Predictions - 2020 - temp generic

Predictions for the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals | Greg Seltzer

The dangers of predicting the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs became all too real when Nashville SC and New England exploded a whole lot of brackets on Tuesday night.

The upset-minded duo will now take aim on Sunday at new co-favorites Columbus Crew SC and Orlando City SC, respectively.

We'll get to that shortly, but first a quick update on my success rate: Those two midweek surprises knocked me back to break-even for the whole month, only for Seattle's win over LAFC to push me just back above it. More happily, my postseason record now stands at 7-3 as we barrel toward four conference semifinal matchups that each carry a healthy amount of intrigue.  

Columbus Crew SC vs. Nashville SC

Sunday, Nov. 29 @ 8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN 4, TVA Sports in Canada

Even though Nashville are playing with a unity and passion that’s hard to match, and even though the Crew's possession ways very much play into the expansion side's stymie-and-counter strengths, I was still leaning toward the MAPFRE Stadium hosts. That is, until Columbus revealed that a COVID-19 outbreak in their ranks had infected four players.

Of course, we don't know if that quartet consists of key starters, squad players or a mixture of both. What we do know is that these positive tests complicate matters. While that tends to be a bad omen, picking this game before we know who's sitting out keeps it a proper shot in the dark. After way too much deliberation (because what's the point until we see who's missing from the lineup card?), I'm going to stick to my original guns: Columbus 2-1 in extras.

Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas

Tuesday, Dec. 1 @ 9:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in US; TSN 1/4/5, TVA Sports in Canada

I agree with Steve Zakuani: When they're revved up, the Seattle trio of Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz is basically unplayable. Then you have Stefan Frei, Cristian Roldan, João Paulo, et al. The defending MLS Cup champions are deep, playoff-tested and damn near unbeatable at Lumen Field. So yes, Brian Schmetzer's "been there, done that" boys are my new MLS Cup favorites with Philly ousted.

Forgive me if it seems like I'm entirely discounting FC Dallas' chances in this one, but edging a shorthanded Portland side is one feat and trying to tackle the Sounders’ full brunt is quite another. The Texans have routinely underperformed against my expectations this year, so I'd be shocked if they suddenly exceed them. It’s a 3-0 win for Seattle.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United FC

Wednesday, Dec. 2 @ 9 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in US; TSN 1/4, TVA Sports in Canada

Even as Minnesota lost key cog after key cog to injury in 2020, I've held more faith in the Loons than many of my colleagues. So far, they've mostly rewarded that faith, even if the results have outshined their actual play on the pitch at times. They could get at least one important player back this weekend, too, should right back Romain Metanire be available for selection upon return from representing Madagascar in November's FIFA international window. His introduction would serve a double function by allowing Hassani Dotson to slide over to defensive midfield in place of Marlon Hairston, a major upgrade.

On the other hand, I've been routinely skeptical of Sporting, and especially of their defense. While they’ve occasionally proven me wrong (the defense not as much), I can't help but notice that they’re a .500 club against playoff teams this season. Plus, it’s still unclear if star striker Alan Pulido will return from his knee injury. As you can probably surmise, I'm calling a 3-2 Minnesota United upset.

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