Whatever happens going forward, we can be assured that a Canadian team will be crowned Eastern Conference champions for the first time this MLS season. Of the eight teams that went into the second leg of the MLS semifinals yesterday, two of the four that survived hailed from North of the border and only one of the final four has previously lifted an MLS Cup. Here’s a recap of yesterday’s action in the playoffs.
Colorado Rapids 1-0 LA Galaxy
A first-half wonder strike from Shkelzen Gashi was the lone moment of brilliance in a Western Conference showdown between the Galaxy and the Rapids that otherwise seemed stuck in second gear for 90 minutes. The Rapids striker cancelled out LA’s lead from the first leg with a dazzling hit from 37 yards out that ricocheted off the post into the goal tying the aggregate score at 1-1 in the 36th minute.
Los Angeles’ attack largely failed to fire with the visitors managing just a single shot on goal. The Rapids were the dominant team from the opening whistle and were unlucky not to find a way through during regulation time. But despite a game to forget from a Galaxy offense that included Giovani Dos Santos, Alan Gordon, Mike Magee and Sebastian Lletget, LA were able to hold on to take the game to penalties.
Despite Colorado holding the obvious advantage of having Tim Howard in goal, LA started the shootout on the right foot with substitute Steven Gerrard confidently blasting his effort past the veteran keeper.
Unfortunately for LA, it went rapidly downhill from there with Dos Santos blasting his shot over, and Ashley Cole and Jeff Larentowicz both denied by Howard.
Kevin Doyle, Sebastian Le Toux and Marco Pappa meanwhile, converted for the Rapids, sending them into the Western Conference final, and leaving five-time MLS Cup champions LA to start planning for next season.
New York Red Bulls 1-2 Montreal Impact
Like LA, Montreal had a 1-0 lead from the first leg heading into Sunday’s second leg against New York Red Bulls. Ignacio Piatti doubled that lead just five minutes into the second half.
But New York look to have got a lifeline in the 77th minute when Bradley Wright-Phillips scored a scrappy goal from inside the box. For a few minutes anyway, New York supporters dared to believe as their team fought for a second goal and a chance to maybe, just maybe, score a third and take the game to extra time.
It was not to be however, as Piatti scored his second of the night with just five minutes remaining. The Impact became the first Canadian team to ever reach a conference final, while New York’s pursuit of a club-first MLS Cup title will have to resume next season.
New York City FC 0–5 Toronto FC
In general, Sunday was a bad day for New York teams and a good day for Canadian ones as Toronto mopped the floor with New York City FC to join the Impact in the Eastern Conference final.
TFC already have a 2-0 lead from the first game and a storm of goals from the likes Sebastian Giovinco (who scored a hat-trick), Jozy Altidore and Jonathon Osorio saw NYC dumped out by an aggregate score of 7-0.
Two of the major talking points ahead of this one were the inclusion of David Villa, despite a kick out against Armando Cooper in the last round that should have seen him suspended, and the exclusion of Giovinco from the shortlist for MLS MVP.
In the end, neither point really made much of a difference with Villa failing to make an impact for NYC and Giovinco making it pretty apparent he’s the best player in the league by almost singlehandedly destroying the most star-studded team in the league.
Toronto move forward as heavy favorites to beat the Impact, progress to the Cup final, and quite possibly, bring the MLS Cup title north of the border for the first time.
FC Dallas 2-1 Seattle Sounders FC
It’s always rough to see a team win a match but still get ousted from the playoffs; as was the case for FC Dallas, who despite wining 2-1 on Sunday, failed to overhaul a first-leg loss and were ultimately dumped from the playoffs on a 2-4 aggregate score lines in Seattle’s favor.
It started well for Dallas with Tesho Akindele opening the scoring in the first half. But Nicolas Lodeiro continued his excellent run of scoring in the playoffs, equalizing for the Sounders 10 minutes into the second half.
Maximiliano Urruti restored the home side’s lead just two minutes later, but despite having more than a third of the match left to play, Dallas were unable to find anything like the three additional goals they would have needed to progress. Seattle will now meet Colorado in the Western Conference final.
The MLS playoffs will resume on Tuesday November 22.
You can watch Montreal Impact take on Toronto FC at 8:00 p.m. EST on ESPN, while you can catch Seattle Sounders hosting Colorado Rapids at 10:00 p.m. EST on FS1.