Ta’s Timeout: Major League Soccer playoffs recap

A red red shield logo with MLS is next to the text "Audi 2019 Cup Playoffs."
The Major League Soccer Playoffs kicked off on Oct. 19 and will conclude on Nov. 10 with the Seattle Sounders facing off against the Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Final. (Courtesy of Major League Soccer)

For sports fans, the month of October is highly anticipated for postseason baseball and the beginning of basketball season, but it’s also the time for the Major League Soccer playoffs. 

Seven teams each from the Western and Eastern Conferences qualified based on their regular season performances. The playoffs are single-elimination, with higher seeds hosting the matches. 

Los Angeles FC and New York City FC automatically qualified for the conference semifinals by finishing first in the Western and Eastern conferences, respectively.

The other 12 teams faced off in the first round on Oct. 19 and Oct. 20 for the remaining six spots in the next round. Here’s a recap of all the major action that’s happened so far.

First Round

The first clash of the first round was hosted by the defending MLS champions, Atlanta United.

Their opponents, the New England Revolution, held them at bay until the 70th minute, when Atlanta’s right back, Franco Escobar, dashed forward to receive a through ball and finished in the top near corner. 

Atlanta United held on to their narrow lead, earning a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. 

The next game was a suspenseful goalfest contested by the Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas. FC Dallas came back twice in the match, first from being 2-0 down and second from trailing 3-2.

In extra time, Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris completed his hat trick to give the home side the 4-3 victory and a place in the Western Conference Semifinals.

In Toronto, D.C. United and Toronto FC faced off in another action-packed game that went into extra time. Toronto FC struck first in the 32nd minute, when midfielder Marky Delgado capitalized on a goalkeeping error. 

They then allowed an equalizer in the last couple of minutes off a corner kick.

In extra time, Toronto FC scored four goals in 13 minutes. Their astonishing 5-1 victory earned them a date with New York City FC in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. 

Real Salt Lake hosted the Portland Timbers to cap off an exciting first day of the 2019 playoffs.

The hosts netted the first goal in the first half off a header by midfielder Damir Kreilach, but the Timbers responded with a header of their own by forward Dairon Asprilla to equalize right after halftime. 

In the last minutes of the match, Real Salt Lake’s forward Jefferson Savarino found a winner to set his team up with the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Semifinals. 

The second day of the playoffs began with a goalfest between the Philadelphia Union and the New York Red Bulls. 

The Philadelphia Union came from 3-1 down to win the match 4-3 in extra time off a beautiful curling finish by midfielder Marco Fabián, who had just entered the game for a mere two minutes. 

This was the team’s first ever playoff victory. The win earned them the chance to take down the holders of the MLS Cup, Atlanta United. 

The last match of the first round was a clash between Minnesota United and the L.A. Galaxy. After a quiet first half, the L.A. Galaxy finally found their footing and scored two goals in the second half, courtesy of midfielders Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan dos Santos. 

Minnesota United’s Jan Gregus scored a late goal to give the home side some hope, but the Galaxy prevailed and booked themselves a meeting with their biggest rivals, Los Angeles FC. 

Conference Semifinals

The first Eastern Conference semifinal matchup was heavily contested between New York City FC and Toronto FC. 

The first half ended in a stalemate, but Toronto FC kicked off the second half with a bang when midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo capitalized on a defensive error to give the visiting side the lead. 

NYCFC fought hard and equalized in the 68th minute, but in the final minutes of the game, they gave away a penalty, and Toronto FC’s Pozuelo made no mistake, booking the team a place in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. 

In the first Western Conference semifinal match, an experienced Seattle Sounders team faced off against Real Salt Lake. 

Despite not having as much possession, the Sounders were consistently creating chances for scoring and were rewarded for their efforts with two goals from midfielders Gustav Svensson and Nicolás Lodeiro in the second half. 

Real Salt Lake were unable to respond, and the Sounders comfortably won the match to reach the Western Conference Semifinals. 

On the other side of the Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup, Atlanta United and the Philadelphia Union fought hard, but luck just wasn’t on Philadelphia’s side. 

An early goal from midfielder Julian Gressel and a late goal from striker Josef Martínez sealed Atlanta’s spot in the Eastern Conference finals against Toronto FC. 

The last match of the Conference Semifinals was also the most anticipated game of the round, a Los Angeles derby. 

LAFC were considered MLS Cup favorites based on their impressive regular season record. But fans knew that if any team were to upset the Western Conference leaders, it would be the L.A. Galaxy. 

The Galaxy came into this match undefeated in five against LAFC, two of which were victories. 

LAFC came into this game determined to finally get revenge. LAFC held onto the lead, but the Galaxy stayed competitive.

LAFC’s Carlos Vela and Adama Diomande scored two goals each to lead their team to a thrilling 5-3 victory over their biggest rivals. 

LAFC had finally won their first game against the L.A. Galaxy and successfully sealed for themselves a spot in the Western Conference Finals. 

Conference Finals

The Seattle Sounders defeated LAFC 3-1 on Tuesday, and Toronto FC defeated Atlanta United 2-1 on Wednesday. 

Seattle Sounders will face off against Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Final on Nov. 10 for the third time in four years. 

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