Reasons to Watch: Knockout Round of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs

It’s the playoffs. You need reasons?

The Union lost back-to-back games five times this season. Every single time, they won their next match. Right now, after falling to New York Red Bulls on a really-good-not-at-all-ridiculous penalty call and an invigorated NYCFC side, Philly can set up an Eastern Conference semi-finals showdown with Red Bulls by continuing that bounce-back streak and knocking off the Cityzens on Wednesday.

Or how about this: NYCFC’s lumpy, middle school diorama of an actual soccer pitch has always been a distinct advantage for them because they are far more used to it than other teams. Fafa Picault said after Sunday’s match that the ball bounced differently on depending on where it landed on the sod, so now the Union have up-to-date knowledge of how the ball will play on the field. This could help them play a more fluid game since they will have slightly more confidence in how the ball will respond at their feet.

Or perhaps you should tune in to see if the Union continue the onslaught they put on NYC in the second half of Sunday’s match. New York City didn’t have a shot on goal after the 48th minute, and they only had two shots in the box — both from far out, one blocked — in the second half. You could argue that the Cityzens were trying to sit back, but the Union created a host of good chances in the second frame, including a great look off a corner, a penalty, and Ale Bedoya’s volley in the box.

But the big reason, the most important reason to check out Wednesday’s match is that the players deserve it. As Jim Curtin has noted in his press conferences, the roster has remained almost entirely unchanged this season. Every player that has seen minutes in the league this season was on the roster from the start. And back when the year began, many questioned whether this was a team capable of making the playoffs. Prove it, they said. And, for the second time in three seasons, the players have. In 2016, Philly lost to the team that would go on to represent the Eastern Conference in MLS Cup. This time, they meet a club that will need to show they can put together back-to-back strong performances for the first time in months. The Union have a great chance at knocking off NYCFC, but the players need to feel the support behind them.

So watch, travel, cheer, rub your dog’s belly if that’s your superstition — do whatever you can to show support for the players. Without a superstar and despite the doubters, they have proven all season that they can lock horns with the best in MLS.

Let them know that the best support in the league is behind them when it matters.

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