A look back at the first rounds of the 2017 MLS Playoffs
MLS Playoffs are on hold while the last World Cup 2018 Russia qualifiers unfold. In less than two weeks the playoffs will resume to the semifinals stage. We give a review of the first set of games that have already been played. The 2017 MLS playoffs have been drama-filled so far .
New York Red Bulls -Toronto FC: 1-2 / 1-0
Best overall team this season and winner of the Supporters’ Shield for the 2017 season, Toronto came into the playoffs in full force as favorites to win the MLS Cup. But New York Red Bulls gave them all possible difficulties to move forward. By winning 2-1 in New York, the Canadians had done the hardest and were confident back home at the BMO Field. However it took all efforts for Toronto to qualify as the team barely escaped a major upset with the hoe loss 1-0.
Toronto’s captain Michael Bradley comments on the tough tie:
“It didn’t come easy, it wasn’t a pretty game. It wasn’t a game where there was a ton of good football. That’s what these playoff games are like at times… what games against Red Bulls are like.
“We don’t have to be happy [with] the way that we go through, but we have to be happy because we go [to the Eastern Conference] final. You have to embrace that, be comfortable with idea it may not be exactly how we would want it to look. That’s life this time of year. The teams that understand that, that don’t let that faze them, that don’t get rattled… those are the teams that find a way to keep playing and give themselves the chance to be the last team standing”.
New York Red Bulls coach Marsch on the season:
“You feel like there was a lot more to give from everybody. The tanks were full, guys were ready to keep pushing. It’s not the kind of year where we’re left with frustration. For me that means that we’ve learned a lot, we’ve grown a lot and we have a lot to learn from moving forward. I would agree that the team grew over the course of the year. We set in motion some good building blocks for the future. Especially next season if we can keep the core group and a lot of the young guys that got a lot of major minutes this year.
Columbus Crew – New York City FC: 4-1 / 0-2
The story of the Crew is being written. Whereas the future of the franchise is uncertain and the city of Columbus could see its team for the last time in case of a relocation, the Crew has been fried up and this unity enabled to pass two rounds. After prevailing over Atlanta in the penalty shootouts in the electric atmosphere of the MB stadium, The Crew overcame NYCF’s comeback. With the 4-1 victory in the first leg, the team was in very good position. But the Crew had to maintain that slim margin when the game was at 2-0 for the New Yorkers.
The win was also the last game for Italian legend Andrea Pirlo who later announced his retirement from professional football.
Now coach of NYFC, Arsenal‘s great and legend Patrick Viera came out disappointed but confident in his team’s future:
“We gave ourselves the best chance to make it happen, and we knew how difficult and big the challenge was. Today, we played really well, we created chances. We had situations where we didn’t make the best decisions, but we scored these two goals and I thought the third one would come.
I think, as a club, we are more solid on and off the field than we were last year. We improved a lot as a football club, and I strongly believe that next year is going to be even better. I believe that we are working well, we are improving on the field. We managed to bring the right players to help us improve. This year, we had 12 new players. Next year we’re going to have, of course, less, but the next few players we need to bring need to take us to the next level again so we can compete against the likes of Toronto and the Red Bulls, because I believe that the East will be stronger and stronger.”
Houston Dynamo – Portland Timbers 0-0 / 2-1
The Dynamo went on winning in Portland to secure a spot into the Conference Finals. Coach Cabrera is very proud of the effort given:
“We had a good game tonight and there’s no reason why we can’t replicate something. This is the standard for us now. That kind of effort, that kind of commitment, that kind of focus. Even though the Timbers finished first [in the Western Conference], Seattle was a close second and they’re also a very good team. Having two legs is always tough, especially because here and Seattle are probably two of the toughest places to play. But we know what to expect on the road now.”
Vancouver Whitecaps – Seattle Sounders 0-0 / 0-2
As far as the champions, Seattle Sounders are still in the mix and will face the Houston Dynamo for a chance to repeat another trip to the MLS Cup. Sounders’ best player and USMNT forward Clint Dempsey has been clinical lately and his performance lifted up the Sounders to the Western Finals. Coach Schmetzer adds on:
“Big-time players make big plays. Tonight you saw Dempsey make some big plays. The first goal was a really good effort from distance. The second goal was his instincts inside the box. He’s worked at his craft for many years. His finishing and his ability to find goals in moments is tremendous.”
“Our goal this year has been to repeat and we kept that alive and we’re looking forward to the next game and next challenge. I’m excited to be playing now and I want to make the most of the time I have left.”