MLS playoffs offer intriguing story lines

Nicolas Lodeiro has given a boost to the Seattle Sounders offense, as the 27-year-old has scored four goals with eight assists in 13 games since joining the team in late July on a $6 million transfer from Boca Juniors.
Nicolas Lodeiro has given a boost to the Seattle Sounders offense, as the 27-year-old has scored four goals with eight assists in 13 games since joining the team in late July on a $6 million transfer from Boca Juniors. AP

Seattle Sounders fans are among the most passionate — arguably the most passionate — in all of Major League Soccer. And they are wearing their green scarves even prouder these days as the MLS conference semifinals get under way on Sunday.

Three months ago, the Sounders were languishing in ninth place in the Western Conference with a 6-12-2 record. Coach Sigi Schmid was fired. They were listless in a 3-0 loss to Kansas City. Few figured those same Sounders would be among the eight teams left standing the day before Halloween.

Well, they aren’t exactly the same Sounders. The addition of Uruguayan World Cup veteran Nicolas Lodeiro has made a huge difference. The 27-year-old playmaker, signed in late July in a $6 million transfer from Argentine giant Boca Juniors, jump-started the offense. Through 13 matches, he has scored four goals and had eight assists.

He was working particularly well with Sounders forward Clint Dempsey before the U.S. star was ordered to rest after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. In their first four starts together, Dempsey scored five goals and Lodeiro had four assists. Without Dempsey, Lodeiro looks to Jordan Morris, who is another dangerous target.

The Sounders face FC Dallas on Sunday (9:30 p.m., FS1) in a rematch of the dramatic 2015 conference semifinal. The game stretched 210 minutes before Dallas won in a penalty shootout. Both teams are missing a key player. Dempsey is still out, and Dallas is without Mauro Diaz, who tore his Achilles tendon.

In other matchups:

▪ Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls (3 p.m., ESPN): The Impact beat D.C. United 4-2 in the knockout round to advance to Sunday’s game, and did it without Didier Drogba, the Ivory Coast star who has a back injury. Montreal won just two of its final eight regular-season games and are hoping the win at D.C. is a sign of a turnaround. Ignacio Piatti of Argentina is Montreal’s player to watch.

The Red Bulls won the Eastern Conference and are heavily favored. They advanced to the Eastern Conference final the past two seasons but haven’t been to the MLS Cup since 2008. U.S. national-team member Sacha Kljestan has had a breakout season and Bradley Wright-Phillips is New York’s leading scorer.

▪ Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids (5 p.m., ESPN): Colorado, coached by former Miami Fusion midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, is known for its stingy defense — especially since U.S. World Cup goalkeeper Tim Howard joined the team over the summer. The Rapids will try to stifle the Galaxy’s attack, which relies on Emmanuel Boateng, Gio dos Santos, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, who came out of retirement on Sept. 8 and played 87 minutes on Wednesday.

“It’s just one game,” Donovan told after L.A.’s 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake. “And the goal for this team is not just to win a play-in game and then have the season be over. We have bigger goals. We feel good about it, but then Colorado’s another level up, and we know that.”

The Rapids finished the regular season allowing less than one goal per game and were 11-0-6 at home.

▪ Toronto vs. NYCFC (7 pm., FS1): This is the most star-studded semi of the day. Toronto, led by Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco, is coming off a 3-1 win against Philadelphia, the club’s first-ever playoff win in a decade. Things get much tougher against New York, a team that includes David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo. Expect a close match. They played twice in the regular season and tied both times.


The University of Miami women’s soccer team plays at Clemson on Sunday in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals. It is the first time the Hurricanes (10-8-0, 5-5-0 ACC) advanced to the postseason since 2012. Their five conference wins are a school best. They are the No. 7 seed and Clemson (13-3-2, 7-1-2) is the No. 2 seed. The Tigers are riding a five-game win streak.


NASL: NY Cosmos (44), Indy (37), Edmonton (36), Rayo OKC (32), Miami FC (30).

English Premier League: Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool (20), Tottenham and Chelsea (19).

La Liga: Real Madrid (21), Sevilla (20), Barcelona, Villarreal (19), Atletico Madrid (18).

Serie A: Juventus (24), Roma (22), Napoli (20), Milan (19), Lazio (18).

Ligue 1: OGC Nice (26), PSG (23), Monaco (22), Toulouse (18), Guingamp (17).

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (20), Leipzig (18), Hertha (17), Hoffenheim (16), Koln (15).


Sunday: Everton vs. West Ham (9:30 a.m., NBCSN), Southampton vs. Chelsea (noon, NBC, Telemundo), Montreal vs. NY Red Bulls (3 p.m., ESPN), LA vs. Colorado (5 p.m., ESPN), Toronto vs. NYCFC (7 p.m., FS1), Seattle vs. Dallas (9:30 p.m., FS1).