Recap: MLS Conference Semifinals

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cup logoMajor League Soccer‘s conference semifinals may not have produced the most thrilling soccer, but each series provided an element of drama. Mirroring the historical trends in the league, only half of the higher seeds survived their two leg series.

Toronto Advances on Away Goals

Toronto narrowly passed its first playoff test, but at what cost? Sebastian Giovinco scored on a brilliant free kick to win the first leg; he also picked up two yellow cards and will be suspended for the first leg of the conference final. Jozy Altidore will miss the next game as well after being sent, along with the Red Bulls’ Sacha Kljestan, off after a fracas in the tunnel at halftime. Daniel Royer‘s shot was deflected by Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls kept up the pressure as they pushed for a second goal, which would have sent them to the conference final. But TFC hung on in the ill-tempered game.

Columbus Rides Home Win to Next Round

Columbus won big at home, and was able to hang on through the second leg to knock out New York City. On an emotional Halloween night in Columbus, the Crew put up a 4-1 scoreline, including a late goal by Harrison Afful that ultimately proved the difference. NYCFC won their home leg, 2-0, getting a penalty from David Villa and a deflected goal for Andraz Struna. But that was not enough to overcome the deficit; Zack Steffen and the post kept the Pigeons from finding the goal that would have won the series.

Houston Pulls Off Road Surprise

Houston did it all on the road, advancing after a win in Portland. The first leg was controversial and physical, played on a choppy field in Houston, and it ended scoreless. Both sides had penalty claims waved off in the first half, and Timbers Coach Caleb Porter had to use three subs because of injuries, including a lasting one to Diego Chara. In the second leg, the teams traded goals in the first half. Dylan Remick made a mistake as the Timbers took the lead, but then scored a goal that put the Dynamo in front. The hosts pressed throughout the second half, only to be hit on the counter by a goal from Mauro Manotas.

Seattle Squeezes Past Vancouver

After three scoreless halves, Seattle broke through to oust Vancouver. The first leg was a game to forget, with neither team producing much on attack. The Sounders were on the front foot at home, however, and separated themselves over the final 45 minutes. Clint Dempsey was suspended for the first leg, but returned to score both goals in leg two, sending Seattle through to the conference finals. The Whitecaps managed just a single shot on target over 180 minutes of a very disappointing effort from Coach Carl Robinson‘s side.