Orlando City may be eliminated, but the MLS Cup playoffs roll on. As a passionate fan of this entire silly league, I'm going to continue to provide at least some coverage for the rest of the postseason, providing previews for each round and giving whatever Orlando City spin I can find.
The conference semifinals of the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs are on tap for this week, and it's one of the most intriguing final eights we've had in recent MLS history, both in terms of quality and narrative.
In the Eastern Conference, it's a game of master vs. apprentice.
The Philadelphia Union, led by head coach Jim Curtin and general manager Ernst Tanner, have build one of the strongest clubs in the league. The academy is elite and Tanner's sporting department does an excellent job of scouting and signing under the radar players to seamlessly fit into Curtin's system of play.
Fledgling FC Cincinnati saw that success in Philadelphia and copied it from the source, hiring Curtin's top assistant Pat Noonan as head coach and former Union executive Chris Albright as general manager.
That tandem have done an incredible reviving Cincinnati from a three-time Wooden Spoon holder to a legit cup contender. Noonan and Albright will face the Union with a spot in the Eastern Conference final on the line Thursday. night.
Each team boasts one of the league's deadliest attacking trios, while the Union also feature the best defense in MLS, led by MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake and Defender of the Year Jakob Glesnes.
On the other side of the East, the reigning MLS Cup champions New York City FC travel north of the border to face CF Montreal, fresh off the Canadiens win over Orlando City. Each side made light work of a Florida team in the opening round and play some of the most aesthetically pleasing soccer in the country.
In the Western Conference, it's a pair of rivalry showdowns.
The Supporters' Shield winners Los Angeles FC face their cross-town rivals the Los Angeles Galaxy in another high-stakes meeting of "El Traffico."
The Galaxy escaped a tough Nashville SC team in the opening round thanks to a Julian Araujo goal and will look to upset the top team in the league Thursday night. This is the 17th meeting of El Trafico and the second-ever playoff meeting between the two LA clubs.
The Galaxy hold the advantage in all-time wins against LAFC, but the Black and Gold won the most recent meeting July 8 and the playoff match in 2019.
On the other side of the West bracket, it's an even younger rivalry, a Copa Tejas rematch between FC Dallas and Austin FC. Copa Tejas is a trophy played for between the three MLS clubs in Texas (Austin, Dallas and Houston) and Austin is the active trophy holder after going undefeated against other Texas teams this season.
This is a young rivalry with only five games between the two sides, but these are the premier clubs in the Lone Star State. Austin has actually never beaten Dallas, with two draws and three losses to the oldest club in the state.