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The Recap

Austin FC 2(3)-2(1) Real Salt Lake

Austin FC advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals after winning 3-1 on penalties.

RSL jumped out to an immediate lead thanks to a header from Sergio Cordova in the third minute. Cordova followed that up moments later when he converted a penalty that put Austin down 2-0. However, Sebastian Driussi answered in the 31st minute with a goal of his own and Austin continued to send in cross after cross and shot after shot. They even got a boost when Rubio Rubin collided with keeper Brad Stuver to end his second yellow card of the game.T

Down to 10 men, RSL bunkered down, but a stoppage-time handball and the subsequent penalty from Driussi sent the game to extra time tied at 2-2. In the eventual penalty shootout, Brad Stuver made two saves and Tate Schmitt blasted the ball over the crossbar to give Austin their first-ever playoff win. h

CF Montréal 2-0 Orlando City

Orlando stifled Montréal for a moment, but Ismael Kone broke through in the 68th minute to make it 1-0 and Djordje Mihailovic sealed the win with a stoppage-time penalty. Montréal will face the winner of Inter Miami-NYCFC.

What you need to know

Round One comes to a close tonight

NYCFC host  Inter Miami at 7 pm ET and FC Dallas welcome Minnesota United at 9:30 pm ET. Both games are on FS1 and FOX Deportes. After tonight, the conference semifinals will be set.

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What to watch for on a Playoff Monday

The field for the conference semifinals is nearly set. But first, we’ve got two big games to get through. Here’s what to watch for as Round One wraps up.

Which injuries matter more?

NYCFC may be without Talles Magno and Tayvon Gray. They will be without Alfredo Morales.

Inter Miami should at least have Alejandro Pozuelo off the bench. They may be without Leo Campana.

Inter Miami might be in a little more trouble here. Missing out on a key striker like Campana and potentially only having Pozuelo for a short amount of time is a major blow. Meanwhile, NYCFC have been working Anton Tinnerholm and Keaton Parks back into the lineup and should be prepared to handle Morales and Gray’s absence.

That being said, Magno’s absence changes the chemistry of NYCFC’s attack in a significant way. Ever since they lost Taty Castellanos, goals have been much tougher to come by. They shifted Magno into a starting role as their No. 9 and while it hasn’t been perfect, he did pick up a goal and two assists in his final two games of the regular season before getting injured. If he can’t go, they’ll turn to Heber. Heber has always been a decent option and they’re still plenty good enough to win battles all over the field, but without Magno, the Pigeons feel a lot less dynamic. And they already struggled to feel dynamic.

That opens a window for Inter Miami. They don’t need to be outstanding, they just need NYCFC to stay close enough to punch. As long as they have Gonzalo Higuain, that punch can be a hefty one. It’s obviously going to be easier of course if Pozuelo is around for 70+ minutes to help them throw it, but in this particular situation, Inter Miami just need to survive and see what happens. This was never going to be a game where they overran NYCFC. And Magno being out helps things stay a little tighter. That may just be all they need in the end to pull off something special.

What’s different about Minnesota United?

You’re probably aware at this point the Loons snuck into the playoffs after winning just once in their final seven games. They pulled it out with a Decision Day win over Vancouver, but, man, they were stumbling down the stretch here. Especially after center back Bakaye Dibassy went out for the year with an injury.

That being said, it’s not exactly like the attack kept getting burned by a hole in the back line. The Loons have outright forgotten how to score as of late. In those last seven games, they scored just four times. They were shut out four times in that same span.

So what’s different today? Going up against an FC Dallas team that quietly turned into the best defensive team in the West by goals allowed, how do the Loons change what’s defined their last month and a half of soccer? Honestly, I have no idea. None.

Either Adrian Heath has something up his sleeve today that just blows Dallas away or Bebelo Reynoso puts the Loons on his back the same way he did in 2020. If neither of those things happens, then it’s hard to see Minnesota United making it past a Dallas team that hasn’t been spectacular, but has been consistent all season.

The last time these two teams met, Dallas cruised to a 3-0 win. That was in Saint Paul. At Toyota Stadium tonight, everything will need to be different. It’s hard to see it happening. But maybe the Loons just needed a Decision Day win to start looking like one of the hottest teams in the league again. We know they have it in them.

The Reading Rainbow
Full Time

Good luck out there. Fight the long fight.