The MLS is Back Tournament has provided soccer fans with some exciting matches along with some surprising results. With a tournament, anything can happen, and that can certainly be said for the MLS is Back version as well. As the tournament progressed from the group stage to the knockout stage, three of the four biggest clubs in the league were sent packing.
The New York Red Bulls, Atlanta United and the Los Angeles Galaxy all failed to punch their ticket to the knockout stage. Failure to advance was more detrimental to some than others. Atlanta United and manager Frank de Boer agreed to part ways after the Five Stripes finished last in Group E without scoring a goal. Stephen Glass was named the interim manager for Atlanta United until a full-time replacement is found.
Two clubs continued their hot run of play from the group stage. Both Orlando City and Philadelphia notched 1-0 victories over the Montreal Impact and New England Revolution respectively in the knockout stage. After running roughshod through Group A, each with seven points, both clubs got a taste of win or go home soccer. Tesho Akindele put Orlando City through to the quarterfinals with a 60th-minute goal, giving Orlando City a big win over the Impact. Akindele scored one of the easiest goals in his career, and it was truly a gift from the Impact defense. The other club from Group A, the Union, advanced thanks to a 63rd-minute goal from Sergio Santos, knocking off the Revolution. Bruce Arena had his Revolution side ready to play but could not find the breakthrough. Santos and the Union made them pay, adding insult to injury to Arena and the Revs.
Out of the remaining four knockout stage matches played thus far, three of the matchups were not close. New York City FC started it off with a 3-1 victory over Toronto FC. Jesus Medina delivered the opening blow just five minutes into the match. Valentin Castellanos and Maxi Moralez added to the misery with second-half goals. Toronto FC, who knocked NYCFC out of the playoffs last season, was unable to replicate the task. Real Salt Lake experienced a second-half hell against the San Jose Quakes. After equalizing just over a minute after the Quakes took the lead, things went sideways for RSL, conceding four times and adding two red cards. After two Quakes goals within the first 16 minutes of the second half, Damir Kreilach made things interesting, getting RSL within a goal in the 75th minute. That is where the positivity would end, as Marcelo Silva was red-carded in the 84th minute. Chris Wondolowski and Magnus Eriksson added goals just 10 minutes apart, ending any hopes of a miracle comeback and putting the match out of reach at 5-2.
The premier matchup of the knockout stage was between two of the top clubs in the Western Conference, Los Angeles FC and the Seattle Sounders. The matchup looked amazing on paper but was a pummeling on the field. LAFC dominated the majority of the matchup and used a double from Diego Rossi to advance with a 4-1 thrashing of the defending MLS Cup champions. After Rossi and Latif Blessing scored to give LAFC the lead heading into the half, Will Bruin made things interesting in the second half for Seattle with a goal in the 75th minute. Rossi and Brian Rodriguez said enough was enough and helped LAFC pull away from the Sounders with goals in the 82nd and 89th minute respectively. After a scoreless match, Sporting Kansas City needed penalty kicks to advance past the Vancouver Whitecaps. Third-string goalkeeper Thomas Hasal kept the Whitecaps in the match, making incredible save after incredible save. After facing 36 shots, eight of those on target, Hasal was unable to help knock off Sporting Kansas City in the penalty shootout. Peter Vermes saw his side dominate the match and could not solve Hasal but did get the deserving ticket through to the Quarterfinal.
Below is the schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament for the upcoming week.
Upcoming schedule (Subject to change)
Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Orlando City vs. Los Angeles FC – 7:30 p.m. (FS1)
San Jose Quakes vs. QF8 – 8 p.m. (Knockout Stage)(ESPN2)
New York City FC vs. QF6 – 10:30 p.m. (Knockout Stage)(FS1)
As always, stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk as we take a look at FC Cincinnati’s run in the MLS is Back Tournament.