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MLS: First Round Recap and Conference Semis So Far

LAFC on the counter attack against Real Salt Lake

The MLS playoffs brought some real excitement in the knockout stages. And the first leg of the Conference Semi-Finals hasn’t disappointed either.

The MLS knockout stages had some real surprises. All four games were relatively close, with one game going as far as penalty kicks. Meanwhile, a monumental upset occurred out West. Here is look back at the first round of the MLS playoffs.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers

While the Portland Timbers lost Larrys Mabaila to a red card after a harsh tackle on FC Dallas’s Dominque Badji, Diego Valeri scored two goals and the Timbers won anyway. Regardless, the season is considered a disappointment for the higher seed, FC Dallas. How bad did it end for Dallas? Four straight regular-season losses and an early playoff exit. However, give Portland credit. Especially Valeri.

The lack of offensive creativity and a few a key defensive mishaps ultimately lead to Dallas losing. Valeri was the hero on offense, but the man of the match award has to go to goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. The man saved five shots on target. The Timbers won 2-1.

Meanwhile, the Timbers lead the second-seeded Seattle Sounders 2-1 on aggregate in the Conference Semi-Finals.

New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union

Of the four games, this was the most lopsided one. NYCFC took control from the beginning. Early goals from Ismael Tajouri-Shardi and David Villa pretty much secured City’s win. Max Moralez sealed the win in the 78th minute for the third goal.

Philadelphia managed one goal, however, they are now 0-4 in the playoffs. Basically, they are still looking for their first playoff win ever. Cory Burke managed to net for the Union’s only goal in the 83rd minute.

Now that City has their squad fully healthy, they are now dangerous. Indeed, NYCFC will prove to be a nightmare at Yankee Stadium. Max Moralez earns man of the match here as he commanded the midfield on both ends of the ball. However, David Villa could also be a man of the match. That back legged assist in the 10th minute was pretty awesome.

Currently Atlanta United lead NYCFC 1-0 on aggregate in the Eastern Conference Semis.

D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew

The most drama-filled game of the MLS Knockout stages. Once again, Columbus pulled off the upset after penalty kicks. However, D.C. United did not go out without a fight. In fact, Wayne Rooney’s first MLS playoff game went well, until it got to PKs. Unfortunately, Rooney lived up to an old English football stereotype. Englishmen are unfortunately popular for missing penalties.

Instead, Columbus pulled off another win in PKs. Frederic Brillant started things off in the 21st minute, and then Federico Higuain equalized nine minutes later. In extra time, Higuain struck on a header in the 96th minute. Then Nick DeLeon equalized for United in the 115th minute.

In the end, Zack Steffen came in the clutch as he saved two big shots, one from Rooney. Columbus is currently winning against the New York Red Bulls 1-0 on aggregate.

LAFC vs. Real Salt Lake

The final matchup up of the Western Conference knockout round was insane in itself. Here is some food for thought. RSL came into the playoffs with luck. In reality, it should’ve been the L.A. Galaxy playing the new L.A. team. However, the Galaxy folded against the Houston Dynamo after being up 2-0 in the first half. But there is more to this story.

Just how lucky was Real Salt Lake? As a matter of fact, very lucky. The underdogs came into this game with the worst defensive stats in all of the MLS. Yet, they came out on top, winning the game 3-2 in Los Angeles.

Damir Kreilach kicked things off by silencing the Banc of California stadium in the 21st minute. He also owns the goal of the match in the 58th minute. Quite the stunner it was. However, LAFC would take the lead briefly in the 54th minute thanks to Christian Ramirez.

Unfortunately, LAFC’s defense, which made them really successful this season let them down. The final nail in the coffin was in the 69th minute when Walker Zimmerman netted an own goal. The black and gold had many chances to equalize or win, but just didn’t have it in them. Yet, the real loser of this game was the home crowd. The crowd was a bit out of control and didn’t make things easy for either team.

Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake currently sit tied in the Western Conference Semis.

Next Up

With all of the knockout drama over and the first leg of the Conference Semis in the books, it’s time to look forward to the second leg to see who advances to the Conference Finals.

The Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders will settle the score and will kick off the second leg match-ups on November 8th. Leg two will be played at Century Link Field in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the remaining three second leg matches will begin on November 11th. Sporting KC and RSL will kick things off in Kansas City at 3:00 PM Eastern time. Followed by New York City FC vs. Atlanta United at 5:30 PM Eastern time in Atlanta.

Following that will be New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC from New York at 7:30 PM Eastern time.  This game will conclude the Conference Semis.

While the MLS Playoffs have been unpredictable, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in the end.

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