The first round of the MLS Cup play-offs was concluded on Tuesday and they were plenty of surprises with a number of elite teams bowing out of the competition.
Three talking points from the first round of the MLS Cup play-offs:
Surprise eliminations: Obviously with knock-out games, there is always the sense of unpredictability, but no one would have anticipated the first round results which saw a number of competition favourites bow out.
Philadelphia Union ended the season with the Supporters’ Shield after finishing top of the overall table. They were on a stunning 10-match home winning run, but the record meant nothing as they suffered a surprise 2-0 defeat to New England Revolution.
Elsewhere, MLS is Back tournament winners Portland Timbers were also beaten by FC Dallas through a penalty shoot-out, but the most shocking result was that of Toronto FC, who were beaten 1-0 by expansion franchise Nashville SC.
Toronto have been hugely consistent in the Play-offs with three final appearances in the past four seasons, but they were outdone by Cup debutants Nashville, who bagged the solitary goal in the second half of added extra-time.
The curse of the Supporters’ Shield: Over the past 18 years, only three teams, who have won the Supporters’ Shield in the regular season, have gone on to win the MLS Cup.
Union were looking to become only the fourth side to do so, but they failed to come anywhere close after New England, who qualified as the second-seeded team from the play-in round beat them with two goals without reply.
Union went into the Cup play-offs with a rather dreadful record with just one win from five matches. They have experienced another disappointing MLS Cup campaign after suffering their first defeat in 11 home matches.
Jim Curtin’s side can still carry positives from the season where they managed to exceed everyone’s expectations and went on to win the first-ever silverware in their history through the Supporters’ Shield.
Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City among favourites: Sounders faced a tricky challenge against Los Angeles FC in the first round, but they managed to beat them by a comfortable 3-1 scoreline.
Sounders are now scheduled to face FC Dallas in the Western Conference semi-finals and they will be favourites to progress to the next round, where they could face either Sporting Kansas City or Minnesota United.
Sporting will be Sounders’ main title rivals, having finished above them (point-per-game system) in the truncated MLS regular season, where they did not come up against each other.
Sporting, however, beat them in both meetings during the 2019 season. One of the duo could go on to win the Cup, particularly with the shock elimination of Toronto and Union, who were the top two in the overall standings.
Schedule for the Conference semi-finals:
Orlando City vs New England Revolution (Sunday)
Columbus Crew vs Nashville SC (Sunday)
Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas (Tuesday)
Sporting KC vs Minnesota United (Wednesday)
Stats from Transfermarkt.com
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