The Major League Soccer (MLS) playoffs began on Nov. 21. The first game of the playoffs featured Orlando City SC and New York City FC (NYCFC). Orlando took the lead in the fifth minute with Nani’s penalty kick, but central defender Maxime Chanot headered in a goal to level the game for NYCFC during the eighth minute. In the 87th minute of the game, Ruan received a red card for a hostile challenge on an NYCFC player. The rest of the game went back and forth with both teams taking many shots on the goal. Nonetheless, the match finished 1–1 after 90 minutes.
During the penalty shootouts, Pedro Gallese, the goalkeeper for Orlando, received a controversial red card for encroaching on his line during a penalty kick. In spite of that, Orlando won the penalty shootout 6–5 to move on to the next round.
Within the Eastern Conference, the New England Revolution defeated the Philadelphia Union 2–0 in a stunning win. Favorites to win the playoffs, Philadelphia had the best record within the Eastern and Western Conferences. They finished the year with 14 wins, five draws and four losses. The team also had the best goal differences within both conferences.
New England, on the other hand, played against the Montreal Impact to gain entry into the playoffs and are the eighth seed in the playoffs. Although seasonal team statistics illustrated their unlikeliness to win, New England won the game due to a persistent attacking effort in the first half. Philadelphia, on the other hand, simply lacked attacking creativity to trouble the New England keeper.
Following their win, New England beat Orlando 3–1 in a conference semifinals match. Orlando dominated the possession side of the game; they had about 61% of the ball throughout the 90 minutes while New England had 39% of the ball. Nevertheless, New England capitalized on their opportunities and scored an awarded penalty in the 17th minute. Striker Gustavo Bou also calmly finished a chance in the 25th minute to put New England up by two goals. Orlando responded with a goal in the 33rd minute and continued to look threatening when moving forward. However, their attacking midfielder, Mauricio Pereyra, received a red card in the 60th minute. The challenge was costly as New England utilized the advantage to score their third and game-sealing goal.
Sporting KC played the San Jose Earthquakes to commence the playoffs within the Western Conference. The game finished 3–3 during normal playing time. In the penalty shootout, the Sporting KC goalkeeper had three spectacular saves to propel his team into the conference semifinals. The penalty shootout, in all, finished 3–0 in favor of Sporting KC.
Portland Timbers and FC Dallas’ game also ended in a penalty shootout. As the winner of the MLS is Back Tournament, Portland finished third in the Western Conference and scored 46 goals within the season. Meanwhile, FC Dallas finished sixth in the Western Conference.
The match between the two teams was exciting and eventful especially during the penalty shootout. The teams shared a close amount of possession; Portland, however, had more shots on goal. Dallas scored the first goal of the game in the 32nd minute, but it was overturned as offside after video assistant refereeing counselled the referee. The first half ended 0–0. Though the game was open, Portland’s attacking and link-up passes paid dividends as they scored an exquisite goal in the 82nd minute. The game looked to be over until Ricardo Pepi scored from a ball ricocheting from the post in the injury time.
The game ended with a penalty score of 8–7 favoring Dallas.
Minnesota United FC defeated the Colorado Rapids 3–0. Though the score line hints at a different narrative, Colorado played well and forced six crucial saves from Minnesota’s goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair. However, Minnesota slotted their open chances to win the game.
In the ultimate game of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, Seattle Sounders FC defeated Los Angeles FC (LAFC) 3–1. Seattle scored the first goal in the 18th minute. Following a skillful dribble, LAFC’s talisman Carlos Vela earned a penalty in the 21st minute. However, he shot straight into the keeper’s hand and the first half ended 1–0. During the second half, Seattle dominated the game; they hit the post three times and looked threatening with their attacks. Consequently, the Sounders scored in the 66th minute. Although LAFC scored in the 77th minute to make it 2–1, the Sounders scored to seal the game in the 80th minute.
The conference finals are fixed. The New England Revolution will play against the Columbus Crew in the Western Conference finals scheduled for Dec. 6. Columbus appears as the favorite, but New England, based on their recent displays, can upset the Columbus team. In the Eastern Conference, the Seattle Sounders defeated FC Dallas by a score of 1–0 yesterday for an Eastern Conference finals spot. Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas will play Minnesota United FC on Dec. 3 for a Western Conference finals spot.