MLS Knockout Round Recap, Highlights: Drama in Seattle, Impact Dominate, more

MTL

by RYAN BRISTER

The knockout round of Major League Soccer always seems to provide something for everyone. The first three games of the round were high-scoring but lopsided, with the biggest surprise coming from Montreal. The final game was tight, tense, and despite finishing 1-0, the best of the round.

Seattle Sounders 1-0 Sporting Kansas City

A late goal by Nelson Valdez lifted Seattle over Kansas City in a heated battle. Sporting came to play, and produced a few chances early. Graham Zusi hitting the post seemed to wake up the Sounders, who stabilized things from there. The first half would end scoreless, despite being wide open at times.

The second half provided real fireworks. Matt Besler appeared to have broken the deadlock early in the second half, but was ruled offside on the free kick. Benny Feilhaber flirted with both brilliance and insanity, and was nearly obliterated by Osvaldo Alonso for good measure. In the end, the hero was Valdez, who struggled so mightily this season. He got on the end of a Joevin Jones cross and headed it into the back of the net. Replays showed Valdez, too, was offside, but the flag stayed down.

For the third straight year, the Sounders will meet Dallas in the conference semifinals.

DC United 2-4 Montreal Impact

The best performance by a road team in this round belonged to Montreal, as they stomped DC. The Impact took an early lead on a corner kick, which Laurent Ciman put into the back of the net. With that lead, they absorbed pressure, and then struck again on the counter. Matteo Mancosu scored the second goal for Montreal, thanks to a good assist by Ignacio Piatti.

United didn’t show much spark going forward until very late in the match, and the Impact added to their lead after halftime. Mancosu scored his second of the night in the 58th minute. He then was able to return the favor to Piatti as Montreal took a 4-0 lead.

Lamar Neagle and Taylor Kemp scored goals late to make the scoreline look less lopsided than the game itself. Make no mistake, this was a beatdown. Montreal is deservedly moving on to face the Red Bulls.

Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union

Toronto grabbed their first-ever playoff victory in defeating Philadelphia. The Union started the match on the front foot, actually, but their gameplan went to pieces when TFC scored the opening goal. A bizarre ball by Ken Tribbett left Andre Blake stranded, and Jozy Altidore was able to get the ball to Sebastian Giovinco for a simple finish.

The Reds looked like they might run away with things when Jonathan Osorio scored early in the second half. A pair of Toronto players whiffed on a good ball into the box, allowing it to reach Osorio, who buried it. But the atmosphere in Toronto grew nervous when Alejandro Bedoya scored. The Union were allowed to get a series of headers in the box before the ball got to Bedoya.

The stage was set for a tense finish until TFC secured their victory in the 85th minute. Altidore’s hold up play sparked a counter, and he was there to finish it off. Once again, an error by Tribbett made the goal possible. Altidore and his teammates celebrated with the crowd and the win was safe from there.

Toronto will host New York City in the first leg of the conference semifinals on Sunday.

LA Galaxy 3-1 Real Salt Lake

A first half blitz by LA proved too much for Salt Lake to handle. The Galaxy came flying out of the gates, and deservedly went in front early. Landon Donovan put in a good cross from the right wing, which Giovani Dos Santos flicked on for Alan Gordon. Gordon was making his first start in the playoffs, and nearly scored a second soon after. But instead, RSL got the next goal, aided by a questionable penalty call. Joao Plata scored from the spot.

Emmanuel Boateng gave up that soft penalty, but did not let it faze him. He dribbled through the Salt Lake defense and gave the Galaxy the lead once again in the 26th minute. Eight minutes later, he showed off his pace again and scored from a tight angle. Boateng loves playing RSL; his four goals in MLS have all come against them.

After a wild opening half hour, the scoring came to a stop. LA did not pile on, though at times it looked like they might, and Salt Lake only rarely showed the spark of a team capable of coming back. The visitors came closest when Kyle Beckerman’s looping header hit the crossbar late.

The Galaxy move on to play Colorado in the conference semifinals.