MLS Cup: Conference Championship match-ups and preview

The MLS Cup semi-final stages get underway later today, and here is who’s playing and what to expect:

Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact: 8:00 PM EST Tuesday Nov. 22nd (ESPN)

Montreal plays host to Eastern Conference powerhouse Toronto FC in the first leg of what should be an exciting fixture. Montreal comes into this match after finding their form as the fifth seed and will look to continue the streak of first leg home wins that the 2016 playoffs have had. They come off a historic 3-1 aggregate win against the top seeded New York Red Bulls that earned them the right to their first ever Eastern Conference Championship.

Toronto FC is coming off a series against second seeded NYCFC, where they dominated and won 7-0 on aggregate. Their lineup seems to be fresh, and that means that Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Sebastian Giovinco will all be on the field, making their attack look almost unstoppable. The question of whether or not their defense could back up such a high powered offense was answered in the NYCFC series as they were able to keep shutouts in both games.

Montreal has some drama coming from their corner as Didier Drogba is still not listed in the projected starting lineup and questions are being asked about how effective the striker will be coming off the bench. Ignacio Piatti will attempt to continue his recent form as he had two goals in the series against the Red Bulls and proved to be a one of the Impact’s most valuable assets in the Eastern Conference triumph.

All in all, the Impact will most certainly need to take advantage of playing at home in the first leg if they want to win the series because they will certainly face a tough atmosphere in their Canadian rival’s stadium in the second.

Our pick: Toronto FC

Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders: 10:00 PM EST Tuesday, Nov. 22nd (FS1)

Seattle will try and continue to protect their home field advantage in the playoffs after dismantling top seeded FC Dallas 3-0 in the first leg of the Conference Semifinals. The Sounders enter the game with an injury torn team that will lack offensive powerhouse Clint Dempsey (heart issue) and a possible five others. On the bright side, Seattle was able to turn to Uruguayan striker Nicolas Lodeiro in the series against FC Dallas as he scored three and ignited the attack for the Sounders.

There are a lot of interesting storylines coming out of Colorado before this match-up. On one hand, they have one of the best defenses in the league which exited the 2016 season with the lowest goals conceded. On the other hand, their all-star goalkeeper Tim Howard suffered a season-ending injury with the U.S. National Team and will be unavailable for this series. His back up, Zac MacMath, has good credentials but may need some time to get re-acquainted with the team, as he has started in 17 games this year, 16 of which were before Howard joined the club.

The Rapids will need Sebastian Le Toux, Kevin Doyle, and Jermaine Jones to step up as they try to remain unbeaten against Seattle this season.

Our pick: Colorado Rapids

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