Friday’s soccer news opens with the idea that it’s not exactly going to flatter the MLS ideas department if all of the best-of three series turn into best-of-twos. Should that happen more often than not, it’s going to draw a line under the idea that home field advantage is something to win rather than simply expecting at least one game off the road in round one. Of course, given the scheduling, this won’t be settled over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday get two games apiece, with one on Monday and another on Tuesday. That spacing also doesn’t help the proceedings, dragging out each matchday for longer than the standard MLS weekend.
Of the weekend games, it’s tough to judge some of these matchups after the opener, especially the Saturday games. The Red Bulls lost five times at home over the course of the regular season, but these are the playoffs, so adding in the five draws has them not winning more than winning at Red Bull Arena. FC Cincinnati won seven times on the road, including 2-1 at the Red Bulls on July 12. That’s too long ago to draw meaningful takeaways, but what we’ve already learned from game one of this series is that Cincinnati will take control and push back against the press.
“I will say over the past month, we haven’t been our strongest,” Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said following the game one win. “Maybe it was what was at stake and the start of the playoffs, but they stepped up and knew the challenges that were in front of them and I thought managed the game in a pretty strong way.”
Noonan was responding to a question about clinching the Supporters’ Shield so early, but the rest of the East should take that as a statement of intent. Cincinnati at its best is close to unbeatable in a regular season game. Adding in the penalties tiebreaker in this round, and it’s really tough to come up with a scenario that shifts the focus to what New York does well.
In the other Saturday game, FC Dallas can do a lot of things well, especially in the attack, but the Sounders may have found the kind of sync that works just as effectively on the road. Seattle, LAFC, and Houston made just behind the top of the Western Conference interesting, with the Sounders finishing three points behind St Louis and three points separating them from 4th-place Houston. Dallas continues to be a series of “what if” scenarios, the latest the season-ending injury to Alan Velasco.
“We have to be critical with our staff and our performances, collectively and individually,” FC Dallas coach Nico Estevez said following the opening game. “We need to see what things we can learn and we can do better. And when we play Saturday, the message is that we want to come back and play here.”
Sunday starts with Sporting Kansas City hosting St Louis after Sporting’s 4-1 game one win. It’s easy to underline what Sporting KC got so right at CityPark, playing like a team that had no issues putting the regular season behind it. Sporting coach Peter Vermes described his team making the playoffs and the advancing from the knockout round on penalties as “trying to weather the storm,” “emotional,” and “under pressure,” contrasting that with waiting to enter in round one. All solid points that are worth considering should Sporting KC end up advancing as a wild card team.
Also in the West on Sunday night is LAFC at Vancouver in a series where LA put up a 5-2 win but the Whitecaps were competitive in the first-half. No one is likely to argue that November is the time to be trying to turn a steady 45 minute performance into the full 90, especially with LA putting together that strong 90 minute run in the opening game.
“We’re going to Vancouver to play our third time against them in a row so they know what we’re gonna bring and we know what they have,” LAFC defender Ryan Hollingshead said after game one. “It’s going to be another battle and our goal, one hundred percent, is to go there and end the series.”
WEEKEND SOCCER TV
Saturday has the Premier League on USA: Fulham vs Manchester United at 8:30am and Manchester City vs Bournemouth at 11am. NBC has Newcastle vs Arsenal at 1:30pm. Serie B on Fox Soccer Plus: Pisa vs Como at 9am and Sampdoria vs Palermo at 11:15am. La Liga on ESPN Deportes: Osasuna vs Getafe at 9am, Real Betis vs Mallorca at 11:15am, Celta Vigo vs Sevilla at 1:30pm, and Real Sociedad vs Barcelona at 4pm. Ligue 1 on beIN Sport: St Etienne vs Paris at 10am. Ligue 1 on beIN Sport: Lorient vs Lens at 12pm. Primeira Liga on GolTV: Chaves vs Benfica at 11:30am and Famalicao vs Gil Vicente at 2pm. Pro League on Fox Soccer Plus: Al Nassr vs Al Khaleej at 2pm.
Copa Libertadores final on beIN Sport: Boca Juniors vs Fluminense at 4pm. Ecuador’s Primera A on GolTV: Guayaquil City vs Emelec at 4:30pm and LDU Quito vs Independiente del Valle at 7pm. Liga MX on Univision: Tigres vs San Luis at 7pm, Club America vs Tijuana at 9pm, and Pachuca vs Monterrey at 11pm. Telemundo has Chivas vs Cruz Azul at 11pm. Peru’s Primera A on GolTV: Universitario vs Alianza Lima at 9pm.
Sunday has Ligue 1 on beIN Sport: Lyon vs Metz at 7am, Nantes vs Reims at 9am, Monaco vs Brest at 11am, and Nice vs Rennes at 2:45pm. La Liga on ESPN Deportes: Alaves vs Almeria at 8am and Real Madrid vs Rayo Vallecano at 3pm. Premier League on USA: Nottingham Forest vs Aston Villa at 9am and Luton Town vs Liverpool at 11:30am. Primeira Liga on GolTV: Moreirense vs Vitoria Guimaraes at 10:30am and Sporting vs Estrela at 3:30pm. Serie B on Fox Deportes: Parma vs Sudtirol at 10:15am. Serie A on CBS Sports: Fiorentina vs Juventus at 2:45pm. Pro League on Fox Deportes: Al Ahli vs Al Riyadh at 1pm.
Ecuador’s Primera A on GolTV: Mushuc Runa vs Tecnico Universitario at 12:30pm, Barcelona vs El Nacional at 6pm, and Universidad Catolica vs Libertad at 7pm. Liga MX on Univision: UNAM Pumas vs Atlas at 1pm. USL One final on ESPN2: North Carolina FC vs Charlotte Independence at 5pm. TUDN has Necaxa vs Mazatlan at 5pm. Fox Deportes has Santos Laguna vs Toluca at 7pm and Juarez vs Queretaro at 9pm. MLS on FS1: Vancouver vs LAFC at 7:30pm.
Monday has La Liga on ESPN Deportes: Getafe vs Cadiz at 3pm. Honduras’s Liga Nacional on Fox Deportes: Real Espana vs Real Sociedad at 8pm. All Times Eastern
All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Melissa Levin – ZUMA Press Wire Service – ISIPhotos.com