The MLS playoffs kick off on Saturday with a first round that offers some very interesting clashes.
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In the Eastern Conference, the New England Revolution took advantage of a first-round bypass thanks to its first position.
These are the New York Red Bulls (7e, 48 points) and the Philadelphia Union (2e, 54 points) who have the honor of launching hostilities on Saturday afternoon.
It is really difficult to predict the outcome of this duel, especially when you take into account the fact that only six points separate the two teams in the standings, even if it is positions two and seven that clash.
On the one hand, we have bulls who like to put a lot of pressure on the opposing team and on the other, a Union which does not hate to fit in with its opponents.
We can certainly expect a very tense game, more of a war in midfield. The Red Bulls are first in MLS in completed tackles while Union comes in third.
The rebellious playstyle of both teams, however, leads to many mistakes. Thus, the Red Bulls dominate the league for the percentage of completed passes. And the Union is only three rows ahead.
We can therefore expect a match that will not necessarily be beautiful, but which may be very entertaining.
What we know is that it risks playing on errors since both teams excel at causing them. They will therefore serve each other their own medicine. And let’s not forget the 13 shutouts of Carlos Coronel of the Red Bulls, a peak in the MLS.
The second Eastern Conference game will take place Sunday afternoon and will feature New York City FC (4e, 51 pts) and Atlanta United FC (5e, 51 pts).
It is a confrontation that raises certain questions, one of which takes precedence over the others. How will Atlanta negotiate a passage to Yankee Stadium?
As we know, the Bronx field is small and atypical and if NYC has learned to play there, it is still a mystery for many opponents.
Atlanta hasn’t solved the New York mystery this season, with a loss and a draw, but there is a small opportunity for the Georgia team.
Indeed, NYC is hit by injuries that affect very important players in its roster.
Anton Tinnerholm (Achilles tendon), Nicolas Acevedo (lower body) and Ismaël Tajouri-Shradi (lower body) are all out of action while Gudmundur Thorarinsson (lower body) remains a doubtful case.
This is perhaps the salvation of Atlanta, which can count on the presence of a few reservists to open a breach.
The third and final game of the first in the East will take place on Tuesday and will pit Nashville (3e, 54 pts) in Orlando (6e, 51 pts).
On paper, we seem to have a fairly balanced duel, but the challenge for Orlando will be to break the Nashville defense which has allowed only 33 goals in 34 games this season. The Tennessee team also finished ahead of the MLS in this regard, on a par with the New York Red Bulls and the Seattle Sounders.
The Floridians’ defense is much less flamboyant, but is offset by a good game in the offensive third. The challenge, however, will be to approach Joe Willis’ cage.
Orlando will also have to try to muzzle Hany Mukhtar, a revelation this season with his 16 goals and 12 assists in 31 games.
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