It's playoff time.
The Knockout Round commences midweek, with four matches split evenly between Wednesday and Thursday, with simple stakes: win or go home. Let's take a quick driveby around each match with a matchup to pay special attention to in each.
NYCFC vs Philadelphia Union
7 pm ET | Match Preview | FS1, UniMas, TVAS, TSN
For these two Eastern Conference foes, the battle of the midfield will go a long way to deciding this game.
When they met in Philly, the Union's trio of Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya and Borek Dockal overran NYCFC in the midfield en route to a 2-0 win. On Decision Day presented by AT&T the Cityzens inflicted revenge, as the return of Yangel Herrera to the starting XI for the first time since May helped guide the team to a 3-1 victory.
Much has been made of the impact Herrera's absence has had to Dome Torrent's struggles since taking over for Patrick Vieira, but the Venezuelan back and says he's ready for 120 minutes if necessary. The likely trio of Herrera, Alex Ring and Maxi Moralez sets up a heavyweight bout against the Union's trio in the middle of a tight pitch at Yankee Stadium.
Bonus: Cory Burke vs. ... his teammates? It'll be interesting to watch how the striker rebounds from a heated argument with Dockal prior to being benched at halftime on Sunday.
FC Dallas vs Portland Timbers
9:30 pm ET | Match Preview | UniMas, TVAS, TSN
How about a macro view rather than getting stuck into a specific duel: what happens when both teams try to play without the ball and counter?
Matt Doyle dug deeper into each side's tactics in his preview of the eight Knockout Round teams, writing: "It's going to be weird watching Dallas and the Timbers daring each other to carry possession."
FC Dallas limp into the playoffs as losers of their last three games, have struggled to create goals from open play and haven't beat a playoff team since July 28 when they triumphed 3-2 over Sporting Kansas City.
The two sides drew 0-0 on Sept. 29, so, perhaps that's what happens when both sides try to play without the ball. Possession was split nearly 50/50 in that one, for what it's worth.
D.C. United vs Columbus Crew SC
8:00 pm ET | Match Preview | FS1, UniMas, TVAS, TSN
It's true, D.C. United are much more than just LuchoRoo, but, the key factor in deciding this game will be Wil Trapp vs LuchoRoo in Zone 14. With how much freedom Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney are given, they can be dangerous from anywhere. But, the space in front of the center backs will be key on Thursday.
Rooney and Acosta have been shredding teams along D.C.'s rise from last place in the East to fourth. Crew SC will need to lean heavily on one of the league's top defensive units to slow down D.C.'s red-hot attack.
The two teams enter the game on opposite ends of the form spectrum, with D.C. undefeated in 10, with seven wins in that span, while Columbus have won three times in the same timeframe.
LAFC vs Real Salt Lake
10:30 pm ET | Match Preview | ESPN2, UniMas, TVAS, TSN
In Hollywood, it's all about the stars. So, keep an eye on the LAFC wingers vs RSL fullbacks ... or, wherever Carlos Vela lines up. If Eduard Atuesta joins Lee Nguyen and Benny Feilhaber in the midfield, then Brooks Lennon and Aaron Herrera will deal with Vela and Diego Rossi on the wings.
Vela, with 14 goals and 13 assists in 28 appearances, has averaged a goal or assists in every 88.1 minutes in 2018 while Rossi has 12 goals and nine assists in 32 appearances this year. They have been the team's two constants in attack as some combination of Adama Diomande, Marco Urena and Christian Ramirez have split time at striker while Feilhaber and Nguyen are given more defensive responsibility than the wingers. With how much the RSL fullbacks like to get forward, the duels down the flanks will be a fun one.
Bonus: Feilhaber vs Kyle Beckerman. In 2015, Feilhaber called Beckerman "a bit of a prick", while Beckerman called Feilhaber a bozo. I'm here for the pettiness. Let's see if there's one more chapter to this genuine feud.