Columbus, Houston, Seattle: Will home cooking prevail in Match 3?


Three Round One Best-of-3 series have gone the distance, meaning three Conference Semifinal tickets remain unpunched.

From the Western Conference, LAFC (No. 3) and Sporting Kansas City (No. 8) both await their opponents. Same for Orlando City SC (No. 2) in the Eastern Conference, though we already know FC Cincinnati (No. 1) will host Philadelphia Union (No. 4).

All Conference Semifinal matchups occur after the November international break. Pressure's here in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Whose season marches on after Match 3 this weekend?

Seattle Sounders FC (No. 2) vs. FC Dallas (No. 7)
Western Conference

How we got here: Seattle won 2-0 in Match 1, then Dallas snagged the 3-1 victory in Match 2. Both clubs got the W at home.

A stat tells a story: Seattle are unbeaten in 18 straight home MLS matches against FC Dallas since 2012. The home team has lost once in 29 meetings (all competitions) between the clubs since May 2014.

What Seattle must do: Lean on their title-winning, playoff experience. Nicolás Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz have shifted to super-sub roles, but there's plenty of veteran know-how in the XI to get the job done.

What Dallas must do: In the absence of Alan Velasco (ACL tear), hope Bernard Kamungo maintains form. The US U-23 international had 0g/1a and a drawn penalty kick last time out, plus scored a Decision Day brace at the LA Galaxy that punched FCD's postseason ticket.

The odds say: Seattle take care of business and advance, especially if Jordan Morris (goals in back-to-back games) stays red-hot in the No. 9 role.

The winner gets: LAFC (No. 3) in the Western Conference Semifinals. Seattle would host, Dallas would hit the road.

Houston Dynamo FC (No. 4) vs. Real Salt Lake (No. 5)
Western Conference

WHEN: Saturday, 6 pm ET
WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass

How we got here: Houston won 2-1 in Match 1, then RSL won 5-4 on PKs after a 1-1 draw in Match 2. Both clubs won at home.

A stat tells a story: RSL's eight regular-season away wins were the second-most in MLS this season. Houston had the best home record in the Western Conference (11W-2L-4D). Who budges?

What Houston must do: Find ways for Héctor Herrera to dictate the game. The Mexican international leads MLS in touches (2,986) and pass attempts (2,259) this season. Alongside Artur, Coco Carrasquilla and Amine Bassi, that midfield group is the lifeblood of the team.

What RSL must do: Hope Cristian Arango's hamstring holds up. The Colombian striker completely changed Match 2 when entering as a second-half substitute. He injects confidence in Diego Luna, Jefferson Savarino, etc.

The odds say: Ben Olsen's team has mostly had RSL's number all year, and that continues. Particularly, fans on both sides of the Wasatch Range will remember Houston's 3-1 US Open Cup semifinal win all too well.

The winner gets: Sporting Kansas City (No. 8) in the Western Conference Semifinals. With the higher seed, either Houston or RSL would host.

Columbus Crew (No. 3) vs. Atlanta United (No. 6)
Eastern Conference

WATCH: Sunday, 7 pm ET
WHEN: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass

How we got here: Columbus won 2-0 in Match 1, then Atlanta stayed alive with a 4-2 win in Match 2. Both clubs won at home.

A stat tells a story: Columbus are unbeaten in 16 straight home matches across all competitions (12W-0L-4D). Atlanta have lost their last three road playoff matches, failing to score each time.

What Columbus must do: Hope Cucho Hernández stays on a heater (or Diego Rossi has his playoff moment). The Crew's Colombian striker has scored in four straight matches.

What Atlanta must do: Find more Thiago Almada magic. The Argentine maestro returned from red-card suspension for Match 2 and it all clicked for striker Giorgos Giakoumakis and wingers Xande Silva and Saba Lobjanidze.

The odds say: Toss-up. Columbus' play style creates holes defensively, but Atlanta have enough firepower to overcome road woes.

The winner gets: Orlando City SC (No. 2) in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Whoever advances hits the road (lower seed).