After a long season of 34 league games, the dust has finally settled, and a full 8 teams have been eliminated from the MLS playoffs, leaving 12 to compete for the championship. While many MLS fans won’t be shocked by the Chicago Fire and the Houston Dynamo going home early, not many would have expected both of last year’s finalists to be sitting on a tropical beach in late-October, with the Columbus Crew finishing 6 points outside the playoffs and the reigning champions, the Portland Timbers, just missing out on the last day thanks to a 4-1 drubbing at the hands (or feet) of the playoff-less Vancouver Whitecaps.
In the East, both New York teams earned byes to the next round, with Frank Lampard coming on in the 73rd minute of NYC FC’s game against Columbus, when the score was tied at 1-1, to push the team to a 4-1 win and finish one point ahead of 3rd place Toronto. In the West, Dallas and last year’s bottom team Colorado got some additional rest time, as they finished in the top 2.
As for the first round matches… here’s a preview of each of the 1 legged, winner take all, games, which are to be played midweek this week.
Toronto F.C. v Philadelphia Union (Wednesday)
Regular season Toronto 1-1-0
With only 1 win in the last 6 matches of the regular season nobody can accuse Toronto of being the “in form” team, that solo win being a 3-2 squeaker against the basement dwelling Chicago Fire in the last game of the season. One extra win in that period would have leapfrogged them above NYC FC, but it wasn’t to be. so they get to face a Philadelphia Union team that’s on an even worse streak than them, winless in 7. On paper, Toronto should go through, they have the better team, have performed to a higher standard over the course of the season, and have home field advantage, but in a one game scenario anything can happen
LA Galaxy v Real Salt Lake (Wednesday)
Regular season LA Galaxy 1-1-0
The star studded LA Galaxy may have recently welcomed Landon Donovan back to the fold, but there is speculation that Steven Gerrard has announced his farewell to the team through an Instagram post. Real were sitting in 4th place, prior to their last game, but a loss to Seattle meant that both they and Sporting KC leapt above them, meaning that they now have to take on an LA team they’ve been unable to beat in both meetings this season.
D.C. United v Montreal Impact (Thursday)
Regular season 0-2-0
D.C. United were the form team in the Eastern conference, with 4 straight wins, before the final day loss to Orlando, propelling them from just outside the playoff picture to a 4th place finish, and home field advantage against a Montreal team who’ve only won 2 of their last 8 games, and have an upset star in Didier Drogba who was recently fined for refusing to be named as a substitute. In the 2 games that they played against each other this season, neither team was able to register a win, in this game one of them has to win.
Seattle Sounders v Sporting KC (Thursday)
Regular season Sporting KC 2-0-0
Seattle rocketed into the playoffs with 5 wins out of their last 7 games, and thanks to Salt Lake losing on the last day, they took 4th place, and a home tie against a Sporting Kansas City team that’s beaten them twice this season, although the last time was when Seattle were going through a bad patch of form in July. Now, it’s Sporting that’s stuck in a rut of poor results, with only 2 wins in their last 9 league games (both over the, now vacationing, San Jose Earthquakes).