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Gamewatch: Why you should pull for Cincinnati, LA Galaxy

An upset win for Cincinnati (which means a home loss for Philadelphia) and a win for LA Galaxy are good news for NYCFC

MLS: FC Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls
It seemed like more Cincinnati players were on the field than New Jersey fans in the stands last week at Red Bull Arena.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs open the Conference Semifinals today when the two No 1 seeds play in evening games that could determine where the cup final will be played.

First up we have No 1 Philadelphia Union hosting No 5 FC Cincinnati in Chester, PA after Cincy logged the only upset win in Round One when they beat our roommates rivals New Jersey Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena last week. Then we have No 1 LAFC hosting No 4 LA Galaxy at Banc of California Stadium in a playoff El Traffico, a rivalry that the Guardian calls “more than just a match,” but rather “a question of identity.”

While New York City FC doesn’t have any skin in either of these games, and will be preparing for a hard-fought away game against CF Montréal at Stade Saputo on Sunday, the NYCFC faithful might want to send a hopeful prayer that today’s results play out in a way that could help New York City (not going to jinx it!) down the line.

Hope Cincinnati upset Philadelphia

Cincinnati put years of disappointing seasons behind them when they scored a late winner against New Jersey at Red Bull Arena last Saturday. It was an impressive performance against a streaky Red Bulls that looked formidable at times this season but that consistently posted disappointing results at home. No matter: Cincinnati earned the win.

Now they face a Philadelphia Union that looked dangerous all season long, and that is undefeated at home in Chester, PA. Despite that, we like Cincinnati’s chances. Cincy defeated Philadelphia in Ohio in August, and drew them in Chester in June: Cincinnati are not only one of just five teams to beat the Union this year, they're the only team in MLS to post an undefeated record against them in 2022.

Why does this matter? Because the higher seed always gets to play at home, and if the No 1 team is knocked out then the winner of Sunday’s game between NYCFC and Montréal will host the Eastern Conference Finals. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to watch #DOOP fans suffer a little.

Philadelphia Union vs FC Cincinnati, Thursday, October 20 at 8 pm ET, Subaru Park — Fox Sports 1, FS1, Fox Deportes

Root for LA Galaxy to beat LAFC

We have no great love for LA Galaxy (although we do respect that they have been one of the MLS elite since they helped establish the league in 1996), and we have no great hatred for LAFC (in fact, we like their stadium), but we want the Galaxy to pull off the upset for the same reason that we want Cincinnati to beat Philadelphia: The Supporters’ Shield-winning LAFC have the best record in MLS, which means they’re the home team as long as they’re in it.

If LAFC fails to advance, a certain No 3 seed from the Eastern Conference could find themselves hosting the MLS Cup Final (not going to jinx it).

It helps that LA Galaxy have performed well against LAFC this year despite running hot and cold against the rest of the league. The Galaxy beat LAFC at home in April, then lost to them at Banc of California Stadium in June. But the Galaxy knocked LAFC out of the US Open Cup by the score of 3-1 back in May despite fielding backup goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann. The Galaxy have proven they can face down the star power of LAFC, and beat a team that have steamrolled most other clubs in MLS.

LAFC vs LA Galaxy, Thursday, October 20 at 10 pm ET, Banc of California Stadium — Fox Sports 1, FS1, Fox Deportes