The other half of the MLS playoff bracket is an open question for most of Thursday, with the Western Conference final second-leg scheduled for 10:30pm ET on ESPN. The Seattle Sounders are the obvious favorite with a two-goal lead and home field advantage. For the Houston Dynamo, it's another scenario where getting anything out of this game will be a surprise. Figuring out a comeback and advancing moves from surprise to shock.
"This whole year, we've played with a chip on our shoulder," Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis told the Houston Chronicle's Cory Roepken. "Expectations from the outside have been low for us, and I think we have exceeded those. Everyone here has high expectations for us. We're the ones here every day training. We know what we're capable of. We're not out of it yet. A lot of people have counted us out, but it's two goals. If they can come here and put two goals on us, then there's no reason why we can't go there and put two goals on them."
In fairness to the Dynamo, they're facing a noticeably stronger team in Seattle. Both teams have injury concerns, but again that tilts in favor of Seattle. Both teams have had games in these playoffs where the offense hasn't been there, but again that favors Seattle. For Houston to pull off a comeback, it will take Seattle breaking down in ways we haven't seen since early October.
“I think it’s everyone, it’s all the 11, not just a back-line thing," Seattle defender Chad Marshall told the Seattle Times' Geoff Baker. “I think we understand that come playoff time, goals are important. Goals change games. So, it’s important not to let any in. Especially soft ones.’’
Toronto FC advanced from the Eastern Conference, knocking out Columbus 1-0 on Wednesday night. SI.com's Brian Straus highlights the importance of Jozy Altidore playing through pain for the only goal of the series. ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle also put the focus on Altidore's series winner. The Columbus Dispatch's Michael Arace on the end of a bizarre season for Columbus.
Also in the soccer news, Jose Torres was on the bench for Tigres in their 1-0 away win at Club America to open their playoff semifinal series. Juninho converted a 49th minute penalty for the only goal at Estadio Azteca. That series concludes on Saturday at 8pm ET on Univision. In the Premier League, Danny Williams subbed on in the 74th minute for Huddersfield Town's 5-0 loss at Arsenal. Huddersfield Town trailed from the 3rd minute, with Arsenal scoring in the 69th, 69th, 72nd, and 87th. Emerson Hyndman wasn't involved in Bournemouth's 2-1 home loss to Burnley. Geoff Cameron missed Stoke City's 3-0 home loss to Liverpool.
WRAL's Neil Morris makes a simple point about what's key to getting an MLS expansion team. Atlanta United has Greg Garza talking about joining the MLS club permanently after spending 2017 on loan from Tijuana.
The National's Andy Mitten looks at La Liga's policy of changing game days and start times for TV and what it's doing for Espanyol's attendance. The Independent's Miguel Delaney on the political aspect of Russia 2018. The Guardian's Marina Hyde looks at the sponsorship issue for the World Cup.
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