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Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals continue

Mateschitz, Red Bull co-founder and owner, passes away at 78

Major League Soccer is mourning the passing of Red Bull owner and co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, who passed away on Saturday at age 78. The Austrian executive co-founded Red Bull in 1984 and turned it into the leading sports drink company in the world. Known for their unique marketing initiatives, Mateschitz’s Red Bulls pioneered the style of buying and renaming sports teams with the name and logo of the company, including the New York Red Bulls. The club was named the MetroStars before Red Bull purchased the club in 2006.

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What to watch for on a semifinal Sunday

It’s another stellar day of playoff soccer. Truly blessed in the eyes of the soccer universe’s controllers are we. Here’s a few things to keep an eye on if you need any other incentive to watch today. Or you can just skip all this and make sure you’re set up in front of the TV with absolutely no distractions. Time is of the essence here. It’s not a day to take risks. Unless you’re NYCFC. Then I’d take some risks. Which, hey, speaking of…

Which NYCFC are we going to get?

And let’s remember, that’s not entirely dependent on NYCFC. CF Montréal will have plenty to say about which version of the Pigeons shows up. If Victor Wanyama, Samuel Piette and Ismael Kone take control of the game early, we could see the kind of NYCFC that struggled through the third quarter of this season instead of the NYCFC we’ve gotten over the last few weeks. The one that’s looked a lot more like the group that won MLS Cup last season.

Controlling the midfield will always be the most important aspect with a high-possession team like Montréal. If they get put back on their heels for the majority of the game, they’re probably in trouble. But that’s usually not how things work with their games. So, what makes this one so interesting is NYCFC continuing that MLS Cup-caliber form might just depend on counterattacking moments today. The Pigeons finished third in the league this season in counter-attacking goals, just behind LAFC and the Union, who lead, like, every relevant category. That’s really good company. And if their performance against Inter Miami is any indication, they’ve brought that quick strike ability with them to the playoffs.

Going up against a team that’s usually steering the game like Montréal, the match might be decided on whether or not NYCFC can hit at speed against a team that put together solid defensive performances game after game, even if their goals allowed numbers don’t quite illustrate that. Despite 50 goals conceded on the season, Montréal had the lowest expected goals allowed total in the league. Essentially, they weren’t giving up chances in bunches or giving up high-quality chances, they were just doomed by bad goalkeeping and bad luck. And against counters, they allowed just three goals all season. That’s tied for the fewest of any team in the league (yes, that includes LAFC and the Union).

Basically, an ugly game where Montréal is able to slow things down and guide the game greatly benefits Wilfried Nancy and company. A wide-open game that’s moving back and forth at a speed where NYCFC can bring out some of Montréal’s worst instincts (and luck) obviously benefits the Pigeons, even if Montréal is actually a lot better defensively than you might think. So which game do we get? I’m not entirely sure. But it feels like Montréal’s midfield will have a lot to say about that.

Hey, did you y’all know Austin have never beaten Dallas?

Not once. And you might as well prepare yourself because you’re going to hear a lot about it today.

Why have Austin never earned three points in this matchup? Well…uh…I’ve genuinely asked around with the good folks at The Striker who cover both teams daily and no one really seems to know exactly why. The talent level of the two teams hasn’t merited a three-win and two-draw record for Dallas in five meetings. We can really only guess. There are some good theories though. Mainly the fact that Dallas’ ability to press high up the field and find the net in transition is kind of the best way to punish the Verde and Black in general. For whatever reason, Austin just can’t seem to limit critical mistakes against their biggest rival.

Austin were eighth-worst in the league this season in goals allowed off of turnovers. They allowed 15 goals, tied with the Red Bulls for the worst mark of any playoff team besides Real Salt Lake. Dallas meanwhile, allowed just eight, tied for the fourth-best mark in the league. Flip that to the attacking side and FC Dallas come in at third-best in the league in goals scored off of turnovers with 19 this season and Austin come in at 12th with 13.

What we’re left with is a pretty straightforward and somewhat banal level of analysis for this game. If Austin make more mistakes than Dallas, they’re probably going to lose. If they avoid critical errors, Austin are probably going to win. It just seems like this will play out with Austin having like 65% possession no matter what. That’s a lot of time on the ball though. And the more time you're on the ball, the more time you have to make a mistake. We’ll see if Austin can avoid being the best aide to their worst enemy today. It will make all the difference.

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Good luck out there. Follow your gut.