The first round of the MLS Cup playoffs is over, and in this case, the amount of pure mayhem was less than the usual playoff norm. That was at least until FC Dallas’ Alan Velasco decided to earn his team’s penalty shootout victory over Minnesota United FC with a Panenka that was just out of reach of Loons goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair. . That said, form was largely retained, with FC Cincinnati being the only lowest-ranked team to win.
Granted, the conference semifinals, when the top seeds enter the group, are where the real havoc often takes place. And there are some tantalizing matches set to take place later this week. But it’s worth reflecting on what’s happened over the past three days, especially with some young teams that have had a successful playoff baptism.
Cincy walks as Red Bulls run in place
Another year, another first-round fire for the New York Red Bulls, who have yet to win the MLS Cup. Granted, there have been more painful outings in recent years — think of the 3-1 lead against Philadelphia in 2019 — but this one still hurts. Lewis Morgan’s opener in the second half appeared to put the Red Bulls in control, only for Luciano Acosta to equalize from the spot.
Then came the sequence which doubled as a metaphor for the respective directions of the two teams. A transition opportunity has begun with Red Bulls defender Aaron Long seemingly well placed to deal with any threat posed by Brandon Vazquez, only for a lack of focus from Long plus Vazquez’s mobility proving enough for the FCC to advance. clearly only once. Acosta’s delivery passed Carlos Coronel for the match winner. Cincinnati is heading into the next round, while the Red Bulls are running in place, at least as far as the playoffs go.
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Now Cincy is ready for the ultimate apprentice vs. master match, which sees general manager Chris Albright and manager Pat Noonan head to their old stomping ground in Philadelphia. Given the firepower of their front line, a surprise is certainly possible. Even if FCC does not succeed, the team and the organization are clearly moving in the right direction.
Galaxy midfielder topples Nashville
The LA Galaxy midfielder has been a work in progress for much of the 2022 campaign, but the trio of Marky Delgado, Riqui Puig and Gaston Brugman played arguably their best game yet in the playoff win Galaxy playoff against Nashville. Not only did they help LA control possession, but they did their part defensively. Granted, it was a collective effort that saw Nashville MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar have just one touch in the Galaxy penalty area – his least since a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas in March – but the midfielder has worked a lot in there. Concerning. This allowed the Galaxy to simply wear Nashville down, eventually drilling into Julian Araujo’s header in the 60th minute. Now a playoff Traffic against LAFC is next for the Galaxy.
It’s often been said how heavily Nashville’s offense relied on Mukhtar, but the fact that the German contributed 65% of the NSC’s goals can’t be ignored. Nashville’s best chance came early in the second half, but Mukhtar’s shot was saved by Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond. The Yotes haven’t created much else, and finding a complementary piece in Mukhtar remains Nashville’s biggest priority this offseason.
Driussi’s MVP campaign continues
The man bites xDAWG. Or maybe in this case more than one man bit.
There was Austin FC’s Sebastian Driussi who scored twice, including a cold-blooded penalty in added time in the second half to tie the game. Then there was the heroics of goalkeeper Brad Stuver, who saved two shots on goal in the penalty shootout, and saw a third fly over his net to end the game. Greenis back. Real Salt Lake were also biting, with Rubio Rubin’s red card in the second half proving to be a turning point that left RSL climbing Everest.
Everything that happened at Q2 Stadium proved the limits of the gritty style that has become the hallmark of RSL and its Zen master, Pablo Mastroeni. It’s an approach that has earned them many games they otherwise wouldn’t have, hence the term « xDAWG. » With the new ownership now firmly entrenched, perhaps some real momentum can now be achieved and give Mastroeni some additional assets to work with.
As for Austin, the game marked the fourth time this season that they have come back from two goals down to win. It’s not a habit that manager Josh Wolff is eager to see continue, but it helps when you have a designated player like Driussi in your team. The Argentine took his tally this season to 23 goals, proving that while spending money on a DP isn’t a guarantee of success, if you spend it on the right player it can have a huge impact.
Montreal continues to do the work
Montreal has done a good job of flying under the radar this season. This is partly because the team resides north of the border. Other teams in the league — read: LAFC and Philadelphia — have certainly received more attention when it comes to the Supporters’ Shield race, but there’s also Montreal’s hands-on, no-nonsense approach. There is not much flash for CFM, even though they have scored 63 goals this season.
No real surprise, then, that Montreal took matters into their own hands by beating Orlando 2-0, a victory that highlighted the Quebecers‘ Ability and composure in the face of aggressive play. The breakthrough saw a magnificent team goal involving Kei Kamara and Djordje Mihailovic with Ismael Kone to finish.
There are still some aspects of the Montreal game that they will have to clean up. Orlando had a few clear chances, especially in the first half, but CFM made the plays they needed, as they have all season.
Higuain’s career ends in Miami
Ever since Ronny Deila left NYCFC in mid-June to become manager of Standard Liege, it’s been difficult to gauge which Pigeons team would turn up on any given day. A four game winless streak was followed by a four game win streak followed by another four game winless streak.
Luckily for the Blues, they found a winning formula by dispatching Inter Miami CF 3-0. They did so with the help of 22-year-old midfielder Santiago Rodriguez, who bagged two assists, including a lavish backheel to set up Maxi Moralez’s goal. This, of course, was nothing new, as Rodriguez finished the regular season with 13 assists, good enough for sixth place in the league. (His loan from Montevideo City ended at the end of the season. NYCFC fans hope to see him again next season.)
The Bronx club was helped by the fact that Miami picked the absolute worst time to play their worst game since a humble 5-1 loss to Austin in Week 2. The defense was abysmal, and it was a miracle that the Herons reached half-time without conceding.
It proved a disappointing end to Gonzalo Higuain’s career, on a converted baseball field no less. The Argentinian thought he had opened the scoring in the first half, before being whistled for offside. It was about as good as it gets, both for the team and for the player. Still, Miami has made great strides this season under difficult circumstances. The chance to grow next season is there.
St. Clair heroism can’t save Loons in Dallas
St. Clair goes to see Panenkas in his sleep, and like a modern-day Tantalus, those penalty attempts will be forever out of his reach when they settle in the net.
The final game of the first round ended in a penalty shootout, and two Dallas shooters — Velasco and Franco Jara — went for the deft chip, and both times St. Clair narrowly missed stopping them. to enter. He even put a foot in Jara’s attempt, but to no avail. Dallas eventually converted all five attempts and advanced to the conference semifinals.
St. Clair didn’t do much else wrong on the night, keeping the Loons in the game to the tune of eight saves. But for the third straight year, Minnesota couldn’t take the lead in a road playoff game.
Dallas, meanwhile, cemented their reputation as a team on the rise, replete with their attacking trio of Velasco, Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola. They also controlled most of the game and proved they could take a punch in the form of a Minnesota goal by Emanuel Reynoso and responded with a goal of their own by Facundo Quignon. Now a game between Texas and Austin FC awaits you.