Major League Soccer’s playoffs kicked into high gear on Saturday as the conference quarterfinals began.
Here’s your viewer’s guide to all eight games in the round: two Saturday, three Sunday, and three Tuesday, including the Union vs. New England on Tuesday night.
Home teams are listed first, and all times are Eastern. Betting odds are via Rivers Casino as of Monday.
Records listed are for regular-season games, which include the MLS Is Back Tournament’s group stage but not the knockout rounds. Western Conference teams’ records include points per game, which decided the standings there. COVID-19 outbreaks meant not all Western teams played the same number of regular-season games.
Tuesday, 6 p.m. (FS1, Fox Deportes)
Records: Toronto 13-5-5, 44 points (0-1 in tournament knockout rounds); Nashville 8-7-8, 32 points (didn’t play in MLS tournament due to COVID cases)
Odds: Toronto +120, Nashville +250, tie +225
Key matchup: Toronto D Richie Laryea vs. Nashville M Randall Leal
Leal opened the scoring in Nashville’s 3-0 play-in round win over Inter Miami with a sensational goal. If Nashville is to pull off the upset, he’ll have to come up big again. Laryea has played very well at left back while Justin Morrow has been out injured.
Tuesday, 8 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Records: Philadelphia 14-4-5, 47 points (2-1 in tournament knockout rounds); New England 8-7-8, 32 points (0-1 in knockout tournament rounds)
Odds: Philadelphia -112, New England +285, tie +280
Key matchup: Philadelphia manager Jim Curtin vs. New England manager Bruce Arena
“I think when we arrive in Philadelphia, they’re going to give us the Supporters’ Shield because we earned it for them,” Arena joked after New England beat Montreal, 2-1, in the play-in round Friday night. He wasn’t wrong, though. It’s absurd that these teams are meeting for the sixth time this year, and nearly as absurd that the Union are 4-0-1 in the games so far.
The Union are the better team, but that means nothing. Arena will throw the house at them, and Curtin will have to respond. He might also have another big goalkeeping decision to make if Andre Blake isn’t ready yet.
Tuesday, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Records: Seattle 1.77 ppg., 11-5-6, 39 points (0-1 in tournament knockout rounds); Los Angeles 9-8-5, 32 points (1-1 in tournament knockout rounds)
Odds: Seattle +120, Los Angeles +200, tie +280
Key matchup: Seattle’s Roman Torres or Shane O’Neill vs. Los Angeles F Carlos Vela
LAFC enters this game decimated by coronavirus cases contracted by four key players while they were on national team duty: Uruguay’s Brian Rodriguez and Diego Rossi, the league’s top scorer; and Ecuador’s Jose Cifuentes and Diego Palacios. But they have superstar Carlos Vela, which means they have a chance.
Seattle won’t have key centerback Xavier Arreaga, another Ecuadorean, because he’s in a post-national team quarantine. Fortunately, he hasn’t tested positive. Don’t be surprised if Torres, a playoff warhorse, gets the call to start for him.
The following games have already been played:
Saturday, noon (UniMas, TUDN)
Records: Orlando 11-4-8, 41 points (3-1 in MLS tournament knockout rounds); New York 12-8-3, 39 points (1-1 in knockout rounds)
Odds: Orlando +170, New York +150, tie +265
Key matchup: Orlando F Chris Mueller vs. New York D Ronald Matarrita
In theory, Mueller starts on the right wing. In practice, he’s liable to pop up in a lot of dangerous places, and as his 10 goals and 7 assists this year prove, he knows what to do when he gets there. Matarrita is an outstanding left back who can attack and defend equally well. If he has to stay deep to watch Mueller, that’s advantage Orlando.
Saturday, 3 p.m. (UniMas, TUDN)
Records: Columbus 12-6-5, 41 points (0-1 in tournament knockout rounds); 9-9-5, 32 points (didn’t get out of group stage)
Odds: Columbus +105, New York +245, tie +265
Key matchup: Columbus M Darlington Nagbe vs. New York M Sean Davis
Union fans know all too well that the Crew have arguably the league’s best central midfield in Nagbe, Artur, and Lucas Zelarayan. Davis is the Red Bulls’ best disruptor and must pick his poison with whom to mark. Don’t be surprised if he picks Nagbe, who sets the tempo.
Sunday, 4 p.m. (FS1, Fox Deportes)
Records: Kansas City 1.86 points per game, 12-6-3, 39 points; San Jose 1.3 ppg., 8-9-6, 30 points (both teams were 1-1 in tournament knockout rounds)
Odds: Kansas City -155, San Jose +380, tie +330
Key matchup: Kansas City D Roberto Puncec vs. San Jose F Chris Wondolowski
San Jose thrives on two things: making games chaotic, and Wondolowski scoring. They’ll probably have to do both to stand a chance of pulling off an upset. Really, though, this space is for recognizing the fact that the all-time leading scorer in MLS history will give it one more season in 2021, a few months after he turns 38 in January.
Sunday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Records: Minnesota 1.62 ppg., 9-5-7, 34 points (2-1 in tournament knockout rounds); Colorado 1.56 ppg., 8-6-4, 28 points
Odds: Minnesota +115, Colorado +210, tie +285
Key matchup: Minnesota M Kevin Molino vs. Colorado M Cole Bassett
It’s a minor miracle that the Rapids are in the playoffs at all, after five of their games were canceled due to a big COVID outbreak on the team. The team racked up just enough total points to make their berth feel respectable: 28 was the 8th-highest total in the West.
Bassett was a big reason for the success, with five goals and five assists. The 19-year-old could make the next U.S. under-20 World Cup team. In this game, he’ll likely run into Molino, who capped off a fine campaign with two goals and an assist in the Loons’ regular-season finale.
Sunday, 10 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Records: Portland 11-6-6, 39 points (4-0 in tournament knockout rounds, won the final); Dallas 1.55 ppg., 9-6-7, 34 points (didn’t play in the tournament due to a COVID outbreak)
Odds: Portland +100, Dallas +255, tie +270
Key matchup: Portland M Diego Chara vs. Dallas M Jesus Ferreira
After a decade as one of the league’s elite defensive midfielders, Chara finally earned a place in the Best XI this year. Ferreira is a great young playmaker, and will have a big test trying to avoid being eaten up.