MLS playoff preview - Rapids can benefit from home advantage, Real Salt Lake look for another upset

Eight teams now remain in the MLS playoffs, and with a place in the Conference Finals up for grabs, the Colorado Rapids will hope home advantage helps, while Real Salt Lake look to upset the odds.

The first week of the MLS Cup playoffs provided some fantastic moments and surprise results.

In the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake stunned No.2 seed Seattle Sounders to win via penalty shootout following a goalless draw. Meanwhile, Nashville SC and Portland Timbers required spectacular individual efforts to rally past Orlando City and Minnesota United.

The conference semi-finals start on Thursday as the top seed in the west, Colorado Rapids, finally get to take to the field against PortlandSporting KC benefitted from Seattle losing and they will now host Real Salt Lake on Sunday.

In the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia will host Nashville on Sunday. The top seeded New England Revolution will have to wait until Tuesday for their 2021 playoff debut when they host NYCFC.

Rapids thankful for home game

Colorado Rapids, MLS, playoffs, 2021

The Colorado Rapids stormed past both Seattle and Sporting KC on the last day of the season and snatched the top seed in the West, and the first-round bye that came with it. As a result they will host No.4 seed Portland on Thursday with a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day tilt.

As for previous results, Colorado beat Portland 2-0 at home in October and the teams played to a 2-2 draw in September.

Manager Robin Fraser has the Rapids playing well as a team and he regularly changes the lineup and formation between a 5-3-2, a 3-4-2-1 and a 4-4-2.

They particularly thrive in defense, allowing the second-least goals in the Western Conference. That allows them to utilise their counter attack, which benefits the likes of Kellyn Acosta and Jonathan Lewis up front.

Portland will have to be patient if they are to break down the Rapids defense. Sebastian Blanco was the star in the first round win with two goals, including one spectacular strike.

The Timbers will also be counting on Steve Clark in goal to keep their lead intact should they squeeze in front of Colorado at any point.

Planet Sport Bet has Colorado Rapids at 4/5 to get the win with Portland Timbers at 14/5. A draw is 11/4.

Can Real Salt Lake pull off another stunner?

Real Salt Lake, MLS, playoffs, 2021

The surprise of the first round was Real Salt Lake. They were the last team to qualify for the playoffs, yet went on the road to Seattle and beat them in their own backyard.

The Sounders are usually playoff specialists - especially at home - so for them to lose and do so in a shootout is stunning. Now RSL look to do it again as they face No.3 seeded Sporting Kansas City.

SKC left the field last week thinking they had played their final home game of the season, but now they get at least one more.

But, if they are to progress at home, they'll have to beat RSL for the first time this season. They lost to them in controversial fashion on the last day of the regular season, while they also failed to bring home any points from Utah when they met in the summer.

SKC can take confidence from their last meeting in the 2013 MLS Cup, though. They managed to win at home, and if they can repeat the feat on Sunday they have a chance to host the Western Conference Final against Portland, otherwise they'll travel to Colorado.

Planet Sport Bet has Sporting Kansas City as the favorites at 4/7. Real Salt Lake is 15/4 to pull off another upset, while a draw is 3/1.

READ MORE: Bookies trim Manchester City's Champions League odds after PSG win

Latest Soccer Videos