Who Do You Love? MLS Eastern Conference Playoffs

Last Word On Soccer, by Martin Bihl

A few weeks ago we theorized about who New York City FC would like to face in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, and, more importantly, who they wouldn’t.

But NYCFC aren’t the only team in the postseason (but wouldn’t it be easier if they were?), so we reached out to some experts on those other teams to find out who they would like to face and who they wouldn’t.

Who Do You Love? MLS Eastern Conference Playoffs

Begin at the top

Let’s start with the team at the top of the Eastern Conference Playoffs picture, the dreaded New York Red Bulls, by reaching out to Mark Fishkin, host of the Seeing Red podcast. Mark, let me see if I can guess who the Red Bulls would love to line up against.

“Based on recent form, New York would rather face NYCFC (2-1-0 +8 GD), a team they have experience beating both home and away by large margins.”

Why am I not surprised?

“But the Red Bulls would also like its chances against Toronto FC (1-1-1, +1) that the Red Bulls feel are soft in the back and are suddenly suspect at home (0-1-4 on a recent home stand).“

And who would you not like to face in the Eastern Conference Playoffs?

“The biggest threat for the Red Bulls is D.C. United. New York went winless against their oldest rival (0-1-2, -2) in 2016. They blew two-goal leads twice, the last time in late September after leading 2-0 in the 89th minute. The Red Bulls have made a habit of coughing up leads this season, but those hurt the most. United is inside the Red Bulls’ head given the history between the clubs, DC’s torrid recent form, and the mid-season shift to RFK by Lloyd Sam.”

That’s quite an advantage. Does Seth Vertelney, co-host of the DC United podcast “Open Wide for Some Soccer” see it the same way?

“In the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, DC will face either the Impact de Montreal or the Philadelphia Union. Based on recent form, I think they’d prefer Philly because the Union have really hit the skids lately. On the other hand, Montreal is kind of a wildcard with Didier Drogba back in the fold, in some form or another. They could be terrible or they could be really tough.”

And after that?

“DC has actually gotten good results against the other three teams recently – two draws against RBNY, a win at TFC and a win against NYCFC. So I don’t think they’ll be intimidated by any of them.”

Not even the Red Bulls?

“They knocked us out of the playoffs two seasons in a row. So it would be nice to get some revenge on them. But they’re probably the best team in the East right now so I think we’d prefer NYCFC or TFC.”

So would Toronto like to face DC too? We asked Kristin Knowles, the host of Toronto FC’s Vocal Minority Podcast.

“Given last weekend, no. Even though we’ve done well against them in the past they’re getting hot at the right time and were able to lock us down. Of course if we have Sebastian Giovinco back that could change.”

Okay, then who would you like to face?

“Playing Montreal would be emotionally very satisfying given what happened last year. Plus, we just like beating Montreal because there’s so much history between the two clubs. And they’re also generally exciting games.“

“If we can’t face Montreal in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, then playing the Union seems like a good prospect. Even though, like DCU they came to BMO and played us to a frustrating draw.”

Curiously, Philadelphia Union podcaster Chris Gibbons (All Three Points) would like the Union to face Toronto too.

“I do think Toronto is as favorable a matchup as possible. The only decent spot for the Union in the last two months was Toronto away, a match in which they led and should have won. I think they could win a one-off against Toronto right now more than the others.”

And who do you not want the Union to face?

“We want nothing to do with D.C. They’re hot right now, and the Union haven’t played well against them all year.”

So no one wants to face DC United in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, right?

“The real focus for Montreal is home field advantage. And the only possible opponent at Stade Saputo is DC United. That’s what people here really want,” says Matthias van Halst, French Language Editor at MajorLeagueSoccer.com and host of the L’Émission Coup Franc podcast. And Kevin Laramée, Host of Off the Woodworkx and Managing Editor for Sports Podcasting Network concurs. “I think Montreal wants to face DC in Montreal. Anything besides having to play a one off at BMO Field against Toronto.”

And the winner is…?

By the time you read this, the Eastern Conference Playoffs will be set. Did everyone get what they want? Will it matter? Remember, last year Portland ran the table after just squeaking in to the final playoff spot.

Stay tuned.

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