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MLS Conference Finals First Leg Preview

Sunday 20th November 2016
Major League Soccer's dramatic conclusion nears ever closer, with just four games left to play. Before the grand final where East meets West: the two conferences must determine their representative for the game. Who's going to be the champion of their respective conference – and play for the ultimate prize in North American football?

Eastern Conference – Montreal Impact vs. Toronto F.C.



Canadian league football is at an all-time high, two of its three clubs in the league have made it through to the Conference Finals. Both Toronto FC and Montreal Impact play in the East, so they will play in an all-Canadian clash for the Eastern Conference title. This ensures that there will be a Canadian representative in the MLS Cup final for the first time ever.

Toronto FC arguably had a better league season than their opponents, finishing in third place in the Eastern standings. Sebastian Giovinco has played a major part in the team's successes, having scored seventeen goals and assisted another fifteen. He's, therefore, had a direct influence on thirty-two goals, an excellent contribution to the team. The team have been in electric since the playoffs began. The team motored through the Philadelphia Union with no bother, 3-1. Then in the two-legged affairs with New York City FC won 7-0 on aggregate. A watertight defence and an attack led by the aforementioned Italian will see Toronto FC enter Montreal with a real threat of upsetting the hosts.

The team have been in electric since the playoffs began. They motored through the Philadelphia Union with no bother, 3-1. Then in the two-legged affairs with New York City FC,won 7-0 on aggregate. A watertight defence and an attack led by the aforementioned Italian will see Toronto FC enter Montreal with a real threat of upsetting the hosts.
Highlights from the aforementioned game where Toronto ran out as 5-0 winners against NYCFC in New York.

Montreal Impact, despite reaching this conference final, finished fifth in the Eastern standings and only 11th (out of twenty) in the whole overall table. Ultimately winning as many games as they lost. Whilst saying Leicester City are champions sounds weird, it's even odder to think a team who finished in the bottom half of the table could win the overall competition. Ignacio Piatti serves as their main man in front of the net, having scored twenty in the league. That's double the amount their next top scorer Didier Drogba managed throughout the same time! Whilst they didn't particularly struggle against the New York Red Bulls – they were less empathic in their victory, only winning 3-1 on aggregate.
Over the calendar year, the sides have already met five times across both the MLS league and the Canadian Championship. Toronto edges the series with two wins over Montreal, one loss, and another two games ending in a stalemate. When you contrast the two sides' fortunes in the season – Toronto has to be considered favourites for this one. The first leg in Montreal will kick off at 1am on Wednesday (23rd) Morning – UK time.

Western Conference – Seattle Sounders vs. Colorado Rapids



Across the country sees the other divisions' best two sides also go head-to-head, to determine the best of the West. Seattle Sounders, by all measures, has a fair season; finishing fourth in the West and seventh overall. They didn't set the world of football alight, but got the job done with “ugly wins”. Several 1-0 wins throughout the campaign in fact, although it's no better epitomised by the manner of their conference semi-final victory over FC Dallas. They had won at home and looked comfortable, yet lost the away game 2-1. Overall winning 4-2 on aggregate, despite a real slump in the second leg. The Sounders rely on a togetherness; as well as a real mixture of youth and experience. The strike force consisted of the American youth star, Jordan Morris and the veteran: Clint Dempsey. Between them; they scored twenty goals for the Sounders. The team didn't score many throughout the season, yet conceded many.

The Sounders rely on a togetherness; as well as a real mixture of youth and experience. The strike force consisted of the American youth star, Jordan Morris and the veteran: Clint Dempsey. Between them; they scored twenty goals for Seattle.
An insightful mini-documentary about the American Wonderkid, Jordan Morris.

Whilst the home side scored few goals, Colorado Rapids scored even fewer. Throughout the thirty-four game season, they only managed to find the back of the net thirty-nine games. That's fewer than any other team in the playoffs. That said, their whole success in the league campaign was built on their solid defence. This defence saw them narrowly missing out on the Supporter's Shield (the award given to the team with the best record in the league), finishing second overall. They conceded fewer goals than games they played! A good defence and the goalkeeping prowess of Tim Howard saw the team keep thirteen clean sheets throughout the campaign. Colorado's last game was the two-legged tie against LA Galaxy. In truth, the Rapids didn't look great over the matches. Losing in California, and then scoring just the one at home to force extra-time and eventually ran out as winners via a penalty shoot-out. The silver lining in the performance was Gashi's wonder strike which levelled it up on aggregate.

In the league season, the teams only met twice – and Colorado was successful in both fixtures, home and away. Seattle, however, has gone unbeaten in their last ten home games, with the first leg at the CenturyLink field – and their recent goal spout, they could challenge the Rapids sturdy backline. This game is also on Wednesday the 23rd but kicks off slightly later at 3am.
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 


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