Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Champs start MLS play-offs without Clint Dempsey

Published:Saturday | October 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Columbus Crew defender Jukka Raitala (left) takes possession of a long pass during the second period of extra time of an MLS playoff game against Atlanta United, in Atlanta on Thursday. Columbus advanced after beating Atlanta 3-1 on penalties.

TUKWILA, Washington (AP):

For the second straight season, the Seattle Sounders will begin the MLS Cup play-offs with Clint Dempsey as a spectator.

Unlike last year's championship run by the Sounders, this absence by Dempsey will last only one game.

Dempsey was suspended for tomorrow's first-leg of the Western Conference semi-finals against Cascadia rivals Vancouver after picking up a red card in the regular-season finale against Colorado. Dempsey was sent off early in the first half of Seattle's 3-0 victory last week that clinched the No. 2 seed in the West for the defending champs.

 

Not the underdogs

 

"We are no longer the underdogs," Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan said. "We've accepted that. We've felt that way throughout the season because of MLS Cup and being champions. It's a big deal and teams are gunning for you."

The other semi-final matchup in the West features No. 1 seed Portland facing Houston.

In the East, Supporters' Shield winners Toronto FC will face the New York Red Bulls, while No. 2 seed New York City FC will take on Columbus.

Both the conference semi-finals and finals are decided by two-game aggregate scoring. The loss of Dempsey for the first-leg against the Whitecaps is amplified for Seattle because of the uncertainty surrounding forward Jordan Morris, who has been out since early September with a hamstring injury.

Morris has been doing work on the side, but has yet to resume full training.Vancouver did have success at home this season against Seattle, winning in April and taking a 1-1 draw in August. But the Whitecaps were routed 3-0 in Seattle in late September. Vancouver lost three of its final five regular-season matches prior to Wednesday's 5-0 rout of San Jose in the knockout round.

The following are the other semi-final match-ups:

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

Toronto FC (1) vs New York Red Bulls (6

First leg: Monday, Oct. 30, Red Bull Arena

Second leg: Sunday, Nov. 5, BMO Field

New York City FC (2) vs. Columbus Crew (5)

First leg: Tuesday, Oct. 31, Mapfre Stadium

Second leg: Sunday, Nov. 5, Yankee Stadium

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

 

Portland (1) vs. Houston (4)

First leg: Monday, Oct. 30, BBVA Compass Stadium

Second leg: Sunday, Nov. 5, Providence Park