The Recap

New York Red Bulls (1) vs. FC Cincinnati (2)

The Red Bulls opened the scoring with an absolute stunner from Lewis Morgan in the 48th minute. However, FC Cincinnati eventually found their footing and goals from Lucho Acosta in the 74th minute and Brandon Vazquez in the 86th gave Cincy their first-ever playoff win in their first-ever playoff game.

The Knifey Lions will head to face top-seeded Philadelphia at 8 pm ET Thursday on FS1 and FOX Deportes. The Red Bulls have now failed to make MLS Cup in 13 consecutive trips to the playoffs.

LA Galaxy (1) vs. Nashville SC (0)

The Galaxy outplayed Nashville but couldn’t find a breakthrough until Julian Araujo’s 60th-minute header gave LA the lone goal of the game. The Galaxy win sets up the El Trafico of El Traficos when they head across town to face LAFC at 10 pm ET Thursday on FS1 and FOX Deportes.

What you need to know

Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs continue with two more Round One games

Austin FC host Real Salt Lake at 3 pm ET on ABC and ESPN Deportes, followed by CF Montréal and Orlando City at 8 pm ET on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.

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What to watch for on a Playoff Sunday

Two more playoff games today. These feel a little more one-sided though. At least on paper. Let’s take a look at what needs to go right for the lower seeds to pull off an upset today.

Is Austin awake?

I don’t think it’s unfair to wonder if Austin have eased off the gas a little too much down the stretch. Over their last 14 games, the Verde and Black won just four times. To be fair, it seemed like they had second place locked up for a while. With nowhere to go up or down, it’s hard to get up and fight game after game. But now you’re going up against the ultimate high-effort team in the ultimate high-effort setting. How quickly can Austin get up to speed and start to look like the version of themselves we saw in the first half of the season?

It’s a tough ask. The good news is, they have a few more match-winners across the field. Sebastian Driussi and Diego Fagundez are more dynamic than anything RSL have to offer. If things get dire for Austin and they’re staring down penalties, they can at least know they have a few guys who can do something special at any moment.

But we know all too well at this point what RSL can do in these kinds of scenarios. Last year, we saw RSL stifle Seattle at every opportunity until they somehow left Lumen Field with a win without taking a single shot. This will be a different kind of atmosphere and vibe today, but the principle is the same. If RSL can keep things close, win 50/50 and even 60/40 balls, then they have a chance to stun Austin here.

It’s going to take a lot. But if Austin come out flat then RSL’s job gets a whole lot easier. That’s hard to imagine with the crowd at Q2 Stadium today, but a club’s first-ever playoff game presents its own challenges.

Can Oscar Pareja and Orlando drag CF Montréal into a rock fight?

Look, there are very, very clear reasons why one team is the second seed and one team is the seventh seed here. The underlying numbers and the eye test all suggest CF Montréal are the better team and Orlando are a few pieces away from truly being able to compete with the league’s best. But when has that stopped Orlando this year?

The objective is simple today. Orlando are going to try and drag Montréal into a rock fight. Essentially, that means Orlando are going to try and make this ugly. They may not control every moment, but they’re going to try to clutter up enough moments to make things difficult for Montréal.

Now, Wilfried Nancy is a good enough manager to adjust to whatever wrinkles are thrown at him, but Oscar Pareja is good enough to adjust to the adjustments. There’s going to be a fascinating tactical battle bubbling under the surface here that basically looks like Orlando running around trying to trap Montréal in a net while “Yakety Sax” plays.

The good news for Montréal is they have match winners in Djordje Mihailovic and Romell Quioto who can make a difference at a moment’s notice if things get a little too slow out there. The other good news is they have the quality across the field and especially in midfield with Victor Wanyama and company to keep it from getting ugly in the first place. Again, there’s multiple reasons they’re heavy favorites here.

However, the bad news is they don’t quite have the goalkeeping that makes you feel comfortable in every situation. If Orlando does find a few ways to slow this game down, they can place a pretty good bet on catching a break against Montréal’s goalkeeping. It’s been their Achilles' heel all year and this is exactly the kind of game where it could show up and leave everyone wondering, “How did they lose that?”

But a hot start and an early goal could open this up quickly. And at that point, you have to feel even better about the favorites. All they have to do is avoid the traps Pareja is going to set.

The Reading Rainbow
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Good luck out there. Drink more Gary.