All four MLS Conference semi-final ties are delicately poised heading into this week’s second-leg matches.
In Thursday’s Western Conference matches, Real Salt Lake face the challenge of responding to a 1-0 away defeat against MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy, while play-off debutants Portland Timbers are 2-1 up on arch-rivals Seattle Sounders ahead of their meeting at JELD-WEN Field.
The Eastern Conference finalists will be decided on Wednesday evening, when New York Red Bulls host Houston Dynamos following a 2-2 draw first time around and New England Revolution travel to Sporting Kansas City seeking to defend a 2-1 first-leg lead.
Sporting head coach Peter Vermes is confident his side have what it takes to progress at the Revolution’s expense, despite losing at Gillette Stadium last Saturday.
“We had some great chances the other night,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com.
“I think we’ll have some chances (on Wednesday) and, when the time comes, I think we’ll put them away. I feel confident from that point of view.”
Houston ended Sporting’s hopes at the semi-final stage last year and displayed fighting spirit on Sunday to come from two goals behind against the Red Bulls.
Portland will be confident of progressing after their win in Seattle at the weekend. However, the Sounders scored a 90th-minute goal through Osvaldo Alonso to boost their hopes of reaching the Western Conference final for a second year in succession.
If the Galaxy are to have a chance of repeating their 2012 MLS Cup triumph, Bruce Arena’s men must first hold off Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium.
LA dominated the first leg but had to settle for a slender advantage through Sean Franklin’s goal early in the second half.