Welcome to another edition of "Discuss," in which MLSsoccer.com editors debate the topics of the moment in MLS.
The Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs are finally here, and while all 12 teams have a chance to lift Cup, history has not been kind to clubs that have had to hit the road in the Knockout Round. Just three of the 16 away teams to have contested the Knockout Round since it was introduced in 2011 have advanced, which prompts today's question: Which away team has the best chance of advancing out of the Knockout Round in the 2017 playoffs?
Doyle: New York Red Bulls
It's pretty clearly RBNY, right? They're facing a Fire team with major injury concerns and a leaky backline, which is not a great way to be heading into the playoffs.
Couch: San Jose Earthquakes
The ’Caps have been flat for a month and the Quakes are riding high after that stoppage-time winner on Decision Day. SJ playing with house money could lead to a long offseason in Vancouver.
Castillo: Red Bulls
Of course, the self-flagellation conversation around RBNY always involves their road performance, but their last trip to Chicago at least ended in a draw. With New York riding high after drubbing D.C., and with Chicago missing a few key players, the Red Bulls have a shot.
Rosano: Sporting KC
Even without the injured Tim Melia, this battle-tested Sporting squad has what it takes to top the Dynamo, making their first playoff appearance since 2013, at BBVA Compass Stadium. This should be the lowest-scoring affair of the four Knockout Round games, and the better defense (Sporting's) will prevail.
Baer: Red Bulls
Chicago haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since July 1 and New York would have been a top four seed if they had Daniel Royer all season (they averaged 1.65 ppg when he started).
Stejskal: Red Bulls
No Michael De Leeuw and maybe no Bastian Schweinsteiger means potential problems for the Fire. Chicago will still have a great shot, but they're less of a sure thing than Vancouver, Houston or Atlanta.
Borg: Columbus Crew SC
The intimidating home field crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the superstars wearing the Five Stripes and the collective national enthusiasm surrounding ATLUTD would generally be considered enough to engulf any No. 5 seed in a single-elimination playoff game. But Columbus Crew SC, the hottest team in MLS and one that plays with a style that has even earned the praise of Atlanta head coach Tata Martino, is not your typical playoff team.
Not only are Crew SC motivated by last week’s developments and the constant chatter about the club’s future, but they also likely see Atlanta as a team they can take despite two losses against them earlier in the season. With a similar passing style – albeit less intricate –and a preference to play out of the back, Atlanta are a team against which this finely tuned version of Crew SC (unbeaten in 10) arguably match up favorably.
Here’s a clue: Not once since taking over before the 2014 season has Crew SC manager Gregg Berhalter ever volunteered any locker room billboard material. You have to believe he must know something when he offers up the following line to the media on Sunday: “We’re not going to be scared of Atlanta.”