Which team will emerge from the MLS Eastern Conference?
Toronto. I can’t wait for the Toronto-NYCFC series, which should be breathtaking. And an East final between Toronto and the New York Red Bulls would be enthrallingly tight as well. But I see Toronto being stingy in the back and having just an extra bit of quality in the attack and advancing to the final.
For the reasons stated above, it’s hard to argue against Toronto. No team in the East has a better combination of the two elements that seem to be crucial come playoff time—defense and difference makers. TFC’s defensive revamp represented the sort of smart planning and investment this club had lacked for years. Giovinco is peerless, Altidore is healthy and Bradley surely desperate for his first domestic title. It’ll be enough.
I picked TFC to reach MLS Cup in the preseason, and they've got all the right pieces to get there. Sweeping the two New York teams (sorry, Montreal!) won't be an easy task and will require two different approaches entirely, but as long as Toronto's star trio stays healthy and out of card trouble (which is a concern, given that both Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are already sitting on yellows from the knockout round), it will be TFC playing for the trophy.
The New York Red Bulls. Jesse Marsch’s team has balance in all parts of the roster and enough experience to serve it well during what are sure to be four exciting games in the conference semifinals and final.
The Red Bulls will take down Toronto in one of the most entertaining two-leg playoff series of the past decade.