Conference finals matchups are set
Three favourites out of four made it through the Conference semifinals stage in the MLS Cup playoffs. In the East, the regular season’s top two teams will clash, while out West, the Portland Timbers eanred a home-and-away series against Sporting KC, the number one seed after the regular season, by sending their Seattle Sounders rivals packing. These duels will kick off on November 25, on TVA Sports.
Turn of the tide in Harrison
As easy as one, two, three for the Red Bulls, who beat Columbus Crew SC 3-0, notably thanks to a Daniel Royer brace. The visitors’ attack was slow to create chances, getting three of its four shots on target in the final five minutes of the game. So it’s a logical result to see New York go through, but one that will be disappointing for Gregg Berhalter’s troops: we feel like Zack Steffen, MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, could have done more on all three goals by the hosts. Now, the Crew is set for a busy offseason, with some rumours sending them to Austin and others linking Berhalter with the US men’s national team.
As exciting as it gets
Portland suffered, but definitely merited its spot in the conference final when it was all said and done by dramatically beating its Cascadian rival. It should’ve all been much less complicated for the Timbers, who gifted the opposition two goals in regular time, the first caused by a lapse of concentration from goalkeeper Attinella, and the second due to a botched headed clearance in stoppage time. A goal each in extra time finally brought us to penalties, where striker Will Bruin hit the post before back-to-back saves from each keeper. The Sounders will therefore miss out on the MLS Cup final for the first time in three years.
Such is destiny
Once more, NYCFC could not get past the Conference semifinals. The Citizens meekly lost 3-1 against an Atlanta United side that was determined and realistic, with its offensive spearheads Martinez, with a brace, and Almiron, who scored a free kick, back in form. What curse has been cast against the New Yorkers, who go out at this stage of the playoffs for a third time in a row? They’ll have all winter to think about it. For the Five Stripes, now, confidence is at a high after a convincing win in front of over 70,000 supporters.
Holding on for dear life
Real Salt Lake came THAT close to getting through. Twice trailing by two goals in the Blue Cauldron against Sporting Kansas City, powered by Daniel Salloi, Diego Rubio and Felipe Gutiérrez, the Utah representatives came back from behind twice in this game and only needed one little goal to go on to the Conference final. They strongly knocked on Tim Melia’s door in the final 10 minutes, as Kreilach and Savarino had golden chances, but could not bury them – by a whisker. All in all, SKC’s win is a deserved one, but only just.