FC Cincinnati and the Philadelphia Union meet for the second consecutive season in the Eastern Conference semifinals, this time with top-seeded Cincinnati playing host thanks to a monster 69-point regular season.
Both teams have dealt with extended breaks after sweeping their best-of-three conference quarterfinal series. And each one is dealing with key absences because of those quarterfinal games.
Fourth-seeded Philadelphia will be without left back Kai Wagner for the second game of a three-game suspension after he directed a racial slur toward New England's Bobby Wood in the first match of their quarterfinal. Union defender Jakob Glesnes is done for the season after sports hernia surgery.
But striker Julian Carranza -- who leads the Union in non-penalty goals -- appears likely to return after he missed the second game of the playoffs with a hamstring injury. That could be critical in a contest between teams whose last five games have been decided by one goal or less.
"When we play Cincinnati, whether it's in the regular season or in the playoffs now, the history is there that it's usually a one-play game," Philadelphia manager Jim Curtin said. "So the team that does better in both boxes offensive and defensively will be the team that comes out."
Meanwhile, Cincinnati is without center back Matt Miazga after he received two yellow cards in his last appearance against the New York Red Bulls, one during the match and then one in his team's successful penalty shootout.
Cincinnati already is without center back Nick Hagglund, who was lost for the season with a hamstring injury. And Yerson Mosquera -- the most likely starter in the middle of Cincinnati's back line Saturday -- has been on international duty with Colombia.
That makes the 21 days Cincinnati is facing between games less of a negative than it may have initially seemed.
"The reality is we've had so many guys that have needed extra recovery, and with the guys that are away with international duty it's been hard to do too much you know tactically until these last couple days," Cincinnati manager Pat Noonan said. "I think we'll certainly have enough time with the people that are now joining training to be prepared."
--Field Level Media