A trip to the Eastern Conference Finals was on the line the last time New York City FC and Toronto FC were on the same field.
That was back on Oct. 23 when fourth-seeded Toronto FC knocked off top-seeded NYCFC as part of their run to the MLS Cup.
On Saturday, the teams will attempt to get their first victory of the season when NYCFC visit Toronto FC.
Last season, NYCFC finished 14 points ahead of Toronto but were eliminated when Alejandro Pozuelo scored on a penalty shot in the 90th minute. Toronto then defeated Atlanta before losing to the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup.
Toronto began the season by squandering a two-goal lead and settling for a 2-2 draw at San Jose last Saturday. Pozuelo and Richie Laryea scored in a span of 11 minutes but Toronto allowed the equalizer in the 95th minute.
"Not disappointed in our performance. Our effort was incredible," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney, whose team is 5-0-6 in its past 11 regular-season games, dating to Aug. 3. "Just disappointed for the group because in the end you want to take those three points. But from it, we build."
NYCFC produced little offense and took a 1-0 loss to Columbus last week in the debut of coach Ronny Deila. NYCFC also was forced to play most of the season opener with 10 men after Maxime Chanot was given a red card in the fourth minute.
Chanot will serve the red card suspension that creates a void at center, but NYCFC are hoping to get more offense after being outshot 14-7 and holding possession for only 37.7 percent of the game against Columbus.
"It will be important of course," Deila said. "We always want to play the best team. ... We're going for three points. We're eager to bounce back from the weekend and now have a strong opponent. But we can hurt everyone at our best, so it will be a good test for us."
--Field Level Media
FC Dallas will look to keep Montreal guessing, and produce their first 2-0 start in five years, when they host the Impact on Saturday afternoon in Frisco, Texas.
Both teams garnered wins in their season openers last week.
FC Dallas got goals from Zdenek Ondrasek and Paxton Pomykal in the final 30 minutes in a 2-0 win against Philadelphia, with Jesse Gonzalez recording the shutout.
Last week, FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez began the game again with 4-3-3 attack or with the more defensive 3-5-2 look employed, with much success in the second half against Philadelphia.
"We're home two games consecutively to start the season so obviously we needed to focus on the first, and it was important to get the win," Gonzalez said. "We want to keep improving, we want to have more of the ball we want to create more chances. We want to get pressure higher up the field."
The Impact produced a victory in former French star Thierry Henry's MLS coaching debut, rallying to beat New England on goals by Romell Quioto and former FC Dallas forward Maxi Urruti, the latter in the 80th minute.
Henry said his team needs to adaptable and be able to counter Dallas' ball possession strategy.
"Ultimately we would like to have (possession of the ball) because you run less," Henry said. "But if you don't, you also need to do what you need to do to be able to tackle that. They like to play on the ball. They were able to beat a Philadelphia team that's tough to manage. We'll need to hang tight. They have very good players that can make a difference."
The Impact's two new signings, Victor Wanyama (Tottenham Hotspur) and Emanuel Maciel (acquired through a free transfer via Argentine side San Lorenzo) will not be available for Saturday as both players are still waiting for the necessary paperwork.
This is the only meeting of the year between the two sides. FC Dallas has never lost to the Imp
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Real Salt Lake goes into their home opener in search of their first goal when the play the New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.
RSL managed just five shots, one on goal, in a 0-0 tie at Orlando City on Feb. 29.
Real Salt Lake coach Freddy Juarez knows his team will need to generate more offense after seeing the Red Bulls secure a 3-2 victory against Cincinnati FC in their March 1 opener.
"They know who they are. They know what they do good," he said of the Red Bulls. "They know the way to have success. They have to stick to their game. They live and die by their style.
"They're exciting. They bring a different type of energy to every game, so you've got to be up for it. You've got to match the intensity, then tactically you have to try to beat them some way. It's going to be a great test for us to see where we're at."
The Red Bulls had to have been happy with their offensive output but displeased in allowing two second-half scores after taking a 2-0 lead.
"It was two giveaways," defender Tim Parker said. "I think when you look at the second one, it's a little bit more unlucky than the first one is, but I think it's just tidying up, making sure that we're focused right away because the first goal we give it up in the first minute of the second half."
Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said he expects to see a more aggressive attack from RSL at home.
"They're organized, they're hard to break down, and they're good in transition," Armas said. "We think we have a good plan going in already. We feel comfortable with how we can go after them."
New York is 0-6-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium in the regular season, having been outscored 13-3.
-- Field Level Media
The primary focus for both the New England Revolution and Chicago Fire FC this weekend will be to rebound from the rough season-opening defeat that each team suffered.
In the process, the Revolution will aim to continue their recent home success over the Fire on Saturday at Foxborough, Mass.
What started out positive for both New England and Chicago last weekend turned into disappointment for these clubs in the kickoff to the 2020 season. Each side held a lead in its opener, but ended up with a 2-1 loss on the road.
The Revolution led 1-0 on a goal in the 13th minute from Teal Bunbury. The Montreal Impact, however, equalized the score shortly before halftime and went ahead for good in the 80th minute on a goal by Maximiliano Urruti. It marked the seventh straight season that New England failed to win its opener.
The good news, though, is that the Revolution get the chance to bounce back with a game at home, where they went 6-1-4 after losing four of their first six in 2019.
"It's an important game," midfielder Wilfried Zahibo told the Revolution's official website. "It is important we start (well) at home. We want a good start, we want the fans to be happy, and we want the three points."
New England is 17-11-3 all-time against the Fire at home. Zahibo scored and Gustavo Bou posted the 86th-minute winner in a 2-1 home win over the Fire last season.
Chicago led 1-0 early in the second half at Seattle last weekend, courtesy of a Robert Beric goal. After the reigning MLS Cup champion Sounders leveled the match in the 62nd minute, it still looked as if the Fire would earn a well-deserved point until Jordan Morris won the game with a stoppage-time goal.
"We are a good team, we have to believe in this," Beric told the Fire's official website. "I think we showed (at Seattle) to everyone that it's going to be tough to play against us.
"(Last weekend) we lost,
Minnesota United FC will look to build on a record season when they open the 2020 MLS campaign on Sunday night at the Portland Timbers.
Minnesota set team marks for wins (15), points (53) and goals (52) en route to a fourth-place finish in the Western Conference in 2019. But it was a 2-1 home loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs that hung over the team during the offseason.
"No, I haven't moved on," defender Chase Gasper told twincities.com. "It's fueling the season because I think it is such a sickening feeling after -- when you replay the game in your head and you fully digest it. We were so much better."
Minnesota was the only MLS home team to lose a first-round game. The Loons suffered just one loss in 17 regular-season games at Allianz Field.
"I was so disappointed to get knocked out because you look at the reaction of the supporters to get in the playoffs and then we actually, we should have won the game," said head coach Adrian Heath.
Minnesota signed Tyler Miller from Los Angeles FC to replace 2019 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Vito Mannone, who left for Esbjerg of the Danish League after failing to agree to contract terms. But the Loons return a strong defense led by MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara.
Portland finished sixth in the West last season and also suffered a first-round playoff loss at Real Salt Lake. The Timbers added two new strikers, including Jaroslaw Niezgoda as a designated player from Polish club Legia Warsaw, where he scored a league-best 14 goals last season, to replace Brian Fernandez. His contract was terminated for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Portland, which opened the 2019 season with 12 straight road games while the expansion of Providence Park was completed, plays seven of its first 12 games at home, including back-to-back contests with the Loons and Nashville SC to begin the season.
Perhaps no team in Major League Soccer underwent a more dramatic offseason makeover than the Chicago Fire.
The Fire have a new majority owner, Joe Mansueto; a new coach, Raphael Wicky; and a new home stadium, Soldier Field. They also have a new logo, team colors and uniforms to go with their new name: Chicago Fire Football Club.
The roster has undergone an overhaul and will debut when the Fire open their season on the road Sunday afternoon against the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders.
The Fire went 10-12-12 last season to finish in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, just missing the playoffs.
The new roster additions include 19-year-old winger Ignacio Aliseda, veteran forward Robert Beric and attacking midfielder Luka Stojanovic.
"Everything seems positive, a lot of good vibes around the team, coaching staff and supporters," Fire midfielder/defender Brandt Bronico told MLSsoccer.com. "I think everybody's excited that we're moving to Soldier Field, but the main thing is we're just ready to get started."
The Sounders, who were 16-10-8 last season before reaching the MLS Cup for the third time in the past four years (they also won the title in 2016), got an early start to their campaign in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Seattle was upset in the opening round, losing to Honduran side CD Olimpia in penalty kicks in the second leg Thursday at home after a pair of 2-2 draws. Midfielder Joao Paulo, the Sounders' newest designated player, scored in both games.
"We screwed up, (but) the silver lining is that we have a chance to give our full focus on to the season opener and the other games to come," Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said Thursday. "So it's really important that we utilize that. It's a missed opportunity for us today not advancing and not making a push in CONCACAF, but let's make a push for (the MLS') Supporters' Shield and it starts on Sunday
FC Cincinnati will try to improve upon a miserable first season in MLS when they open their 2020 campaign on Sunday at the New York Red Bulls.
Early signs suggest it won't be easy.
Ron Jans, the team's second full-time head coach in its brief history, resigned Feb. 17 following a league investigation into allegations he had used a racial slur around his players.
That leaves 29-year-old Yoann Damet in charge on an interim basis. He won't be the youngest head coach in league history on Sunday, only because he already served in the same interim role after Cincinnati dismissed Alan Koch dismissal two months into last year's last-place campaign.
As for roster additions, 31-year-old Dutch attacker Siem de Jong is the biggest name to join the club this offseason. Incoming strikers Yuya Kubo and Jurgen Locadia, both 26, are in their primes and come with considerable European experience.
Beyond that, Cincinnati must hope the number of acquisitions they've made since general manager Gerard Nijkamp arrived in the middle of last season can help to make up for the lack of a true star.
"We have lots of new players who can bring depth for the team," defender Mathieu Deplagne said. "We have good players. So now we have to see that on the field."
The Red Bulls also are moving on from arguably their biggest stars in 2020, parting ways with club all-time leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips, longtime goalkeeper Luis Robles and right back Kemar Lawrence.
That leaves winger Daniel Royer and defenders Tim Parker and Aaron Long -- who are all south of 30 -- as the experienced veterans on a team that still believes it has enough quality young talent to contend for an MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield. The Red Bulls won the latter in 2018.
"I think with the older leadership group kind of leaving us, it's exciting for us younger guys. Or I guess we're the older guys now," Park
Columbus Crew coach Caleb Porter was asked this week the pros and cons of opening the team's 25th season in Major League Soccer on Sunday against a New York City FC team that has already played two CONCACAF Champions League matches.
"The con is they're a really good team," Porter joked. "Obviously, to be in the Champions League, you have to be one of the best teams the year prior. They won the (Eastern) conference last year. They were one of the best teams and they largely returned everyone."
The positive for the Crew is that NYCFC (18-6-10, 64 points last season) might be somewhat fatigued entering the match at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus.
New York City went to Costa Rica and defeated AD San Carlos 5-3 in the first game on Feb. 20 and won the return leg 1-0 in Harrison, N.J., on Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals.
"We have to keep the momentum going," New York City goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. "It's great to be in a good way as a team, to win two games, to get used to that winning mentality. We have to transition that now to a tough opponent in Columbus."
NYCFC made few changes from last season, other than hiring Norwegian Ronny Deila as head coach to replace Domenec Torrent.
The Crew (10-16-8, 38 points last season) continues to evolve under second-year coach Porter and said goodbye to captain Wil Trapp and goal-producing midfielder Federico Higuain.
They brought in midfielder Darlington Nagbe from Atlanta United and Argentine playmaker Lucas Zelarayan from Tigres in Liga MX (Mexican league) to help striker Gyasi Zardes, who had 13 goals last season after scoring 19 in 2018.
"We've made quite a few key additions to our roster that if you look at every position, we have multiple numbers that can step on the field if their name is called and play an amazing game," Zardes said.
--Field Level Media
Toronto FC begins its quest for a fourth MLS Cup final appearance in five years on Saturday when they open the season at the San Jose Earthquakes.
Toronto FC finished the 2019 season in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 13-10-11 record. The club benefited from a scintillating 13-match unbeaten streak down the stretch (playoffs included) before dropping a 3-1 decision to Seattle in the final.
The Reds return many familiar faces from that squad, giving coach Greg Vanney reason for optimism as he heads into his 100th match with the club.
"Physically we're in a good position. A lot of guys are returning, so we picked up where we left off," Vanney said. "We're good, but none of it really means anything until the season starts. Always the first few games are getting yourself really going and into it."
Midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo flourished in his first season with Toronto FC in 2019 by leading the club in goals (12) and assists (12). Forward Jozy Altidore (11 goals, seven assists) also was a consistent force on offense, although remaining healthy appeared to be his most formidable foe last season.
Quentin Westberg aims to recapture the magic of his sterling play in net for Toronto FC, who dropped a 2-1 decision to San Jose in the clubs' only meeting last season.
MLS all-time leading goal-scorer Chris Wondolowski (159) tallied twice in that contest to highlight his team-best 15-goal campaign for the Earthquakes, who were undone by a six-match losing streak down the stretch to miss the playoffs.
Wondolowski, 37, is joined by midfielders Vako (eight goals) and Cristian Espinoza, who notched a club-best 13 assists.
Daniel Vega is expected to be in net for San Jose, which kept its club largely unchanged after finishing in eighth place in the Western Conference with a 13-16-5 mark last season.
"The most challenging goal is to be competitive," manager
The Thierry Henry era begins Saturday afternoon when the Montreal Impact host the New England Revolution in the MLS season opener for both clubs.
Henry will make his league debut as the Impact's coach, hoping to end Montreal's three-season playoff drought.
Henry is no stranger to MLS thanks to his days playing with the New York Red Bulls (2010-14), though he will assume a head coaching role for just the second time. He had an abbreviated 20-game stint with Monaco in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 season.
The Impact have already recorded a significant result in 2020, defeating Costa Rican side Saprissa to reach the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. The Impact played Saprissa to a scoreless draw on Wednesday in Montreal to clinch a 2-2 aggregate victory due to the away-goal tiebreaker.
The two games against Saprissa took a heavy toll on Montreal's back line.
Rudy Camacho will miss at least a month of action after sustaining a knee injury in the first game vs. Saprissa, while Jukka Raitala was substituted out of Wednesday's contest at halftime and is expected to miss eight to 12 weeks with a fractured fibula.
"Once again we lost a centerback on a hit ... but the guys adjusted and fought through it," Henry said on Wednesday.
In a perfect world for the Impact, Henry will spark the type of turnaround that Bruce Arena brought to the Revolution last season.
New England went 8-3-8 once Arena officially took to the sidelines as head coach, and reached the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season.
After a first-round loss to Atlanta United ended that run, expectations are high that the Revolution can return to the postseason in 2020.
For now, however, Arena simply wants "to get off to a much better start this year than we did last year," when the Revolution were 2-8-2 over their first 12 games.
"Hopefully we're a balanced
The Colorado Rapids and D.C. United meet Saturday afternoon in Washington in the first match of the 25th MLS season.
The contest pits two teams who were original founding members of the league in 1996 and met in the second-ever MLS Cup in 1997.
It's also an encounter between teams who are hoping 2020 will be the year when they recapture some of their former glory.
"It's great and certainly as we talk about it, it's certainly fond memories, and I've been very fortunate to be a part of the league for 25 years," said Colorado coach Robin Fraser, who started his MLS career as a defender for the LA Galaxy in 1996.
"All of that being said, (D.C. coach Ben Olsen) is trying to win a game and I'm trying to win a game."
It's been a decade since the Rapids won their only MLS Cup in 2010, and they haven't reached the postseason since 2016.
They performed considerably better down the stretch last season after Fraser was hired, winning five of their last seven to finish in a respectable ninth place in the Western Conference.
And they followed that with an offseason focused around practical rather than splashy additions, including young former Philadelphia center back Auston Trusty and former Toronto FC midfielder Nicolas Benezet.
D.C. United have had more recent success, winning the 2013 U.S. Open Cup and reaching the postseason five of the last six years.
But they come into 2020 with the challenge of overcoming offseason departures of former Manchester United and England star striker Wayne Rooney and talented Argentine playmaker Luciano Acosta. Additionally, U.S. national team midfielder Paul Arriola is out for the season after tearing his ACL this preseason.
The addition of Peruvian national team playmaker Edison Flores from Liga MX and two former Atlanta United wingers in Yamil Asad and Julian Gressel should offset some of that.
It's being called "The Trilogy."
For the third time in four years, Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders will meet Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. ET on ABC) in the MLS Cup.
This time, the championship will be played in Seattle after the teams split the 2016 and 2017 title games in Toronto. The Sounders won in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw in 2016 and the Reds triumphed 2-0 in 2017.
"I think really it's incredible for two teams, now in the league with 20-plus teams, to find their way back through both conferences three times out of four years," Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. "There's really something special to that."
The Sounders (19-10-8) finished second in the Western Conference in the regular season, then defeated FC Dallas (4-3), Real Salt Lake (2-0) and Los Angeles FC (3-1) in the playoffs to extend their winning streak to five matches.
"Being able to end up second in our conference (in the regular season), being able to win the Western Conference and then have the final here means a lot to us," Sounders midfielder Gustav Svensson said. "It shows that we are a team to reckon with. And I think it shows we have a lot of players who will never give up. It doesn't matter how we play or who we play."
Toronto (16-10-11), the fourth seed in the East, beat D.C. United (5-1), New York City FC (2-1) and Atlanta United (2-1) to reach the final and extend its unbeaten streak to 13 matches (7-0-6).
"It shows the consistency of the clubs in the last four years and what it means to be a top club in this league," Toronto midfielder Jonathan Osorio said of the matchup with the Sounders. "All three times that we've made it to the MLS Cup, we've done it different ways. So it's pretty amazing. I think Seattle has done it different ways as well."
Toronto striker Jozy Altidore, who is second to Alejandro Pozuelo on the team with 11 goals (Pozuelo has 14), is listed as questionab
If Atlanta United FC is to have a shot at repeating as MLS Cup champion, it must get by a Toronto FC side that's also familiar with playing for a league title.
The last two MLS Cup champs meet Wednesday night when Atlanta hosts TFC in the Eastern Conference final.
The No. 2 seed in the East, Atlanta hasn't had an easy journey on its title follow-up season under first-year coach Frank de Boer. However, United is now one game away from a return to the final after outscoring New England and Philadelphia by a combined 3-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"There's only one option: to win," Atlanta star Josef Martinez, who scored his 28th league goal of 2019 on Thursday in a 2-0 win over the Union, told the official website of MLS.
"Everyone wants to win. (Toronto has) a team with many experienced and talented players, but we have to think of ourselves and playing the final at home."
United has won four straight at home, where it's 14-1-1 since opening 0-1-2 there. Though Atlanta beat Toronto 2-0 at home on May 8, fourth-seeded TFC just knocked off the top seed in the East to get to the conference final.
Minus injured star Jozy Altidore (quad), who is questionable for Wednesday, TFC got a pair of Alejandro Pozuelo goals -- the second on a 90th-minute penalty kick -- to upset host New York City FC 2-1 on Oct. 23. Pozuelo (14 goals, 13 assists overall in 2019) has been the most consistent presence for Toronto, which won its only MLS Cup in 2017 and also reached the league final in 2016.
Though TFC won the most recent meeting with United, 3-2 at home on June 26, it's 0-1-2 all-time at Atlanta. However, that doesn't mean Toronto, amid a 6-0-6 overall stretch, won't be up to the challenge.
"It's going to be tough. For sure, it's going to be tough," Toronto defender Justin Morrow told the club's official website. "To be good in this league, you're going to have to bea
For the most part, Major League Soccer's Western Conference playoffs have gone according to form.
That leaves the top-seeded Los Angeles Football Club to play host to the second-seeded Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night, with a berth in MLS Cup on the line.
LAFC set an MLS record by recording 72 points thanks to a 21-4-9 regular-season mark, with Carlos Vela winning the Golden Boot Award with 34 goals. Vela added 15 assists, giving him a league-record 49 points.
The Sounders were 16-10-8 in the regular season, finishing 16 points behind the Black & Gold. However, Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer won't be playing the underdog card in the conference final.
"All coaches will tell you it's easier to be the underdog," said Schmetzer, who guided the Sounders to back-to-back MLS Cup finals in 2016 and 2017, winning the title in the first of those years.
"You can just say, 'Oh, nobody expects you to win. The media expects you to lose,' and all that hoopla, and, 'Let's play the underdog role.' That's easy to coach. But in these situations, that's kind of old and tired. You need to come up with something else. The guys will already feel, 'OK, let's go.' For us, we'll take it as, 'OK, yeah, there might be some people that anointed LAFC, but that'll be the extent of it.' There's no chip on our shoulder. We think we can hang with them."
LAFC beat Seattle by 1-0 scores twice last year in its expansion season. The teams met twice this April. Los Angeles won 4-1 at home, and the teams played to a 1-1 draw in Seattle despite the Sounders being short-handed for most of the match after midfielder Cristian Roldan received a red card in the 18th minute.
"Seattle is always a good team, and it's been a long time since we played them," LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. "I think as the season progressed, they got stronger. You see their confidence. They are always a well-organized, solid team. So at this point
After amassing an MLS-record 72 points in just their second year of existence, there seems to be no reward for Los Angeles FC, who opens their playoff run Thursday against the team that has given them the most trouble.
The Los Angeles Galaxy will make the 13-mile drive north Thursday to face LAFC in the rivalry dubbed "El Trafico." The Western Conference semifinal game comes four days after the Galaxy's convincing 2-1 playoff victory at Minnesota United FC.
LAFC (21-4-9) spent the recent international break and their first-round playoff bye working on finding the form that served them so well this season. Actually, it served them well against everybody except the Galaxy (16-15-3, 51 points), who finished in fifth place.
Led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has made more MLS highlights against LAFC than any other team, the Galaxy earned a 3-2 home victory on July 19 and then forged a 3-3 tie on the road Aug. 25. LAFC have never defeated the Galaxy.
Yet LAFC insist they wouldn't want things any other way for a playoff opener.
"When we talk about what we wanted to be from the start -- what kind of team, our football, being successful, everything that's happened in two years -- yeah, it had to be the Galaxy," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, who was named MLS Coach of the Year this week. "To get where we want to be now, winning big games on big stages and doing it with the kind of football we've been able to do a lot of the course of the last two years, that's spot on. I think it creates a big game and everybody here is excited."
Big game indeed. LAFC have Golden Boot winner Carlos Vela leading the way after a 34-goal season and a sure anointing as the MLS MVP. The Galaxy have Ibrahimovic, who scored 30 times, second most in the league, and continue to insist that he is the best player MLS has ever seen.
"We have to play against everybody if we want to win it," Ibrahimovic said about f
The Philadelphia Union hope to ride the momentum of wild comeback win in the first round of the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference playoffs into the next round against host Atlanta United on Thursday night.
It figures to be a difficult task to win on the road inside raucous Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the defending MLS Cup champions. But the Union are confident after erasing a pair of two-goal deficits and scoring the game winner in extra time last Sunday against the New York Red Bulls.
"We know this stadium is fantastic and full, and the support is good," Marco Fabian, who scored the Union's winning goal against New York, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "For myself, it's also good when you have a lot of people against you ... it's a motivation for you. So we are focused on our job, and we know we can win."
In its 10th season of existence, Philadelphia hopes to build on its first-ever postseason win after three previous losses. But fatigue and short rest between games could be a factor. The Union played Sunday, and their game lasted 120-plus minutes, while Atlanta defeated the New England Revolution 1-0 in regulation time last Saturday.
Atlanta United have been to the postseason in each of their three seasons of existence, with one championship already in their trophy case.
The Five Stripes are led by Josef Martinez, who scored 27 goals in the regular season on the heels of a then-record 31 in 2018. Martinez will be a focal point of the Union's defensive plan.
Fifty-two of Martinez's 81 goals in an Atlanta uniform, including postseason games, have come at home.
Atlanta's defensive depth could be tested without a pair of central defenders, Michael Parkhurst and Miles Robinson. Both are out due to injury.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan recorded 14 regular-season shutouts to tie for the MLS lead in the regular season. He has started in goal in every one of Atlanta Unite
New York City FC will have waited 17 days to begin their MLS playoff run. Toronto FC were extended to 120 minutes before defeating D.C. United 5-1 in the first round on Saturday.
How much of a factor will rest be when NYCFC host Toronto in an Eastern Conference semifinal at Citi Field on Wednesday night?
"There's one school of thought that we've now felt the playoff intensity, we've been there," Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. "There's another -- you take bumps and bruises after 120 minutes, and you've got to turn around and go again. I don't know which will play out in whose favor in the end."
New York City, the East's No. 1 seed, last played in the regular-season finale at Philadelphia on Oct. 6, winning 2-1.
NYCFC coach Dome Torrent took the unusual step of taking his team to Chicago and having a closed-door scrimmage against the Fire on Oct. 17.
"The most important thing for me is to play with the best form, and the best form is about rhythm," Torrent said. "With 17 days, you never know what will happen in the first game."
The match was moved from Yankee Stadium, where NYCFC went 11-1-5 this season, to the home of the New York Mets when it appeared the Yankees might make the World Series.
The tighter-than-normal field dimensions of Yankee Stadium will be replicated.
"I don't care in what stadium we play as long as our home fans are there, because New York fans have a good feeling when the team is in trouble and needs a push," NYCFC midfielder Alex Ring said. "They've helped us a lot this year."
Toronto, 5-0-6 in its past 11 games, might be without forward Jozy Altidore (quad) and defender Omar Gonzalez (hamstring), who both missed the win over D.C. New York City forward Heber (undisclosed) is questionable.
The winner advances to the conference final against second-seeded Atlanta or third-seeded Philadelphia on Oct. 30. New York City w
The first MLS playoff game in Minnesota United FC history will also be the first postseason game in the league for star Los Angeles Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Sunday night's clash in St. Paul, Minn., is the final match of the opening weekend of the playoffs, but it may not be as pressure-packed for Minnesota as it seems. While the Loons are new to the MLS playoffs' win-or-go-home format, they are very familiar with the concept from earlier this season.
Minnesota faced an elimination game five times in this summer's U.S. Open Cup tournament and made it all the way to the final against Atlanta United FC, the eventual winners.
The Loons are coming off a 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders in the regular-season finale that dropped them to a No. 4 playoff seed. Now they are looking to extend a noteworthy season marked by the opening of their new stadium.
The teams played to a 0-0 tie on April 24 in the third-ever MLS game at Allianz Field. The Galaxy defeated Minnesota United 3-2 at Los Angeles on March 16.
"Our experienced players are going to have to show up," Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath said to mlssoccer.com. "Our back four is going to have to show up. They have (Uriel) Antuna on one side, (Cristian) Pavon on the other side and Zlatan through the middle. There's a lot of goals there."
The matchup to watch will be Loons defender Ike Opara, the MLS defender of the year, against Ibrahimovic, the runner-up for the league's Golden Boot with 30 goals scored.
"I don't focus on defenders like (Opara), I try to help my teammates, I try to help my team win, create chances for myself, create chances for my teammates and that's how you win the game," Ibrahimovic said. "It's not a battle of one against one. It's a collective thing."
The Galaxy could also see the return of midfielder Romain Alessandrini, who has been out since April 13 with a knee injury.
The Philadelphia Union will try for their first-ever postseason victory Sunday afternoon when they host the New York Red Bulls in the opening round of the MLS playoffs.
In 10 seasons of existence, the Union have been to the postseason three other times, losing all three games. But they come into Sunday's match as the higher seed, No. 3 in the Eastern Conference, against No. 6 New York.
The winner will play at No. 2 seed Atlanta United in a conference semifinal Thursday. Atlanta eliminated the visiting New England Revolution 1-0 on Saturday.
The Union expect to have leading scorer Kacper Przybylko available after he missed the regular-season finale on Oct. 6 with an ankle injury suffered in pregame warmups.
Przybylko scored 15 goals in 26 MLS games this season, and team captain Alejandro Bedoya is also expected to play after sitting out the season finale.
"I'm fully confident that we'll have all of our players available for selection for the Red Bull game," Union head coach Jim Curtin said.
Philadelphia is on a two-game losing streak while the Red Bulls are winless in their past two games and haven't scored a goal since a 2-0 win over the Union at Red Bull Arena on Sept. 22.
The teams split two regular-season meetings.
The Red Bulls were a charter member of MLS when it began play in 1996 but have yet to win an MLS Cup. New York fell to the Columbus Crew in the Cup final in 2008, the closest the Red Bulls have come to a league title.
Daniel Royer is New York's leading scorer with 11 goals on the season.
New York has 14 regular-season wins all time against the Union, the most losses for Philadelphia against any club in MLS.
This will be the first time they have met in a playoff game.
"I think this team can make a run and can do something special this year," Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles said on MLS.com. "But may
Nick Rimando got his wish to play one more home game.
Now Real Salt Lake's goalkeeper will look to extend his career when his team hosts the Portland Timbers on Saturday night in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The match will be played in Sandy, Utah.
Rimando, 40, said in March that his 20th season in MLS would be his last, bringing to an end a career that includes two MLS Cup championships.
The last 13 seasons have been with Real Salt Lake, which only began play in the league two years before he was acquired in a trade from the New York Red Bulls in 2007.
Rimando played his last regular-season game at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sept. 29, with Real Salt Lake finishing third in the Western Conference and earning the right to host sixth-seeded Portland.
"It's awesome to get another home game," Rimando said. "We have to handle business Saturday, and maybe (get) another home one after that. But to be in front of our fans and where we're most comfortable playing, it's huge for us."
Real Salt Lake faces a Portland team that stumbled its way into the postseason, going winless over five games before earning a 3-1 win over San Jose in its season finale to secure its playoff spot and eliminate the Earthquakes.
The Timbers also enter the postseason without forward Brian Fernandez, who is tied for the team lead with 11 goals in 19 games since he was signed in May. The Argentine entered the league's substance abuse program the day after the end of the regular season. Jeremy Ebobisse (11 goals, 34 appearances) is expected to start at forward in Fernandez's place.
Portland, which won both meetings against Real Salt Lake during the regular season, is also back in the playoffs a year after catching fire late and making a run all the way to MLS Cup.
"I feel the same as last year," coach Giovanni Savarese said. "The group is mentally strong, united, pract