MLS: Sporting Kansas and Real Salt Lake meet while Philadelphia Union and Nashville collide
It has been an enthralling start to the MLS Playoffs. Real Salt Lake caused the biggest upset as they booked their spot in the Western Conference semi-finals at the expense of the Seattle Sounders after winning a penalty shoot-out. We will preview two Conference semi-final ties this weekend – Sporting Kansas v Real Salt Lake and Philadelphia Union v Nashville, and supply the latest odds.
Real Salt Lake riding high after a dramatic win over Seattle Sounders
Real Salt Lake pulled off one of the most stunning results in the first round of the MLS Playoffs against the Sounders. They become the only road team to advance to the Conference semi-finals. Both teams cancelled each other in 120 minutes of regular play. But what was more surprising was that Real Salt Lake got through extra time without a single shot on goal.
The Sounders, meanwhile, enjoyed the majority of the possession, and they even managed more corners. But the MLS Playoffs is unscripted drama, and very few would have thought that Real Salt Lake would have gone through. For the Sounders, they have been accustomed to success, reaching four of the last five MLS Cup finals, but Real Salt Lake were up to the challenge.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa thrives in the villain role
Some players, it seems, don’t mind being cast as the villain. And against Sporting Kansas, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa was happy to waste time over his goal kicks, and he didn’t mind one jot that his antics infuriated the 34,000-strong crowd.
Sporting Kansas City looking comfortable after brushing aside Vancouver Whitecaps
While Real Salt Lake had to do it the hard way to get past the Sounders, Sporting Kansas City brushed aside the Vancouver Whitecaps with consummate ease as they ran out 3-1 winners. Sporting Kansas finished third in the Western Conference in the regular season, and they have taken their impressive form into the playoffs.
Sporting Kansas City ready to face a familiar foe
Realt Salt Lake are no strangers to Sporting Kansas in the playoffs, as they have previously met in two previous editions of the MLS Cup. However, Real Salt Lake claimed a double over Sporting Kansas in the regular season, winning 3-1 at home and 1-0 on the road. You imagine Sporting Kansas won’t have it all their own way.
Philadelphia Union edge past New York Red Bulls to set up Nashville clash
Coming into this game, you imagine that Philadelphia Union will be slightly fresher as they have had more than a week to prepare for their Conference semi-final clash. An outrageous Jakob Glesnes in the final minute of the extra time was enough to send the Union through.
Andre Blake, meanwhile, had little to do as the Red Bulls managed just one shot on goal. Nevertheless, the Union will have to get in Nashville’s faces if they are going to advance to the Conference Final.
Kacper Przybylko was also noticeably subdued against the Red Bulls. He fluffed his chances when he had the opportunity to decide the game in normal time before he was substituted. Nevertheless, the Polish hitman, who hit 12 goals in the regular MLS season, will pose a significant threat to Nashville.
Hany Mukhtar can be the difference maker once again for Nashville SC
Although Nashville ran out 3-1 winners over Orlando earlier this week in their first-round clash in the MLS Cup, the scoreline was perhaps more flattering than it suggests. Orlando failed to take their chances, and they were duly punished. Nevertheless, Mukhtar produced another dazzling display alongside CJ Sapong in midfield, and Mukhtar will be critical against Union.
Nashville can be devastating while transitioning in attack, but they are also watertight at the back. In the regular season, Nashville conceded the fewest goals in the MLS in the regular season (33), but Union will be desperate to show they aren’t postseason chokers. This will be a keenly contested affair, but Union may just nick this one.
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