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Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs: The highly anticipated postseason pressure is on

  • Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs: The highly anticipated postseason pressure is on
  • Atlanta’s title defense countered by Bruce Arena’s playoff-rich history
  • Minnesota’s momentum facing a Galaxy of star power
  • Toronto, D.C. United carry unbeaten streaks into Round 1
  • Red Bulls feel at home in Chester, battle Union for first time in Audi MLS Cup Playoffs
  • Seattle hopes to repeat recent home dominance against FC Dallas
  • Portland Timbers look to repeat road warrior status against youthful RSL in Round 1
  • MLS Academy Products fueling U.S. and Canada ahead of Concacaf Nations League clash
  • Darlington Nagbe, Toronto FC earn MLS Fair Play Award
  • Round 1 Notes
 

Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs: The highly anticipated postseason pressure is on

The stakes are higher than ever for this weekend’s Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Round 1 games, which will drastically cut the field from 14 to eight teams in the new straight single-elimination format. It’s win-or-go-home, and a few matchups are presenting some significant advantages.
 
  • Atlanta United have never lost to the New England Revolution(Oct. 19, 1 p.m. ET, Univision / TUDN / TVA Sports)
  • Seattle Sounders FC are on a nine-game home undefeated streak against FC Dallas(Oct. 19, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports / FOX Deportes / TVA Sports)
  • The Portland Timbers have won the past four against Real Salt Lake(Oct. 19, 10 p.m. ET, ESPNews / TSN / TVA Sports)
  • In three seasons, the LA Galaxy are undefeated in every encounter against Minnesota United FC(Oct. 20, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN / ESPN Deportes / TVA Sports / TSN)
 
More information on the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs and the official bracket are available here.
 

Atlanta’s title defense countered by Bruce Arena’s playoff-rich history

A mammoth Round 1 of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs gets underway this Saturday with reigning MLS Cup champions, No. 2 Atlanta United, hosting turnaround No. 7 New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (1 p.m. ET, Univision / TUDN / TVA Sports).
 
Atlanta’s first step in its title defense comes with a healthy Josef Martinez, an undeniable home-field advantage, and an unbeaten prior record in all meetings against the opposition. Meanwhile, the Bruce Arena-led Revolution make their first playoff appearance since 2015 thanks to a record reversal from 3-8-4 before Arena to 8-3-8 after, and the addition of Newcomer of the Year finalist Carles Gil – one of only four players to hit double-digit goals and assists this season.
 
As the winningest head coach in MLS Cup Playoffs history, will Arena’s record-tying 50th postseason coaching appearance continue the Revs’ 2019 season of redemption?
 

Minnesota’s momentum facing a Galaxy of star power

In the spotlight of a brand-new stadium and their first-ever Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearance, Minnesota United’s season of conquests continues this Sunday (8:20 p.m. ET, ESPN / ESPN Deportes / TSN / TVA Sports) while hosting an opponent they have yet to defeat – the LA Galaxy and Zlatan Ibrahimović.
 
Ibrahimović will grace the postseason with his presence for the first time in his MLS career after scoring a dominant 14 goals in his last 10 regular season games to become a finalist for the Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player award.
 
Ibrahimović lives for these momentous occasions, and Sunday will be no different. However, Minnesota’s home record (10-1-6) features zero Western Conference losses at Allianz Field and could bring their supporters the namesake celebration of their “Wonderwall” anthem.
 

Toronto, D.C. United carry unbeaten streaks, momentum into Round 1

Toronto FC and D.C. United capped off the regular season in robust fashion and will look to sustain their unbeaten streaks in Round 1 of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs this Saturday at BMO Field (6 p.m. ET, TUDN / TSN4 / TVA Sports 2). Host TFC ended the regular season with a 10-game unbeaten streak (4-0-6) while D.C. went unbeaten in five straight (3-0-2) while keeping a clean sheet through that stretch. But each side has just this one game to prove it deserves a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
 
Spanish midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo has been the centerpiece of TFC’s attack this year. The 28-year-old is one of only four players in MLS to tally double digits in both goals (12) and assists (12) this season, and he was recently named a finalist for 2019 MLS Newcomer of the Year. On the flip side, English striker Wayne Rooney (11 goals, 8 assists) carries D.C. United into the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for a second straight year as he vies for an MLS Cup to cap off his league tenure.
 
If United can rekindle their early championship success (four MLS Cups from 1996-2004), they likely will need to do the brunt of work on the road. Toronto reaps the rewards of a late-season surge to garner a home playoff match in its return to the postseason after winning MLS Cup in 2017. Can Greg Vanney’s TFC side keep that upward trend intact, or does Ben Olsen’s United team have the elements to advance in this all-knockout postseason?
 

Red Bulls feel at home in Chester, battle Union for first time in Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs

The New York Red Bulls are readying for a road-heavy postseason, and if there is one locale away from Red Bull Arena that has breathed success, it is Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa. The Philadelphia Union host the Red Bulls on Sunday in Round 1 of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, and it will mark the first time they have faced each other in the postseason (3 p.m. ET, FS1 / FOX Deportes / TSN4 / TVA Sports 2).
 
The Red Bulls are an impressive 4-2-2 over their past eight matches in Chester, a track record that bodes well for the new knockout postseason format. That said, the Union have 10 home victories to their name during the 2019 regular season and are enjoying one of their most successful campaigns in their 10-year history. The matchup also features a pair of former Chicago Fire teammates managing their Eastern Conference sides: Chris Armas for the Red Bulls and Jim Curtin – a finalist for the Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year award – of the Union.
 
On the pitch, Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips has shined against Philadelphia to the tune of seven goals in 14 games. His counterpart, 26-year-old Kacper Przybylko, finished tied for fifth in MLS this year with 15 goals, though he was kept off the score sheet in his previous meetings against the Red Bulls. Are Przybylko and this year’s Union primed to change their track record against the Red Bulls, or will their Eastern Conference rivals continue to thrive in Pennsylvania?
 

No. 2 Seattle hopes to repeat recent home dominance against No. 7 FC Dallas

Seattle Sounders FC have dominated FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field in recent years, as the club has a current nine-game unbeaten streak at home against its Western Conference foe. All-important homefield advantage could benefit No. 2 Sounders FC on Saturday when the teams square off in a single-elimination match in Round One of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports / FOX Deportes / FOX Sports Live / TVA Sports / TSN.ca).
 
Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan will look to carry over strong momentum from national team duty into the postseason, as both started in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 7-0 victory over Cuba on Friday. The duo helped guide Seattle to a dominant 11-2-4 home record this season in MLS play.
 
FC Dallas will hope to overcome a 3-11-3 road mark this season off a mix of talented academy products and red-hot attackers. Five academy products in Reggie Cannon, Jesus Ferreira, Jesse Gonzalez, Paxton Pomykal and Brandon Servania each registered over 1,000 minutes for Dallas this season in addition to being called to the U.S. at the U-20 National Team level or higher this season. Forward Zdeněk Ondrášek meanwhile enters the matchup in an amazing run of form for both club and country, scoring seven goals over as many games in MLS play. The forward registered a goal and two assists over his first two matches for the Czech Republic, including scoring the game-winning goal against England in his national team debut on Friday.
 

No. 6 Portland Timbers look to repeat road warrior status against youthful No. 3 RSL in Round 1

The Portland Timbers enter the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs in search of the same road magic that led them to the 2018 MLS Cup, as last year’s club used three crucial road performances to push them to their second MLS Cup appearance in four seasons. Portland enters the postseason as the No. 6 seed but finished 2019 with the second-best road record among all Western Conference teams. With four straight victories over Real Salt Lake, the Timbers will look to extend their recent run of form on both the road and against RSL on Saturday in Round 1 of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs (10 p.m. ET, ESPNews / ESPN Deportes / WatchESPN / TSN4 / TVA Sports).
 
While Giovanni Savarese guided Portland to a magical run to MLS Cup in his first year in charge of the club, Real Salt Lake will be looking for its own boost from first-year front man and current interim coach Freddy Juarez. Juarez, who rose up the coaching ranks of RSL’s academy, helped RSL to a 12-4-1 home record and featured six academy products who registered over 1,000 minutes this season in Corey Baird, Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo. Baird was called by the USMNT during the October FIFA window, while the other four along with 18-year-old goalkeeper David Ochoa were all called into the U.S. Men’s U-23 squad. Juxtaposing the young backline of Glad, Herrera and Lennon is iconic goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who will look to extend his record-breaking MLS career ahead of his already announced retirement after this season.
 

MLS Academy Products fueling U.S. and Canada ahead of Concacaf Nations League clash

The United States Men’s National Team and Canada will face off in a crucial Concacaf Nations League match on Tuesday as a win for either country would put the team in control to top the group and automatically qualify for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup. Under the Nations League format, the top two finishers per group qualify for the Concacaf Gold Cup, with the top team advancing to the Nations League semifinals. Canada will host the U.S. at BMO Field in Toronto on Tuesday in a match heavy with MLS academy products for both sides (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2 / UniMas / TUDN).
 
In the U.S. MNT’s first Concacaf Nations League match, MLS academy products fueled a 7-0 victory over Cuba on Friday with 10 academy products on the roster. Seattle Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris scored a goal and added three assists in the U.S. win as he continues a tremendous comeback season for both club and country following a yearlong recovery from injury in 2018. The three assists tied a USMNT record for most in a game. Morris, a finalist for the 2019 MLS Comeback Player of the Year, finished the season with 10 goals and seven assists, helping Seattle to finish with the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference entering the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
 
Other MLS academy products who shined include FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon who registered an assist in the victory over Cuba, along with Weston McKennie. A former FC Dallas academy star who now plays for FC Schalke 04 in Germany, McKennie registered the fastest hat trick from the start of a game in USMNT history, scoring three goals in the first 13 minutes of the match.
 
Not to be outdone, Canada has relied on its own crop of MLS academy products with seven players on the roster including former Vancouver Whitecaps FC star and current Bayern Munich regular Alphonso Davies, who scored the game-winning goal against Cuba on Sept. 10. Also on the list is LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, a former Toronto FC academy product who is also a finalist for MLS Comeback Player of the Year alongside Morris. A pair of Toronto FC academy products in Jonathan Osorio and Doneil Henry (now Vancouver Whitecaps FC) each scored in a 6-0 victory over Cuba in Canada’s first Nations League match on Sept. 7.
 

Darlington Nagbe, Toronto FC earn MLS Fair Play Award

MLS today announced Atlanta United midfielder Darlington Nagbe and Toronto FC as the individual and team MLS Fair Play Award winners, respectively. This marks the third Fair Play honor for Nagbe (2013, 2015), who averaged only .52 fouls per game after logging 2,825 minutes over 33 games. Minnesota United FC’s Ike Opara and FC Dallas’ Matt Hedges also were finalists for the individual award.
 
Toronto FC earned the Fair Play Award for the first time in the organization’s 13-year history. The club Fair Play Award recognizes the MLS team with the fewest regular season disciplinary points. Atlanta United and Seattle Sounders FC were the other two team finalists.
 

Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs: Round 1 Notes

Saturday, Oct. 19
East: No. 2 Atlanta United vs. No. 7 New England Revolution, 1 p.m. ET (Univision / TUDN; Canada: TSN4, TVA Sports)
  • The teams met twice during the regular season, and Atlanta United won both. Ezequiel Barco scored goals on either side of halftime, leading Atlanta United to a 2-0 win on April 13 at Gillette Stadium. Then on MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T, Julian Gressel scored one goal and set up two – including the 27th goal of the season from Josef Martínez – as ATLUTD cruised to a 3-1 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • Atlanta United have never lost to the Revolution in their history, with four victories and two draws all-time. ATLUTD has won all three previous meetings at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with a 2-1 win last Oct. 6, and a 7-0 victory on Sept. 13, 2017, in a match that equaled the all-time MLS margin of victory, the most goals ever scored in a single game by an expansion team.
  • The teams have never before met outside of MLS regular season play.
  • Atlanta United begin defense of their 2018 MLS Cup championship, won in the club’s second season of existence. ATLUTD won four of five games in the postseason last year, culminating with a 2-0 win vs. the Portland Timbers in MLS Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • The Revolution have returned to the postseason for the first time since 2015, when they fell in the Knockout Round in a 2-1 loss at D.C. United. They are aiming to reach MLS Cup for a sixth time in the club’s history, the last coming in 2014.
  • Atlanta United concluded the 2019 regular season with wins in their last two matches at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, including the season-finale victory against the Revolution. The Revs are winless in their last six away matches, a four-game undefeated run overall put to an end in the Decision Day defeat in Atlanta.
 
West: No. 2 Seattle Sounders FC vs. No. 7 FC Dallas, 3:30 p.m. ET (FOX Sports / FOX Deportes; Canada: TSN.ca, TVA Sports)
  • The teams met twice during the regular season. FC Dallas benefited from a pair of own goals five minutes apart late in the first half, taking a 2-1 win on June 1 at Toyota Stadium; the teams then reached a goalless draw on Sept. 18 at CenturyLink Field.
  • Sounders FC are undefeated in the last nine league meetings between the teams in Seattle, and have won nine of the 12 meetings there all-time. The only FCD win at CenturyLink Field came in 2011, a 1-0 victory on May 25.
  • Sounders FC have reached the postseason in each year of the club’s MLS existence, now an MLS-record 11 consecutive seasons in the MLS Cup Playoffs. A year ago, they saw their run ended in the conference semifinals by the Portland Timbers, falling in a penalty shootout, after reaching MLS Cup in back-to-back seasons, winning in 2017.
  • FC Dallas are in the MLS Cup Playoffs for a second consecutive year, falling in Knockout Round a year ago in a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers at Toyota Stadium.
  • This is the fourth time the clubs have met in the postseason, facing each other in three consecutive seasons from 2014-16. Sounders FC advanced on two of the three occasions, in 2014 and 2016, with FCD going through after penalty kicks in 2015. Sounders FC have won two of the three postseason meetings in Seattle, with one draw.
  • Over the past five seasons, Sounders FC have outscored FC Dallas 14-1 in four regular season meetings at CenturyLink Field. The FCD goal there last year ended a 460-minute goalless string over all competitions in Seattle.
  • Sounders FC come into the postseason after back-to-back wins in their final two regular season matches, both by 1-0 scorelines, including a win against Minnesota United FC at CenturyLink Field on Decision Day with a goal from Roman Torres. Sounders FC have a five-game undefeated streak alive at home.
  • FC Dallas put an end to a four-game winless streak in impressive fashion on Decision Day, with a 6-0 win against Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Stadium, led by a pair of goals from Zdenek Ondrasek. FC Dallas last won on the road on July 20, six away games ago.
 
East: No. 4 Toronto FC vs. No. 5 D.C. United, 6 p.m. ET (TUDN; Canada: TSN4, TVA Sports 2)
  • The teams met twice during the regular season. TFC took 36 total attempts toward goal – tied for the second-most in a single game in MLS history, and the most ever from a team without scoring a goal – as the teams reached a goalless draw May 15 at BMO Field. Then on June 29 at Audi Field, Nick DeLeon gave TFC an early lead, but Wayne Rooney converted a penalty kick in second-half stoppage time, leaving the teams in a 1-1 draw.
  • United have come away with points on five of their last seven trips to BMO Field, over the past five seasons, including two victories. The last two meetings in Toronto have both been draws.
  • The teams have never before met outside of MLS regular season play.
  • Toronto FC are back in the postseason after a one-year absence, their last match in the MLS Cup Playoffs a 2-0 win in 2017 MLS Cup at BMO Field. TFC have been in the postseason now four times in all, reaching three consecutive years from 2016-18.
  • D.C. United have reached the playoffs for a second consecutive year, last year going out on penalty kicks to Columbus Crew SC after a goalless draw in a Knockout Round meeting at Audi Field.
  • Toronto FC extended their undefeated streak to 10 games to close out the regular season, defeating Columbus Crew SC at BMO Field on Decision Day, Alejandro Pozuelo netted the game’s only goal directly from a free kick. The 10-game streak is one shy of the club record, set in 2017. TFC also has a five-game undefeated streak at home.
  • D.C. United ran their season-ending undefeated streak to five games on Decision Day, reaching a goalless draw with FC Cincinnati at Audi Field. Bill Hamid recorded a shutout for a fifth consecutive game, the United shutout streak now at 504 minutes, the longest in the club’s 24-year history. United have two wins and a draw from their last three away matches.
 
West: No. 3 Real Salt Lake vs. No. 6 Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. ET (ESPNews / ESPN Deportes; Canada: TSN 4, TVA Sports)
  • The teams met twice during the regular season, and the Timbers won both. Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri scored on either side of halftime to lead the Timbers to a 2-1 win on May 4 at Rio Tinto Stadium, then Valeri scored the game’s only goal as the Timbers came away with the win Aug. 31 at Providence Park.
  • The Timbers have won each of the past four meetings between the clubs, over the last two seasons. The Timbers have come away with points on six of their last seven league visits to Rio Tinto Stadium, dating back to 2014, with five wins and a draw in that span.
  • Real Salt Lake have advanced to the MLS Cup Playoffs for a second consecutive year. A year ago, they defeated Los Angeles FC in the Knockout Round at Banc of California Stadium, before falling to Sporting Kansas City 5-3 on aggregate in the Western Conference Semifinals.
  • The Timbers have reached the postseason for a third consecutive year, after reaching MLS Cup for a second time year, falling 2-0 to Atlanta United in the final. The Timbers won the club’s first MLS title in 2015, at Columbus Crew SC.
  • The teams met once previously in the MLS Cup Playoffs, in the Western Conference Championship in 2013. RSL advanced 5-2 on aggregate, winning 4-2 in Sandy, then taking a 1-0 win in Portland. RSL has also won two meetings in the U.S. Open Cup, both at home.
  • Real won a second consecutive match to conclude the regular season, Damir Kreilach netting the game’s only goal for the victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place. RSL won their last home match, a 2-1 triumph vs. the Houston Dynamo on Sept. 29.
  • The Timbers ran their undefeated streak to four games to close out the league season, defeating the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 at Providence Park on Decision Day, behind goals from Larrys Mabiala, Dairon Asprilla and Sebastian Blanco. The Timbers have not won in their last two away matches, since a 2-1 win at Seattle on July 21.
 
Sunday, Oct. 20
East: No. 3 Philadelphia Union vs. No. 6 New York Red Bulls, 3 p.m. ET (FS1 / FOX Deportes; Canada: TSN4, TVA Sports 2)
  • The teams met twice during the regular season, each winning at home. Ilsinho set up a goal from Jamiro Monteiro, then netted a brace himself, all three goals coming in a 12-minute blitz, as the Union claimed a 3-2 win on June 8 at Talen Energy Stadium. Then on Sept. 22 at Red Bull Arena, Tommy Barlow scored in the first half and Daniel Royer in the second, as the Red Bulls claimed the 2-0 win.
  • The Union win in the first meeting ended a two-game Red Bulls winning streak at Talen Energy Stadium. It was the Union’s second win in the past eight meetings in Chester, Pa., dating back to 2014.
  • The Union are in the MLS Cup Playoffs for a second consecutive year, the third time in the last four seasons. They are still seeking a first win in the postseason, last year falling 3-1 to New York City FC in the Knockout Round at Yankee Stadium.
  • The Red Bulls are playing in the MLS Cup Playoffs for a 10th consecutive year, now equaling the second-longest such streak in league history. A year ago, the Red Bulls advanced past Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, before falling to eventual champions Atlanta United in the conference championship.
  • While the teams are meeting for the first time in the MLS Cup Playoffs, they have met five times in the U.S. Open Cup, including four consecutive years from 2015-18. The Union won both meetings in Chester, both 2-1 wins in the fifth round, in 2016 and 2018.
  • The Union concluded the 2019 regular season with a loss, falling 2-1 to New York City FC at Talen Energy Stadium. Marco Fabian converted a late penalty kick for the lone Union goal. The loss put an end to an eight-game undefeated streak in Chester for the Union, which started on May 29.
  • The Red Bulls saw a three-game undefeated run put to an end in the regular season finale, falling 3-0 to the Montréal Impact at Stade Saputo. The game also ended a streak of three consecutive defensive shutouts.
 
West: No. 4 Minnesota United FC vs. No. 5 LA Galaxy, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN / ESPN Deportes; Canada: TSN4, TVA Sports)
  • The teams met twice during the regular season. Jonathan dos Santos and Chris Pontius netted goals five minutes apart in the first half and Sebastian Lletget added a late one as the Galaxy held out for a 3-2 win on March 16 at Dignity Health Sports Park. The clubs then reached a goalless draw April 24 at Allianz Field.
  • The Galaxy have never lost to Minnesota United FC, now in six meetings between the teams all-time. Last year, the teams reached a 2-2 draw on Aug. 11 in Carson, Calif. – the first point taken in the series by MNUFC. The Galaxy then claimed a 3-1 win on Oct. 21 in Minneapolis. The Galaxy won both meetings in Minnesota United’s inaugural season – a 2-1 win at TCF Bank Stadium, and a 3-0 win in southern California.
  • The Galaxy have returned to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in three seasons, their last appearance coming in 2016, when they fell in a penalty-kick shootout to the Colorado Rapids in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Galaxy won the last of their league-record five MLS Cup titles in 2014, having reached the championship match on nine occasions.
  • The teams have never before met outside of MLS regular season play.
  • MNUFC had a four-game undefeated streak put to an end in their Decision Day finale, falling by the game’s lone goal to Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field. Minnesota United also play their first game in the MLS Cup Playoffs riding a 10-game undefeated streak, which started on June 29 with a 7-1 win vs. FC Cincinnati.
  • The Galaxy come into the postseason off consecutive defeats, last a 4-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Stadium on Decision Day. Zlatan Ibrahimović netted a goal in a fifth consecutive game, with seven goals in that span, ending the season with 30 goals, the third-most in a season in MLS history.
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