MLS Snapshot

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Sounders finish off Dynamo to set up MLS Cup rematch

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The game in 100 words (or less): MLS Cup 2017 will be a rematch of MLS Cup 2016 — same two teams, same venue, hopefully not the same boring final. Toronto FC booked their place by narrowly knocking off Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday, a day before the Seattle Sounders soundly defeated the Houston Dynamo, 3-0 on the night and 5-0 on aggregate, to claim a second straight Western Conference championship. The finalists will meet at BMO Field — where Seattle knocked off Toronto last year — on Saturday, Dec. 9. Victor Rodriguez scored the early goal that, for all intents and purposes, put the tie to bed. Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin chipped in with a second and third on the night, respectively, as Seattle native Brian Schmetzer watched his side cruise into next weekend’s

[ MORE: MVP favorites Valeri, Villa headline 2017 Best XI ]

Three moments that mattered

22′ — Bruin sets up Rodriguez, and it’s 3-0 — Ladies and gentlemen, Will Bruin, the play-making no. 10.

57′ — Dempsey taps home a perfect ball from Jones — It’s a shame Joevin Jones will be leaving MLS on a free transfer this winter.

66′ — Martinez sees red for violent conduct — What Tomas Martinez does here isn’t so much violent or dangerous, as it is bafflingly stupid and unnecessary. The stupidity is so nearly deserving of the sending-off on its own.

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Man of the match: Will Bruin

Goalscorers: Rodriguez (22′), Dempsey (57′), Bruin (73′)

Top-seeded Timbers ousted, at home, by road-woeful Dynamo

Photo credit: Houston Dynamo / @HoustonDynamo
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The game in 100 words (or less more): One by one, the trendy, higher-seeded favorites are falling away in the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs — same as the postseason has ever been. Sunday saw the Eastern Conference’s 2-seed, New York City FC, bow out at the hands of 5th-seeded Columbus Crew SC, not long before the Western Conference’s top-seeded Portland Timbers fell victim to 4th-seeded Houston Dynamo. Having secured a 0-0 draw in the first leg down in Houston, Caleb Porter’s side entered Sunday’s second leg with a decided advantage — Houston won just once away from home all season, and managed just 10 points in total from 17 tries. After Dairon Asprilla put Portland 1-0 ahead in the 39th minute, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the 2015 champions would move on to face the defending champs, their Cascadia rivals, the Seattle Sounders, in the West finals beginning on Nov. 21. Alas, Dylan Remick, a former Sounder himself, made it 1-1 just four minutes later, and Mauro Manotas delivered the final blow 13 minutes from full-time to propel Wilmer Cabrera’s side into the final four. In their 12 seasons of existence, Houston have been to the playoffs eight times, reached the conference finals seven times, appeared in MLS Cup four times, and won it twice.

[ MORE: 3 keys to Sunday’s 2nd legs ]

Three moments that mattered

39′ — Asprilla fires home the opener — Diego Valeri played the ball wide to Vytas, who lofted it into the box. Asprilla was quickest to react when the cross was a bit too deep, and the Colombian hit an unstoppable ball past Joe Willis.

43′ — Remick smashes home a loose ball for 1-1 — Tomas Martinez played the free kick into the box, Jalil Anibaba headed it down, and Remick smashed it past Jeff Artinella to put Houston ahead on away goals.

77′ — Manotas hits a slow bouncer past Attinella for 2-1 — Insurance.

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Man of the match: Juan Cabezas

Goalscorers: Asprilla (39′), Remick (43′), Manotas (77′)

NYCFC’s comeback falls just short; Crew SC through to East finals

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
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The game in 100 words (or less more): New York City FC, trailing 4-1, had the steepest of hills to climb during Sunday’s Eastern Conference semifinals second leg against Columbus Crew SC. Thanks to another star performance from David Villa, Patrick Vieira’s side so nearly did the unthinkable, but ultimately fell a goal short, winning 2-0 on the day, but falling 4-3 on aggregate. It wasn’t for a lack of chances either, as NYCFC peppered Zack Steffen’s goal to the tune of 16 shots (6 target, plus another that smashed the post late in the second half). Villa gave the home side a real belief when he converted from the penalty spot in the 16th minute, but Columbus held firm another 37 minutes before conceding again, to Andraz Struna. Crew SC will host Toronto FC, the 2017 Supporters’ Shield winners, in the first leg of the East finals on Nov. 21. Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium is expected to be the final appearance of Andrea Pirlo’s illustrious career after the Italian legend announced last month that he’ll retire at season’s end.

[ MORE: 3 keys to Sunday’s 2nd legs ]

Three moments that mattered

16′ — Villa converts from the spot to make it 4-2 — Josh Williams tripped Rodney Wallace in a largely inconsequential part of the penalty area, and Villa converted the spot kick to pull NYCFC to within two goals on aggregate.

53′ — Struna’s shot deflected past Steffen for 4-3 — Eerily similar to Daniel Royer’s goal for the New York Red Bulls earlier on Sunday, Struna did little more than hit this one into a sea of bodies and come up lucky.

70′ — Wallace does everything right… except hitting the post — From three goals down, to within an inch or two of making it 4-4 and advancing to the conference finals on away goals — it’s the thinnest of margins.

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Man of the match: Yangel Herrera

Goalscorers: Villa (16′ – PK), Struna (53′)

Toronto FC beat RBNY at soccer, royal rumble to reach East finals

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less more): When fans of Toronto FC, the New York Red Bulls and MLS in general tuned in for the second leg of the above sides’ Eastern Conference semifinal on Sunday, surely every last one of them thought, “Gee, I really am looking forward to The Chris Penso Show this afternoon.” Thrust upon the big stage, Penso duly delivered eight yellow cards, two red cards, and lost complete control of the game very early on, which resulted in no fewer than a half-dozen chest-to-chest and hand-to-hand confrontations between players from both sides, and even Penso himself. Jozy Altidore and Sacha Kljestan were each sent off at halftime after reported “violent conduct” as the two sides left the field; the two U.S. national teamers were involved in a silly, seemingly nothing dust-up minutes earlier. As for the actual soccer that was played, New York entered BMO Field 2-1 down before pulling level to 2-2 (though still behind on away goals) through Daniel Royer in the 54th minute. 11 shots between the two sides, just three on target With both sides down to 10 men for the entirety of the second half, the game opened up and a handful of chances came for — and were wasted by — both sides.

[ MORE: 3 keys to Sunday’s 2nd legs ]

Three Four moments that mattered

HT — Altidore, Kljestan get second yellows in the tunnel — It started like this a few minutes before halftime…

… and ended with “violent conduct” in the tunnel, for which both players were shown a second yellow card.

54′ — Royer gets a wicked deflection, scores from nothing — After the halftime shenanigans — and with all that extra space on the field — this game needed a goal to keep it interesting. Royer and/or Bradley Wright-Phillips delivered in short order. Game on.

78′ — Adams puts it in his own net, but Osorio is offside — It’s the (own) TFC needed to put the tie to bed, but Jonathan Osorio was offside and clearly affected Tyler Adams’ ability to clear the ball.

80′ — Giovinco mouths off, gets himself suspended next game — After picking up a yellow in the first leg, Giovinco reached the limit when he chased after and shouted at Penso.

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Man of the match: Aaron Long

Goalscorers: Royer (54′)

Whitecaps 0-0 Sounders: Single-elimination, please!

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less more): It’s time, once again, to devote this space to what we’ll lovingly call MLS’s “playoff predicament problem.” Ahem. Here goes: Single-elimination, please. After a mostly brilliant knockout round earlier this week, Sunday’s very first conference semifinal (first leg) brought all the momentum and excitement to a screeching halt — you know, like driving a car into a six-foot thick retaining wall at 80 mph. The Seattle Sounders were only interested in playing for a 0-0 draw before heading home for the second leg, while the Vancouver Whitecaps were only willing to attack if/when Seattle opened themselves up, counter to their entire gameplan. Combine those ingredients, and what do you have? Just the sixth shot on goal-less half of soccer in MLS 2017, during the business end of the league’s season. A truly anemic 0-0 draw, which featured just 12 shots in total (one on target) The reason MLS hasn’t already switched to single-elimination throughout the playoffs? It’ll cost a handful of owners an extra home game, and the accompanying revenue. In truth, every one of the 27,837 fans in attendance at BC Place will go home tonight wishing they’d stayed home and saved their hard-earned money instead. The second leg will be played at CenturyLink Field on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET)

[ MORE: Previewing all four conference semifinals ]

Three moments that mattered

30′ — Shea whiffs at the back post, Sounders get off lucky — It was a nothing ball into the box, but Seattle seemed intent on it resulting in a chance for the Whitecaps. Fortunately for the defending champs, it fell to Brek Shea.

36′ — Waston clears the ball off his own crossbar — So, this probably wasn’t exactly what Kendall Waston had in mind when he made contact with Joevin Jones’ cross, but all’s well that ends well.

48′ — Marshall’s header easily collected by Marinovic — This was as close as anyone would come to (intentionally) scoring.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Kendall Waston

Goalscorers: None