MLS Cup Round 2 Western Conference Preview
The MLS Playoffs opened on October 15 with six high-intensity match-ups. Five of the six matches were won by the home team. Two of the matches (FC Dallas-Minnesota United and Austin FC – Real Salt Lake) went to penalties.
With the first round in the books, the MLS Cup playoff format adds in the top-seeded teams, who have first-round byes. In the Western Conference, that’s LAFC – winner of the Supporters Shield, and the most talent-laden roster in MLS.
There’s a reason they play the games – upsets happen! Let’s take a look at the upcoming quarterfinals matchups.
Western Conference: Regional Rivalries with High Stakes
Winner-take-all stakes bring out a high level of competition. For impartial soccer fans, the Western Conference quarterfinals are a treat. Both Western Conference quarterfinal match-ups are local derbies, with opposing supporters both able to attend. We can comfortably expect to be treated to some exceptional football out of both of these matchups.
Austin FC-FC Dallas: Copa Tejas In The Playoffs
The state of Texas has been a successful market for MLS. Before Austin FC joined MLS in 2021, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo played in the Texas Derby, a yearly competition between the two Texas teams.
Once Austin FC joined MLS, the Texas Derby morphed into the Copa Tejas. Originally a competition that included USL teams, it expanded to include an MLS division with the addition of Austin FC to the MLS.
Both teams are coming into the conference quarterfinal after winning in penalty kicks after last weekend. Austin FC was down two goals v Real Salt Lake before tying it at 2 to go to penalty kicks. Austin has won 4 matches this year where they have come back from being down multiple goals in a game.
To advance, Austin FC will have to beat FC Dallas for the first time in history. In their previous two matchups this year, FC Dallas and Austin FC drew with each other. That’ll come to a head this weekend in front of a sellout crowd in Austin.
El Trafico in the Playoffs
The regional rivalry theme continues on the West Coast, where El Trafico/The Los Angeles Derby will take place between LA Galaxy and LAFC. The Galaxy is advancing after a 1-0 win in the first round vs Nashville SC.
The rivalry between the Galaxy and FC has been mostly balanced since the teams started playing against each other. In the regular season series, the Galaxy beat LAFC six times and drew five times. The last time these teams played in the playoffs was in 2019 when LAFC beat the Galaxy 5-3 in the Conference Semi-Finals.
The playoff version of El Trafico will look much different than earlier season match-ups. Both teams have been infused with transfer reinforcements from Europe. We should expect a high-quality match between these two rivals. In the end, I think LAFC’s roster has too much talent, and will advance past their neighborhood rivals.
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