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MLS: Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 22: Cristian Roldan #7, left, of the Seattle Sounders battles, Eric Miller #3 of the Colorado Rapids for the ball during the second half of a match in the first leg of the Western Conference Finals at CenturyLink Field on November 22, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Sounders won the match 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Pablo Mastroeni’s Colorado Rapids host Brian Schmetzer’s Seattle Sounders in the second leg of the MLS Western Conference Finals at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET. The Live Blog begins at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET.  The match preview from MLSSoccer.com.

COLORADO RAPIDS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
2016 Western Conference Championship – Leg 2
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colorado
Sunday, November 27
4 pm ET (ESPN | TSN2 in Canada)

The Lowdown:

Seattle struck the first blow in the Western Conference Championship, but thanks to Kevin Doyle‘s 13th-minute away goal at CenturyLink field, the aggregate goals series remains finely poised after a 2-1 Sounders win on Tuesday night.

The Rapids will be returning to a venue at which they have not yet lost in 2016, but this time around a draw will not be good enough. A 1-0 win would be good enough for the goal-shy Rapids, but Seattle will be on the hunt for an away goal to cancel out Colorado’s and make the Rapids’ path to MLS Cup significantly more complicated.

Colorado Rapids Snapshot:

  • 2016 Regular Season Finish: West No. 2 seed (15-6-13 record, 58 pts / 11-0-6 home record)
  • Current Form: L-W-L-D-L
  • Strengths: Colorado have had a historically good year defensively and have continued to keep a sound backline in the playoffs. They are well-equipped to not concede, which is an important first step in advancing on Sunday, but not the decisive hurdle they have to clear.
  • Weaknesses: While keeping goals out has been fairly straightforward for Colorado this year, scoring them has been a little trickier. Shkelzen Gashi is the team’s leading goal threat, while the other forwards on the roster have contributed in fits and spurts. This Colorado team feels like a bunch of unlikely heroes waiting in the wings, but someone will need to step up.
  • Injuries/SuspensionsTim Howard (adductor) — out; Dillon Serna (knee) — out, Sam Cronin(suspension – yellow card accumulation) — out
  • Player to Watch: Jermaine Jones: The veteran midfielder is the man that gives the Rapids an extra gear, and his combative presence will be especially vital in the midfield with Sam Cronin sitting out due to yellow card accumulation. He’s not really the goalscoring type, but he’s also high up the list of players who could come up in the clutch for Colorado.
  • Probable Starting XI: Zac MacMath; Eric Miller, Jared Watts, Axel Sjoberg, Marc Burch; Micheal Azira, Jermaine Jones; Sebastien Le Toux, Kevin Doyle, Shkelzen Gashi; Dominique Badji

Seattle Sounders Snapshot:

  • 2016 Regular Season Finish: West No. 4 seed (14-14-6 record, 48 pts / 4-9-4 away record)
  • Current Form: W-L-W-W-W
  • Strengths: Once a weakness, Seattle can now count on a clean bill of health (save for Clint Dempsey) when they need it most. Andreas Ivanschitz and Alvaro Fernandez made their returns from injury off the bench in the first leg, which Jordan Morris recovered from a hamstring injury in time to start.
  • Weaknesses: Few teams have really succeeded in shutting down Nicolas Lodeiro, but if they do Seattle will need a Plan B. They have a few potential candidates to help pick up the playmaking slack as the injury crisis lessens, but it’s harder to imagine Seattle getting the goal or more they need if Lodeiro has an off night.
  • Injuries/Suspensions: Clint Dempsey (irregular heartbeat) — out; Oalex Anderson (right hamstring strain) — questionable
  • Player to Watch: Nicolas Lodeiro: The Sounders have been on a late-season tear thanks to the playmaking abilities of the Uruguay international, who arrived from Boca Juniors at the end of July. It is Lodeiro’s feet that much of the Sounders’ magic has come from and he could be instrumental in breaking down a stout Rapids backline on Sunday.
  • Probable Starting XI: Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Roman Torres, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan, Nicolas Lodeiro, Erik Friberg, Jordan Morris; Nelson Haedo Valdez

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