MLS Cup Playoffs

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Altidore, Kljestan react to wild tunnel fracas by blaming each other

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Toronto FC’s MLS Cup Final hopes have taken a big hit after the Reds barely escaped New York Red Bulls’ stiff test at BMO Field on Sunday.

Leading 2-1 after one leg and carrying a pair of away goals, TFC lost a scrappy 1-0 second leg at home to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against Columbus.

[ RECAP: TFC 1-0 (2-2) RBNY ]

The Reds won’t have Sebastian Giovinco for the first leg after a late card for dissent, his second of the tie, and also won’t have Jozy Altidore after on- and off-field skirmishes with USMNT teammate Sacha Kljestan.

Altidore did not cover himself in glory. After Giovinco fouled Red Bulls youngster Tyler Adams, the teams came together in an incident that ended with Kljestan and Altidore going head-to-head before the big TFC forward comically hit the deck after a shove from the Red Bulls midfielder.

Altidore initiates the contact by leaning into Kljestan’s face, and then goes down like the 150-pound diminutive player he is. Oh, that’s right, he’s 6-foot-1 and essentially carved like the response to Michelangelo being asked by an American investor, “Hey, buddy, can you make me a soccer god out of this here marble?”

Those were just a pair of yellows, and life got real nutty for both teams in the tunnel at halftime. There’s a lot of salty language in this video, and it’s NSFW so we won’t embed, but if you want to watch head coaches Greg Vanney and Jesse Marsch yell at each other in the middle of what looked like a wild night at the club, feel free.

Both players were sent off with second yellows after either (thanks to intrepid Toronto Sun reporter Kurtis Larson for the quotes):

A) Altidore shoved Kljestan into a wall

“At halftime he shoved me into the wall. I have a clear conscience,” Kljestan said. “I don’t feel like I deserved a red card. So it’s a pretty helpless feeling to not be able to play in the second half.”

and/or

B) Kljestan went at Altidore from behind

“Yo, Sacha Kljestan, why you snitching bro?” Altidore tweeted. “You tried to pull up on me while my back was turned and almost got that work. Safe flight.”

Cool stories, fellas. For what it’s worth, and it’s not much even if the staffer is a true gem, Larson tweeted that a Toronto FC staffer says Altidore was pulled into the fracas from behind while heading to the dressing room.

Again, it’s someone who works for TFC, the Reds would like to have Altidore for the Conference Finals. So, about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of salt that fill BMO Field, but something to consider.

I say the following as someone who if anything would feel a bit of bias as a former season ticket holder ages ago — Toronto was the closest MLS team to my hometown of Buffalo — TFC put forth a display that will turn itself in a villain for most neutrals (and the officiating was admittedly abysmal and let the match out of control). There was plenty of flopping even apart from Altidore’s play acting.

Here’s the MLSSoccer.com take:

Hope the guys sort this out before the World Cup…

MLS Cup Playoffs: Weekend Preview

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The Seattle Sounders booked their place in the MLS Cup Conference Finals, but there’s three places up for grabs that will be decided this Sunday.

Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew take advantages into their second-leg bouts with the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, respectively, while the Portland Timbers head back home to host the Houston Dynamo coming off a scoreless draw.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

TFC is edging closer to a second-consecutive appearance in the Eastern Conference final after their 2-1 win at the Red Bulls while the Crew ran riot past NYCFC at home, leaving Patrick Vieira’s season on the brink.

Here’s a look at what we can expect to see in the final three second-leg matchups of the conference semifinals.

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Dempsey brace guides Sounders into Western Conference final

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One half of the Western Conference final was decided on Thursday night in a lopsided Cascadia clash.

The Seattle Sounders knocked off the Vancouver Whitecaps, 2-0, at CenturyLink Field to reach the MLS final four.

[ MORE: Dempsey says USMNT must learn from WCQ failure ]

Clint Dempsey‘s 88th minute finish sealed the victory for the home side, after the U.S. Men’s National Team attacker volleyed home a Victor Rodriguez cross at the far post.

Brian Schmetzer’s side took the lead half an hour prior when Clint Dempsey curled a left-footed shot into the right corner, beating Whitecaps keeper Stefan Marinovic.

Dempsey had nearly put the Sounders in front on the stroke of halftime after Nicolas Lodeiro’s cross found the American attacker just yards away from goal.

Controversy struck in the 35th minute when the Sounders played a quick counter attack down the left flank, and brought out video replay.

The home side appeared to be in on goal when Lodeiro picked out a perfect through ball into the path of Nouhou Tolo, but the Sounders defender was pulled down close to the penalty area by Whitecaps outside back Jakob Nerwinski.

After review, the referee decided that it wasn’t a penalty (video below), despite Tolo appearing to go down inside the Whitecaps area.

The Sounders will meet either the top-seeded Portland Timbers or the Houston Dynamo in the West final, which will be played over two legs on Nov. 21 and Nov. 30.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Preview

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An exciting quartet of knockout round matches kicked off the MLS Cup playoffs, but now we move into the meat of the action.

The top two seeds in both the eastern and western conferences join the fray as Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders begin their conference title defenses.

The first legs of the conference semifinals kick off with the Sounders hitting the road to face the Vancouver Whitecaps, which is coming off a 5-0 rout of the San Jose Earthquakes.

[ MORE: PST’s 2017 MLS awards ]

But while the Whitecaps and New York Red Bulls eased into the conference semifinals, the Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew had to endure 120 minutes of soccer, and with a short recovery time, it will be interesting to see how they perform in their first legs respectively.

Here’s a look ahead at the first legs of the MLS Cup conference semifinals:

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FOLLOW LIVE — Atlanta-Crew, Dynamo-SKC meet in MLS Cup Playoffs

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Wednesday saw two lopsided victories favoring the New York Red Bulls and Vancouver Whitecaps, so what will be in store on Thursday?

The MLS Cup Playoffs began with a bang yesterday (unless you’re a Fire or Earthquakes supporter), and two more clubs will have the opportunity to punch their ticket into the conference semifinals tonight.

[ FOLLOW: MLS first round scores, play-by-play ]

The evening’s action kicks off at 7 p.m. ET when Atlanta United hosts Columbus Crew SC from Mercedes-Benz Stadium — which promises to be a great one.

Atlanta is expecting to break its own attendance record for the third time in its inaugural season, with well over 70,000 supporters likely to make their way into the new venue.

The winner will move on to face second-seeded New York City FC in the next round, after the Red Bulls solidified their meeting with Toronto FC on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the evening’s second matchup features two clubs trending in opposite directions.

The Houston Dynamo will host Sporting KC from BBVA Compass Stadium, with the Dynamo unbeaten in their last six matches to end the MLS regular season.

Peter Vermes and Sporting KC closed out the campaign winless in their last five, and the club has only won three MLS matches since the beginning of August.

[ MORE: Mike Petke earns contract extension with RSL ]

Either the Dynamo or SKC will book themselves a date with the Portland Timbers in the next round following the Whitecaps’ win.


Thursday’s matches

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew — 7 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC — 9:30 p.m. ET