Sounders FC

MLS playoffs: No insurmountable leads after first legs

New York defender Ronald Zubar (23) picks up midfielder Dax McCarty after the Red Bulls beat D.C. United, 1-0, on McCarty’s second-half goal Sunday.
New York defender Ronald Zubar (23) picks up midfielder Dax McCarty after the Red Bulls beat D.C. United, 1-0, on McCarty’s second-half goal Sunday. The Associated Press

The second leg of the MLS conference semifinals begins Sunday with all four of the home-and-home series still within a one-goal differential.

Seattle and Montreal will take their 2-1 leads on the road against FC Dallas and Columbus, respectively. New York will return to Red Bull Arena with a 1-0 lead on D.C. United while Vancouver and Portland head north to settle their series after a scoreless draw in Oregon.

Each of the matchups will be decided by the cumulative score over the two games, with road goals as the first tiebreaker.

The winners of the four series advance to the conference finals — also a home-and-home series — to be played the weekends of Nov. 22 and Nov. 29 following a break in the schedule due to FIFA international competitions.

Seattle can advance with a win or a draw — or even a loss by one goal if the Sounders win the tiebreaker, such as by scoring at least two goals Sunday.

Here’s a look at the other conference semifinals:

WESTERN CONFERNECE

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers (tied 0-0 in first leg)

It was a mostly uneventful first leg in Portland that ended with a 0-0 draw and very few scoring chances for either side. The biggest news was Portland goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey missing the game with the flu, leaving Jake Gleeson to step in at the last minute and shut out the Whitecaps.

Portland did gain a significant advantage with the 0-0 draw in the first leg. Because of the road goals tiebreaker, Portland will advance to the conference finals with any draw in Vancouver other than 0-0. And the Timbers were the second-best road team in the MLS this season with 23 road points.

This will be the first home playoff game for the Whitecaps since joining the MLS in 2011.

“I just think it’s one game of football. It’ll come down to fine lines again,” Vancouver coach Carl Robinson said.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United (New York leads 1-0 after first leg)

The Supporters’ Shield winners did their part by coming out of the first leg with a victory and a road goal. All New York needs in the second leg is any type of draw and it will move on to the conference finals.

Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty was responsible for giving New York the advantage with his 72nd minute goal off a free kick feed by Sacha Kljestan.

The road was not kind to D.C. United late in the season, with just one draw and four losses in its final five matches away from Washington. That included a 3-0 loss at Red Bull Arena at the end of August.

Columbus Crew vs. Montreal Impact (Montreal leads 2-1 after first leg)

Nobody is scoring goals at the rate that Montreal is, making it that much more difficult for Columbus to overcome its 2-1 deficit.

Montreal has scored nine goals in its past five matches, all of them victories. While Columbus was able to slow down Didier Drogba’s scoring binge in the first leg, the Crew watched as Montreal rallied for the victory behind goals from Patrice Bernier and substitute Johan Venegas.

Columbus was tied for the second-most goals scored in the regular season with 58, but also gave up the most of any team remaining in the playoffs. Giving up anything to Drogba could make it difficult for the Crew to move on.

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