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How FC Dallas plans to handle the new Round One format in the MLS Cup Playoffs
It will be a slightly different approach to the old two-legged series.
The one constant discussion surrounding the 16 teams left in the MLS Cup Playoffs is how different Round One will be.
In previous playoffs, MLS has tried a number of formats, from a single elimination tournament to a two-legged series similar to what you see in international competitions across the globe.
But none are quite as unique as the 2023 model that saw a Wild Card round that wrapped up on Wednesday night in New York1 and Kansas City before a first to two wins in a best-of-three series in games that have to have a winner.
When discussing the approach with FC Dallas head coach Nico Estevez on Thursday, he didn’t seem to be bothered by the change in format as he expects to continue to treat the games beginning next Monday with the Seattle Sounders as finales.
“Well, I think it doesn't change much because, at the end of the day, the best of the best of three is you just need to win two games,” said Estevez. “It's really important in every single game. You cannot allow the opponent to have an advantage in the first game, or you can treat that first game like you know we have time. I think we have to treat it in a way we don't.”
Goalkeeper Maarten Paes echoed his manager’s comments on not getting caught up in the new format.
“Yeah, last year, we've shown that we can go through the PKs, and we can show we can deal with the pressure,” said Paes. “Whatever happens, we are prepared for that, and we're ready to roll with it.”
FC Dallas and Seattle have met six times in the playoffs before this year, with the last three series going to the Sounders. Because of their seventh-place finish in the Western Conference, Estevez’s team will have to find a way to win on the road, possibly more than once. In their last four road games of the regular season, FC Dallas went unbeaten with two wins, including the season finale win over the LA Galaxy.
“This is the approach that we have to have,” added Estevez. “We have to be brave, and we have to go out there and do our best to win the first game, and this will put us in a good position for the next games that are coming.”
Okay, yeah, technically, the game on Wednesday was in New Jersey.