We are now down to two teams in MLS’ Eastern Conference. Following Sunday night’s results, a place in the conference final now awaits the New England Revolution and Columbus Crew.
For Columbus, this is all par for the course. Although unexpected complications have sometimes emerged, the Crew have regularly looked like one of the most competitive teams in MLS. Their playoff run has so far been symbolic of this. After squeezing past the New York Red Bulls in the first round with a 3-2 win, Columbus later gained an Eastern Conference semifinal victory through a 2-0 result that went into extra time.
The Crew struggle, and yet, they also frequently emerge as the vanquishers when going toe-to-toe with other MLS sides.
But what about against the Revolution?
Now the undisputed dark horse of the playoffs, there is fearless energy that has enlivened the East’s #8 seed. Under the guidance of veteran manager Bruce Arena, New England has stunned noteworthy playoff opponents like the Philadelphia Union and Orlando City.
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Despite the fact that Nashville later lost in the Eastern Conference semis to the Crew, fans of the 2020 expansion club will surely be thrilled with this historic result over Toronto.
Up against a powerhouse like Toronto — who was also the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference — #7 ranked Nashville not only outplayed their opponents but also later scored the game-winner in the 2nd half of extra time. Thanks to a goal from Daniel Rios in the 108th minute, Nashville clinched two consecutive MLS playoff victories in a row and a place into the conference semis.
Not bad for a debut team that was once sitting close to dead last in late July.
Another playoff upset. After Toronto fell to Nashville, MLS’s playoff unpredictability continued its chaotic path through a win for Eastern Conference #8 seed New England over the #1 ranked Philadelphia.
This wasn’t a narrow victory through extra time either. By the time the 30th minute rolled around, the Revolution was already up 2-0 thanks to goals from Adam Buksa and Tajon Buchanan. Perhaps a sign of things to come, it was midfielder Carles Gil who also stole the show with his two assists and a beautiful chipped shot that unfortunately hit the crossbar.
The sky appears to be the limit for New England in the playoffs.
There’s just something about Seattle in the playoffs.
Even up against Carlos Vela — easily the top player in the league — the Sounders found a way to stifle and outshine the 2019 MLS MVP. Led by a dynamic attacking trio of Raul Ruidiaz, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Jordan Morris, Seattle was constantly a step ahead of their LAFC counterparts that failed to slow their pace down.
As for LAFC, Vela’s missed opportunity to score off a penalty was emblematic of the less-than-exciting season they’ve had.
Well done to Arena and the Revolution. Facing yet another daunting opponent, New England took charge through a goal and assist from Gil, a brilliant performance at right-back from Buchannan, and two goals from striker Gustavo Bou.
Bou, who later paid tribute to Diego Maradona during the match, has been an absolute game-changer alongside Gil in the attack.
If those two continue to fire at the rate that they have in recent weeks, there’s a decent chance they could lift this year’s MLS Cup title.
It may have taken 90+ minutes and two periods of extra time, but Columbus eventually got the job done against a Nashville side that was happy to spend a good portion of the match in their own half.
There were few genuine highlights from the scoreless 90 minutes that went into extra time, but once there, Columbus found a second wind through late goals from Pedro Santos and Gyasi Zardes.
Seemingly out of energy, there was little that Nashville provided in the final stages of extra time as they shuffled to a loss.
Seattle looks ready to dominate the Western Conference. After their imposing win over LAFC, there are few reasons why they should now run into any serious roadblocks against FC Dallas in the conference semis.
Seattle Sounders for a playoff win (-154) against Dallas this Tuesday night.
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Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast. Email: [email protected]More info on Cesar Hernandez
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