fans won’t see FC Dallas, the Vancouver Whitecaps, Columbus Crew or the New York Red Bulls—who tied with Dallas for most points in the league, but won the Supporters Shield due to their superior goal differential—who all have byes into the Conference Semifinals. But there are still great matches afoot, as we have both Eastern and Western Conference match ups to look forward to this evening.

Wednesday, Oct. 28

D.C. United vs. New England Revolution 7:30 ET

DC have home field advantage in this game as the Revs travel down to RFK Stadium, but in terms of form, the teams are about even—and it’s not pretty. Unlike last season’s blistering playoff run, the Revs seem to be losing steam at season’s end, having won only one game in the past month. Fortunately for them, it was their final match against NYCFC, a 3-1 victory.

On the other side, DC managed to win two of its final three games, but that stat is misleading: those wins were their first in two months, and their last game was a pathetic 5-0 drubbing at the feet of Columbus.

This will be a scrappy match that will see Lee Nguyen lead the New England attack against DC, pushing up the pitch to score the first goal. DC keeper Hamid may be able to keep his team in it, but if the Revs can score first, they’ll likely dash DC out of the playoffs early again this season.

Prediction: The Revolution will come into RFK flying, and will indeed nab the first goal. The home side may pull one back, but it won’t be enough to see them through into the next round.

D.C. United 1 – 3 New England Revolution

Seattle Sounders vs. L.A. Galaxy, 10:00 ET

Gyazi Zardes, Clint Dempsey, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Obafemi Martins, Giovani dos Santos: tonight, Centurylink Field will play host to a star-studded match. But like the curtain raiser before it, despite their star power, these two clubs come into the game in less than excellent form.

Seattle managed to beat Salt Lake 3-1 on the final day of the season, but that win snapped a frustrating streak of three consecutive 1-1 draws (including one against the Galaxy themselves). L.A., on the other hand, have an even worse run of form behind them: after that 1-1 draw against Seattle, Los Angeles imploded against the Timbers, who scored five goals in less than half an hour to run away 5-2 victors, then allowed a late one again against Sporting Kansas City, losing 2-1 on Decision Day.

Having finished the season tied on points at 51, both L.A. and Seattle saw their poor October form let slip away a chance at a bye into the Conference Semis; both teams will be frustrated with their current position, knowing they have more quality than they let tell in their final matches. Both teams will be determined to snap that streak of poor form; only one will go through.

Prediction: Seattle will enjoy a robust home field advantage, but L.A.’s quality—especially in the form of Keane and Zardes—won’t let them boss the pitch. We can look forward to an open game, with both sides trying to win it, and likely getting on the scoresheet. This one will go down to the wire, but L.A. will prevail, on penalties, as the experience and confidence of Gerrard, Keane, and dos Santos help send the Galaxy through to the Semis from the spot.

Seattle Sounders 2 – 2 L.A. Galaxy, L.A. win on penalties.

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