Three Big Storylines (well, four; one for each game!):
- Chicago Fire versus New York Red Bulls: One of the defining trades of the offseason was when NYRB traded their captain Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire for $400,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM). The Fire then added Nemanja Nikolic, who would win the Golden Boot with 24 goals, and Bastian Schweinsteiger en route to a third place finish in the Eastern Conference and their first playoff appearance since 2012. Schweinsteiger is questionable for today’s match as he has not started a game since September 2nd due to a right thigh injury and is not signed for next year, this could be his last game in MLS. The Red Bulls will be limping into the playoffs after only earning five points in their last seven matches, tumbling down the standings in the process. 18-year-old Tyler Adams has excelled for the Red Bulls most of the year and has flourished as a right wingback with Jesse Marsch preferring to play three at the back. Referee: Ismail Elfath
- Vancouver Whitecaps versus San Jose Earthquakes: On October 16th, these two teams played to a 1-1 draw in Vancouver. That single point proved crucial to both teams as Vancouver would have finished with the top seed in the Western Conference if they could have prevented the 77th minute equalizer, and San Jose only made the playoffs on a tiebreaker over FC Dallas. Expect this game to play out much the same as that game. Vancouver does not seem to mind losing the possession battle and playing for counter attacking chances. Fredy Montero and Chris Wondolowski ended the season on 13 goals each, so look for the teams’ respective strikers to try to power their club to the next stage of the playoffs. Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
- Atlanta United versus Columbus Crew SC: Amidst growing turmoil off the field concerning the Crew possibly leaving Columbus for Austin after the 2018 season, the Crew quietly made a big run on the field finishing the season with 22 points from their last ten played (6-0-4). Atlanta United were a resounding success in this their inaugural season. They broke the all-time club attendance record for soccer in North America and finished the season with 55 points and an astounding +30 goal differential while securing the four seed in the competitive Eastern Conference. Two forces are at work in this game as Atlanta will want to capitalize on their momentum from the regular season and lock in a major fanbase for years to come with an extended playoff run, and the Crew are playing out their version of Major League (the movie) and are trying to earn a home playoff game where the local fans can come out in droves to show just how much they deserve to keep their team. Referee: Allen Chapman
- Houston Dynamo versus Sporting Kansas City: Houston only finished ahead of Sporting Kansas City by one point to earn the right to host this game. And with a 12-1-4 (W-L-D) home record, they are glad that they did as their 1-9-7 away record is not so good. Sporting KC only finished with 13 away points (2-8-7) this year and will be a big underdog. But it is the playoffs and one goal or one penalty kick call can make all the difference, especially when the center referee is known for making the “tough calls” when the playoffs roll around. SKC’s starting goalkeeper and front runner for MLS Keeper of the Year, Tim Melia, is questionable with a right hamstring injury. Referee: Mark Geiger
From a Sounders Point of View:
The Seattle Sounders are the second seed in the Western Conference. The Sounders will play the higher seeded of the Western teams that survive this round. If the Whitecaps win on Wednesday, they play the Whitecaps. If San Jose wins, they will play the winner of Houston vs. SKC. Everyone likes less travel, right? Go Vancouver Whitecaps.
Secondly, the only way that the Sounders would be able to host MLS Cup is if the New York Red Bulls make the cup. Let’s go Red Bulls!
National TV Listings:
Chicago Fire v New York Red Bulls
Date/Time: Wednesday, 5:30 PM
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Vancouver Whitecaps v San Jose Earthquakes
Date/Time: Wednesday, 7:30 PM
TV: UniMas (English via the SAP button)
Atlanta United v Columbus Crew
Date/Time: Thursday, 4:00 PM
Streaming: Watch ESPN
Houston Dynamo v Sporting Kansas City
Date/Time: Thursday, 6:30 PM
TV: UniMas (English via the SAP button)
This is your Sounder at Heart MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round open gamethread. Watch with us.