MLS Playoffs Get Underway in Seattle and Houston
MLS Playoffs Get Underway in Seattle and Houston avatar

After toying with the idea of contesting some playoff games during the November international break, Major League Soccer has reconsidered and has released the complete schedule for the post season, complete with television listings.

The first round knockout games are, as the name implies, single elimination matches, with the winners moving on to play the top finisher in each conference in the conference semifinals.

NY Red Bulls had a really strong finish to the season. (ISI Photos)

NY Red Bulls had a really strong finish to the season. (ISI Photos)

The teams that finish fourth and fifth in each conference contest the knockout game, sometimes referred to as a play-in game. New York Red Bulls won the Supporters Shield, awarded to the team with the most points in the regular season. As a result New York will have home field advantage as long as they last in the playoffs, and will host the MLS Cup if they qualify.

With all of that to consider, let’s take a look at those KO matches, starting with tonight’s showdown in Seattle.

Knockout Round
(Home teams listed first):
· Seattle Sounders FC vs. Colorado Rapids – Wed., Oct. 30, 10:30 pm ET (NBCSN; local TV)

Seattle’s struggles at the end of the season have been well documented, as have Clint Dempsey’s. But Dempsey finally got on the scoresheet in the Sounders 1-1 draw against Los Angeles in their season finale. Eddie Johnson was back in action for Seattle, but it has been a while since there has been an Obafemi Martins sighting around CenturyLink Field.
Sounders keeper Michael Gspurning has been in and out of coach Sigi Schmid’s lineup of late, with veteran Marcus Hahnemann seeing some playing time for Seattle. Gspurning is likely to get the nod tonight, but has the damage to his confidence already been done?

DeShorn Brown scored the fastest goal in the MLS history earlier in the season. (ISI Photos/Michael Pimentel)

DeShorn Brown scored the fastest goal in the MLS history earlier in the season. (ISI Photos/Michael Pimentel)

Unlike Seattle, Colorado are a young team who came into this season without the burden of heavy expectations. Coach Oscar Pareja has put his trust in young players like U.S. U20 center back Shane O’Neill, rookie goalie Clint Irwin and 23 year old fullback Chris Klute in the defense. Leading goal scorer Deshorn Brown and fellow rookie of the year candidate Dillon Powers, have been outstanding. Panamanian attacker Gabriel Torres was signed mid season, and has yet to get untracked.

Veteran Defenders Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne lend experience at the back, with Honduran international and former Wigan man Hendry Thomas adding bite and guile to the midfield. Pareja has to decide how to replace the versatile Powers in the midfield, with Nick LaBrocca and Martin Rivero the contenders.

Seattle Sounders have a great attacking force.(Getty Images)

Seattle Sounders have a great attacking force.(Getty Images)

Seattle have the edge in experience and perhaps more importantly, the game will be played at CenturyLink Park. The Sounders set the league attendance record this season, averaging 44,038 per game. It’s the fifth straight year of record attendance for the Sounders, and quite a jump from the MLS record 30,898 that Seattle first set in 2009.

Tonight I expect Dempsey to earn some of that record contract and to send a huge Seattle crowd home happy.

· Houston Dynamo vs. Montreal Impact – Thurs., Oct. 31, 8:30 pm ET (NBCSN; TSN; RDS/2; local TV)

Tomorrow the Eastern Conference takes center stage in Houston when the Dynamo host Montreal. Montreal come careening into this knockout match on a 1-7-1, skid dating back to September 14. Houston have gone the other way, rallying from a poor start to qualify in fourth place, two points ahead of the Impact.

Montreal's forward Marco Di Vaio should be a threat up front.(ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Montreal’s forward Marco Di Vaio should be a threat up front.(ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Montreal have come far, quickly, making the playoffs in just their second year. Veteran Italian striker Marco Di Vaio led the way, racking up 20 goals on the year, good for third in the league. Midfielders Felipe, captain Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp are Di Vaio’s main facilitators. Former Italian national teamer and A.C. Milan star Alessandro Nesta has been out with a calf injury, but will hope to give it ago on Thursday. The World Cup winner has already announced that he will retire at the conclusion of Montreal’s season, so he would love suit up versus the Dynamo.

Houston will have to make do without Jermaine Taylor, the center back is out of the playoffs with a foot injury. Eric Brunner will deputize alongside Bobby Boswell. This all old hat for the Dynamo, who beat Chicago at this stage last season, going all the way to MLS Cup where they lost to the Galaxy for the second year running.

Houston's Brad Davis leads his team on assists and is second in goals scored. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Houston’s Brad Davis leads his team well and is still effective in the midfield. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Veteran playmaker Brad Davis and Honduran winger Boniek Garcia provide the service for converted midfielder Giles Barnes (9) and Will Bruin (8) so the pair can score the goals. Tally Hall is solid between the pipes and Ricardo Clark is a rugged box to box midfielder for the Dynamo.

They may not make it back to the Cup this year, but look for Montreal’s miserable end to the season get just a little more miserable tomorrow night in Houston.

Eastern Conference Semifinals
First Leg (Home teams listed first):
· New England Revolution vs. Sporting Kansas City – Sat., Nov. 2, 8:00 pm ET (NBCSN; RDS2; Local TV)
· Houston Dynamo or Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls– Sun., Nov. 3, 3:30 pm ET (NBC; if MTL advances TSN2, RDS2)

Second Leg (Home teams listed first):
· New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo or Montreal Impact– Wed., Nov. 6, 8:00 pm ET (UDN; Local TV; if MTL advances TSN2, RDS2 )
· Sporting Kansas City vs. New England Revolution – Wed., Nov. 6, 9:00 pm ET (Local TV)

Western Conference Semifinals
First Leg (Home teams listed first):
· Seattle Sounders FC or Colorado Rapids vs. Portland Timbers – Sat., Nov. 2, 10:00 pm ET (NBCSN)
· LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake – Sun., Nov. 3, 9:00 pm ET (ESPN; TSN2; RDS2)

Second Leg (Home teams listed first):
· Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy – Thurs., Nov. 7, 9:00 pm ET (ESPN2; TSN2)
· Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC or Colorado Rapids – Thurs., Nov. 7, 11:00 pm ET (NBCSN; UDN; TSN2)

Conference Championships
First Leg (Home teams listed first):
· Eastern Conference – Sat., Nov. 9, 2:30 pm ET (NBC; UDN; RDS2; if MTL advances TSN2)
· Western Conference – Sun., Nov. 10, 9:00 pm ET (ESPN; RDS2)

Second Leg (Home teams listed first):
· TBD – Sat., Nov. 23, TBD
· TBD – Sun., Nov. 24, TBD

MLS Cup 2013
Saturday, December 7 (hosted by finalist with best regular season record)
4:00 pm ET (ESPN, UniMas, TSN2, RDS) Site TBD

About Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is a staff writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, covering MLS and other US leagues, He's GotSoccer's chief National Team Correspondent.
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