Wild knockout rounds dominate MLS playoff conversation

The beginning of the Major League Soccer (MLS) playoffs has already provided more than its fair share of excitement and down-to-the-wire finishes. Six teams from both the Western and Eastern conference made the playoffs, with the top two seeds from each conference getting a bye and advancing straight to the conference semi-finals. This means that they were not subjected to the incredible pressure that a knockout stage—win or go home—game comes with. For us fans though, it was those games that provided the most excitement.

In the first game, D.C. United advanced with a come-from-behind win over the New England Revolution. The Revolution started the game with a bicycle kick goal from Juan Agudelo, but D.C. United came back to tie it and ultimately get the winner late in the second half.

Following that game was a rivalry match between the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy. The LA Galaxy have gotten the best of the Sounders in recent years, eliminating them from the playoffs three times since 2010, including in the conference finals last year on their way to becoming champions. It was clear from the start that this would be a tough battle the whole way through. The first 22 minutes saw the teams exchanging goals and it was 2-2 at the half. It would remain that way until Erik Friberg scored for the Sounders in the 73rd minute and sent the Seattle crowd into a frenzy. The Galaxy were not able to respond, ending their chance at gaining another championship.

In the second set of knockout games, the Montreal Impact demolished Toronto FC 3-0, but the most exciting game would come next between the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City. Regulation and extra time could not provide a winner, as Portland tied the game again late in extra time to send it to penalty kicks. The game went through 11 rounds of penalty kicks ending with both teams’ keepers taking a penalty. Portland ended up winning the penalty battle and advancing.

In the conference semi-finals, the teams played a two-game series with goal differential being the deciding factor so every minute of both games matters. The first set of games provided upsets, as the N.Y. Red Bulls were the only favored team to win their match as they beat D.C United 1-0. Portland tied with Vancouver, and Montreal and Seattle both won their games by only one goal, so all of the series are up in the air heading into the second and final leg of the conference semifinals on Sunday.

The most impressive teams so far have been Montreal and the Sounders, so I expect them both to continue their upset runs into the Conference finals. But ultimately, I expect the Red Bulls to take home the title this year because they have by far the most dangerous attack in the league.