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In an MLS Cup playoff weekend that had no shortage of drama — and chaos — the Sunday afternoon battle between Sporting Kansas City and San Jose Earthquakes found a way to take centerstage through an incredible finish.
With a spot in the Western Conference semifinals on the line, Kansas City quickly bounced back from a 2-1 deficit at halftime through an equalizer in the 47th minute from Ilie Sanchez. Then, in injury time, it was youngster Gianluca Busio who appeared to clinch the climactic game-winner for Kansas City in the 91st minute.
That is until the 97th minute when the league’s all-time leading goalscorer made it 3-3. In literally the last kick of the game, veteran striker Chris Wondolowski sank a third of the night for San Jose, thereby sending the game to extra time.
After two scoreless halves, the script was flipped once again once the match was set to be decided by a penalty shoot-out. Despite the fact that San Jose seemed to have more momentum and drive after their late equalizer, all hopes of a win were then immediately and literally stopped by Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia.
Putting on a show with three consecutive saves, Melia stood tall as he halted everything that San Jose kicked at him in the penalty shoot-out. With Kansas City scoring all three of their own attempts, the Earthquakes were eventually knocked out in a theatrically tragic fashion.
It was undoubtedly a captivating match, and for those who are hoping for more memorable moments like these, the good news is that the playoffs have just started…
Here’s what else you might have missed from the latest batch of MLS games.
Speaking of dramatic finishes, last Friday’s game had an eye-catching end after New England’s Gustavo Bou rocketed in a game-winner during the 95th minute. Arguably the better side in the match, New England has now secured a spot in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Union.
Miami’s efforts were too little too late. Following a poor start to the game that included two goals from Nashville within the first 24 minutes, Miami quickly found themselves chasing a deficit in the 1st half. Unfortunately for the Floridian club, once they did prove to gain some momentum, Nashville then scored a third in the 57th minute. Nashville is now set to face Toronto in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
A fairly standard draw that descended into beautiful chaos once the penalty shootout began. Two premature celebrations from Orlando, a red for their goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and a field player needing to step in for him in net all defined a perplexing and narrow win for Orlando. Nonetheless, their place in the Eastern Conference semifinals is booked.
Although the Red Bulls gave them a bit of a scare during parts of the match, this was a well-deserved victory for a Columbus side that was guided by players like Pedro Santos, Darlington Nagbe, and Lucas Zelarayan. Welcome to the Eastern Conference semifinal party, Crew.
The most entertaining game of the weekend. Aside from the Earthquake’s own tendencies for spectacular wins and failures, Kansas City did well to not only provide some fireworks themselves but to also close things down when needed during the penalty shoot-out. Onto the next playoff round for Kansas City.
The Rapids just couldn’t get anything past Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St Clair. While Colorado struggled to find the back of the net, United was more efficient with their own opportunities that clinched a win and a place in the Western Conference semifinals.
Another match featuring a late equalizer. Just when it looked like the Timbers were going to walk away with a narrow win, Dallas’ Ricardo Pepi tied it up at 1-1 in the 93rd minute. After two goalless halves of extra time, a lengthy penalty shootout ultimately ended in the favor of the visiting Texan club. Along with Kansas City and Minnesota, Dallas is now also in the Western Conference semis.
There have been no lack of surprise results and unexpectedly close battles so far in the recent batch of MLS playoff games. Expect this trend to continue in an upcoming battle between the Seattle Sounders and LAFC.
Although Seattle has had a better season overall, LAFC appears poised to make a deep playoff run with Carlos Vela now getting regular minutes after recovering from a recent injury.
Select LAFC for the win (+195) in this Tuesday’s MLS playoff game against the Seattle Sounders.
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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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