FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls seek home triumphs Sunday in second-leg semifinal matches for a chance to launch themselves into next week’s Major League Soccer Cup final.
The Portland Timbers beat Dallas 3-1 in last Sunday’s Western Conference semifinal opening leg while the Red Bulls fell 2-0 at Columbus in the Eastern Conference semi-final opener.
Aggregate winners advance to next week’s league championship match. Dallas, New York and Portland have never won the MLS crown while Columbus won only in 2008, beating the Red Bulls in the final.
Two goals down, Dallas could face a Timbers side that might defend its margin or push for an away goal to boost their edge.
“They could try to box it in and keep that two-goal lead, or they could be very aggressive and try to get that one goal, so we are not really sure what their approach is going to be,” Dallas defender Zach Loyd said.
“Our approach is we have got to score at least two, so we’re going to be aggressive and come out with the confidence we’ve had all year here at home.”
Dallas has a 13-2-2 home record this season and scored two or more goals 14 times, last failing against the LA Galaxy in mid-August. And Portland lost 4-1 at Dallas in August.
Loyd made two key errors, one setting up a Liam Ridgewell goal and a failed clearance leading to a spectacular Dairon Asprilla goal.
“Frustrating individually, but at the same time, I can’t dwell on it,” Loyd said. “The playoffs are a two-game series so hopefully we can turn it around and get the result here Sunday and it will be all forgotten.”
Dallas coach Oscar Pareja is ready to put the season’s fate on Loyd’s defensive skills again.
“Zach is a player that I trust,” Pareja said. “Zach has had a tremendous season. That’s what is important for me.”
The Timbers scored twice off corner kick set pieces, something Dallas will try to prevent from happening again.
“We’ve already watched several hours on film, really trying to dial in,” Loyd said.
“We know our guys’ movements, so at the end of the day, it’s just a 1-v-1 matchup and you’ve got to stick with them. In the playoffs, whenever you make a mistake, you get punished. And that’s what happened to us last game.”