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...And then there were four.
A Look At The Eastern Conference's Final 4
10/31/2015
 
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By: Marco D'Onofrio


...And then there were four.


We knew the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew were in, but we now know they will be meeting D.C. United and the Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. With just four Eastern Conference teams still in the hunt for the MLS Cup, we take a look at the contenders.

Columbus Crew

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The Columbus Crew will travel to Montreal on Sunday, to take on the red hot Montreal Impact. Fortunately for them though, they have also been in fine form as of late, winning their last two games by a total of 7-0. The Crew earned a bye to the Eastern Conference semi-finals after demolishing D.C. United 5-0 on Decision Day last Sunday.


Even though Sebastian Giovinco had an historic MLS season, many believe Kei Kamara should be the league MVP after scoring 22 goals, with none coming from the spot. Kamara is far from the team's only weapon though with the likes of Federico Higuain and Ethan Finlay also looking dangerous throughout 2015.


The team's biggest concern will be stopping Didier Drogba and company as their defense has been an issue at times this season. Of all the teams who qualified for the postseason in the East, only Toronto FC conceded more goals and the Impact made short work of them in the knockout round.


Although, the Crew did manage to keep consecutive clean sheets in the final two matches of the season, they will need to be their best defensively if they hope to get by Montreal.


Prediction: Eliminated in the semi-finals.


Sorry Crew fans, but the Montreal Impact look too good to be stopped right now.

D.C. United

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Despite getting thumped on Decision Day by the Columbus Crew and going down 1-0 in the first half on Wednesday night, United were able to bounce back to win the game 2-1 at RFK Stadium. Juan Agudelo opened the scoring with a stunning bicycle kick from 10 yards out to make it 1-0 for the New England Revolution. 

However, goals from Chris Pontius and Chris Rolfe eventually won the game for the home side as they booked their place in the Conference semi-finals.


They will now host the New York Red Bulls on Sunday in the first leg of the aggregate series. It'll mark the fifth time that the Atlantic Cup rivals have squared off in the MLS postseason. They met in the same round last year, with the Red Bulls winning 3-2 over two legs.


They are one of the few teams in MLS that continue to play with a flat 4-4-2 and after losing to the Red Bulls 3-0 the last time the two teams met, it'll be interesting to see what adjustments head coach Ben Olsen makes for the playoffs.


Prediction: Eliminated in the semi-finals.


History often repeat itself and for a team that hasn't been able to beat New York all season, a playoff matchup doesn't look too promising. 

New York Red Bulls

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The New York Red Bulls were not supposed to win the MLS Supporters' Shield this year. Thierry Henry retired and the club fired popular head coach Mike Petke after being ousted from the playoffs by the Revolution last year.


While Jesse Marsch's hiring did not go over particularly well with the Red Bulls' fans, the tactician has worked miracles this year with a club that many thought wouldn't even qualify for the playoffs.


Even though the club has won the Supporters' Shield for two of the past three seasons, the franchise has never won the MLS Cup. They begin their chase against a team they haven't lost to all season.


In the three matches that the Red Bulls have played against D.C. United this year, they won both games played at Red Bull Arena and drew the lone match at RFK Stadium.


“We can’t get complacent and start feeling good about ourselves because the minute we do, we can find ourselves with our season over,” Dax McCarty said after his team clinched the Supporters Shield. “The shield won’t mean much if we don’t go on and win MLS Cup. We just have to make sure that we do exactly what we’ve been doing all season.”


Prediction: Eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals.


The Red Bulls were the best team in the regular season, but it is the team that finishes the strongest that often goes the furthest in the playoffs. 

Montreal Impact

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The Montreal Impact cruised past their biggest rival Toronto FC on Thursday to earn the franchise's first ever playoff victory, and they might be the hottest team in all of Major League Soccer at the moment.


The Impact have not lost at home since the arrival of Didier Drogba who found the back of the net again on Thursday, and now has 12 goals as well as one assist in 12 matches with Montreal.


“It was tough to pull off such a good performance after the game a couple of days ago against the same team,” Drogba said following his team's playoff victory Thursday. “It's always tricky, because that was a league game, and the other team was upset with the result. We were expecting a reaction from Toronto. In the end, we took the game the right way.


“[Piatti and Bernier] were important to complete plays,” Drogba continued. “But the whole squad enhances them. The whole squad allows us to play games like these, to score. It’s a group working. Of course, individualities are showcased, often attacking players like Nacho, like me, like Pat [Bernier] who really likes to go forward. But our full backs, our center backs, Donadel, Bush don’t get enough credit.”


Montreal will host the Crew on Sunday as they look to continue their remarkable campaign that saw them reach the CONCACAF Champions League Final earlier in the year.


Along with the arrival of Drogba, the Impact have thrived under interim head coach Mauro Biello. Frank Klopas was let go after Montreal lost to Toronto at the end of August. The team is 8-2-2 since Biello took over, and have now won four consecutive matches.


They are a team that nobody wants to play at the moment.


Prediction: Eastern Conference champions.


Drogba and Biello have completely rejuvenated this team. They might have the most clinical striker and best defender in the league, a combination that does not bode well for any opponent. 

 
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