We've known for a while now that D.C. United would win the Eastern Conference and face the Eastern Conference winner of what MLS now calls the "Knockout Round." The only question left was who would end up in that game, with New England removing themselves from the equation last week. Finally, after the last ball was shot and the last call was argued in the 2014 regular season, we have an answer. United will take on the winner of a one-off game between the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City on October 30th up at Red Bull Arena.
The East semis will take place next week, with United playing their road leg on November 2nd and then hosting at RFK on November 8th. The other Eastern pairing - Revs vs. Crew - will be see Columbus host on the 1st and New England at home for the second leg on November 9th. Before you ask: The away goals rule will be in effect, which is a change from recent years.
On one hand, it's not an ideal pairing for this early stage of the playoffs. The Red Bulls were, until a couple of days ago, the Supporters Shield holders. More important for our purposes, they're getting a lot of attention for their 6W-1D-3L finish to the season. However, if we factor in their CCL games - three non-wins against the Montreal Impact and CD F.A.S. of El Salvador - their form over the last 10 is a more run-of-the-mill 4W-3D-3L.
KC, meanwhile, will defend their 2013 MLS Cup furiously until someone knocks them out. KC's last ten competitive matches show that they've been in fairly middling form - 4W-1D-5L - but like the Metros that includes three CCL matches. Take those out, and things look a lot worse: In MLS play, the Sporks have gone 2W-1D-7L to close the season, and only managed eleven goals in the process.
If you're more concerned with matchups and recent results between teams, then you're probably happy. United has gone 4W-1D-1L in 2014 against these two, giving up just one goal in six games (and, as several B&RU regulars pointed out on Twitter last night, that goal required being on the road and down a man for an hour first).
There's also playoff history. You can't take history out on the field and use it to help you win games, but if it's any indicator of what's to come then United should be just fine. The Black-and-Red have won every single playoff encounter against both NYRB and KC, and you should take a second to savor how salty both of those fanbases are about it. United won the 2004 MLS Cup over the then-Wizards, and has eliminated the gang of schizophrenics up in north Jersey four different times (1996, 2004, 2006, and 2012).