Category Archives: Eastern Conference

Eastern Conference

MLS Cup – Toronto FC vs Seattle Sounders

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Official Sounders Reporter

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Here we are, the eve of the MLS Cup for 2017.  This year has been full of ups and downs.  Through it all, the Seattle Sounders have become stronger than they were last year.  It hasn’t been without injury and issues, but the team has risen above and made it to the promised land.

Last year was so special because it was our first.  I think this year can be even more special because we have the chance to repeat as the MLS champions.  Through the playoffs, the Sounders have defeated both the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Houston Dynamo, both in convincing fashion.

Again, the Sounders find themselves facing Toronto FC at BMO Field on what proves to be a very cold day.  Hundreds of supporters are making their way to Toronto.  There is a banner going that has the names of people who could not make this trip.  We are a family.  We will be in the stadium, in pubs, in bars, and in our homes, all over the world cheering our boys to victory.  This is our cup, and we will defend it.

This game will not be like last year.  Both teams have improved.  Both are stronger, faster but just as hungry as they were last year.  TFC still has the bitter taste of last year’s loss, during penalty kicks, in their mouths.  Seattle wants to cement our dynasty.  Seattle has added a number of players who have made a huge difference in the team’s play.

Both teams have injuries issues, with the Sounders being slightly worse.  At this time, Jozy Altidore is questionable with an ankle injury suffered late in the second leg of the Columbus Crew game.  Seattle will be missing Brad Evans and Ozzie Alonso.

Ozzie being out of the game hurts.  He is our captain and the heart.  Seattle will have Roman Torres back from suspension.  Jordan Morris is also at 100% and should feature.  No one is suspended for this game, and no one is on international duty.

Projected Lineups from mlssoccer.com

Seattle Sounders

(4-2-3-1, left to right)
GK: Stefan Frei – Nouhou, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Kelvin Leerdam – Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan – Joevin Jones, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro – Will Bruin

Toronto FC

(3-5-2, left to right)
GK: Alex Bono – Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta – Justin Morrow, Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez, Steven Beitashour – Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore

Referees

Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Jeremy Hanson

4th Official: Kevin Stott

5th Official: Jason White

Video Assistant Referee (VAR): Dave Gantar

Game is December 9th at 1pm PT / 4pm ET on ESPN

#DEFENDOURCUP

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @darkwynds

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Defy Expectations – Orlando City SC

Shae Beaudoin - Orlando City/mlsfemale
Official Orlando City Reporter

By Shae Beaudoin // @ShaeEliz

Introduction time! I’m Shae (Shy-Aye, not Shea) and I am so excited to be the new Orlando City Official Reporter for MLSFemale!

Soccer has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I played defense from youth through high school until a foot injury ended that dream for me, so then I started following the pros (and some not so pros – Go UVA Cavs!). For the longest, I only paid attention to overseas, Real Madrid specifically and the World Cup teams. Then Orlando joined the MLS and I jumped in head first and never looked back.

It was kind of like fate. My favorite color has always been purple and, despite growing up in New York, I knew from age 15 I wanted to be in Orlando. When I moved in 2013, I fell in love with the city. And then I found out about Orlando City, who just so happened to be purple (which is not your typical jersey color). It struck me as my time to get involved with MLS.

I’ve been a diehard ever since, attending as many home games as physically possible. I’ve been known to scour Central Florida for a place to watch away games. I even celebrated my birthday last year out in Las Vegas and went searching for anywhere that would let me watch an out of market game. (We lost 4-0 to Houston but hey).

That’s just a quick intro to me! I look forward to sharing Orlando City news with you all and making new connections! I can be found on pretty much any social media network at @shaeeliz. Come by and say hey!

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @ShaeEliz

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ATLUTD’s Best Season Ever

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

The inaugural season for Atlanta United was full of highs and lows. Highs like going undefeated against Orlando City SC (we are the #KingsOfTheSouth, after all) and drawing against both the first and second place teams from 2016 – twice against Toronto FC, thank you very much. Lows like losing all three games against DC United and Josef Martinez and Miguel Almirón getting injured.

Still, so many good things happened this year. First of all, WE HAVE A TEAM! And they did very well when no one really expected them to.  They were the only expansion team to have made the playoffs in their first season since Seattle Sounders did in 2009. The 70 goals they scored this year is the second most in MLS this season and the highest ever for an expansion team. The +30 goal differential is also the highest for an expansion team and fourth in MLS this year.

The defense did some really good work this year as well. Alec Kann and Brad Guzan had a total of 12 clean sheets this season.  MLS newbie Leandro González Pirez and veteran Michael Parkhurst teamed up in the back to become a formidable defensive presence. In the few games LGP didn’t play, it was definitely noticeable.

For all of the complaining about the team’s name in the last two years, it really has become very appropriate. This team really did unite this city like nothing has ever done before. Atlanta United supporters broke the single game attendance record – TWICE in five weeks – and then broke the playoff attendance record. ATLUTD supporters also had the highest average attendance for the regular season, with an average of just over 48,000.

ATLUTD is racking up the awards this post-season. Julian Gressel ran away with the Rookie of the Year award and Miguel Almirón won Newcomer of the Year. Both Goal of the Year (Tito Villalba’s rocket vs Orlando) and Save of the Year (Brad Guzan vs NYRB) were both awarded to ATLUTD, proving once again that #ATLWinsTheInternet.

In addition to those awards, three of the 24 Players Under 24 were from Atlanta (Villalba, Asad, and Almirón, who was #1), and five of the top selling jerseys in MLS were Atlanta players. We also have two players up for MVP (Almirón and Martinez) and coach Tata Martino is up for coach of the year.

After all of the successes in 2017, what do Atlanta supporters have to look forward to in 2018? For one, a team that’s been together for a year and knows each other pretty well now. Despite some post season roster moves and a few players who’s futures are up in the air (at least to the general public right now), Atlanta United have a solid core and any offseason moves will likely only enhance that.

Second, we’re getting a USL team! It was announced recently that Atlanta United will kick off a USL team in 2018 and they’ll play in Gwinnett County, about 35 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta. In a baseball stadium (*sigh*) with a little over 10,000 seats. Word is that they will eventually play at the ATLUTD training ground, but right now, the show pitch there only seats 2,500 and the USL minimum is 5,000.

The USL team is exciting because we have three new homegrown players being added to the roster next year and this will be our chance to really see them play. The new homegrowns will join U-17 National Team standouts Andrew Carleton (who saw a few minutes with the first team earlier in 2017) and Chris Goslin.

Third, now that we’ve moved into the Benz, we won’t have to worry about crazy schedules with 8 games in 24 days or months without a home game. Plus, we’re hosting the 2018 MLS All-Star Game!

While 2017 was tremendous for us here in the ATL, 2018 promises to be even better. And we’ll be there, rowdy & proud as ever.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @robynsaghini

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New York Red Bulls: Bridesmaid Revisited

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Sunday, November 5th: 0-1 Win (2-2 agg.) Toronto FC advances by away goal rule

I should be apologizing for taking so long to write this.

I should apologize for the fact that this post won’t have the musical theme that has really become my schtick over the course of the season.

I  might even apologize for the fact that the title of this post, a send-up to a major piece of English literature, has also been used by a bunch of crappy TV series as an episode title over the years.

But I’m not here to apologize. I’m here to offer some closure. To give the season post-mortem. To talk about where the team goes from here.

So. 22 seasons. No MLS Cup. No Open Cup. No CONCACAF Champions League Cup. No Supporters Shield this time. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

The game was terrible and wonderful, just as the 1st leg had been. There were fouls and fights. The 2nd half saw the team without their captain. Goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips answered the call and put the ball in the net (54′, assisted by Danny Royer). But RBNY needed one more to advance past the Reds, and they just couldn’t find it. As dominant as they had been, and as much of a fight as they had shown (in more ways than one), RBNY just couldn’t continue their run.

TFCvRBNY

Winning, Drawing, and Losing all at once is probably the most Metro thing that could have happened.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad run, was it? The team faltered– a lot– during the regular season. Injuries destroyed their depth. The team lacked cohesiveness and determination too often to make a difference when it counted. So, to turn it around by the end of the regular season and put up as much of a fight as they did… I’m still disappointed, of course. But it could have been worse.

Now what? Part of the reason I haven’t been able to finish this article is that business seems so unfinished. I couldn’t attend the final Media Day of the season. And now come the rumors. Who will leave? Who will stay? Do the players even know where they stand with the team?

Right out of the gate came the report that both Los Angeles-based teams are showing interest in Sacha Kljestan for next season. Phenom Tyler Adams is getting much more attention since his Senior Team USMNT debut in a friendly against Portugal, to the point where some are wondering if he’ll get picked up somewhere in Europe before the new season begins. Can Mike Grella and Aurelien Collin make their comebacks following injury? And most recently came the whispers that Gideon Baah and Damien Perrinelle are not going to have their contracts renewed. (However: this news is quickly followed by the rumor that Perrinelle will stay on as a scout for the club. This would not surprise me in the least. I’ve spoken to the French international and it is clear that soccer is in his blood. A front office position like that is an amazing opportunity to stay in the game.)

And don’t cry for me, Red Bulls nation. I’m going to dig into the rumors as much as I can, as well as cover the USSF presidential election coming up in February. I’ll be freezing my butt off in historic Red Bull Arena before you know it.

In the meantime, #SaveTheCrew. Enjoy the rest of the Playoffs.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @whitezinwench

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

How I grew to embrace the ISC Wooden Spoon, but I am so happy to see it go. Congrats, LA!

Nicole Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

Have you heard of the ISC (Independent Supporters’ Council) Wooden Spoon? Unfortunately, I’m all too familiar.

After attending Chicago Fire games regularly since 2004, in 2015, I decided to take the plunge and run for the Director of Communications position for Section 8 Chicago (S8C); I ended up holding the position for two years. As luck may have it, those two years (2015-16) the Chicago Fire was the worst team in the league. Yep, both years. Bottom. Of. The. Table.

As a board member for S8C, my daily routine consisted of producing social media content that would encourage support of the team. A goal of ours was to stress the importance of getting into the stadium early to cheer on the Fire (#FirstInLastOut), and of course, we also wanted to expand our supporters’ community.

It was a challenge to get regular, long-time supporters to games, let alone new fans.  “Hey, come to a Fire game, statistically, it’s unlikely that they’ll win.” It was a melancholy time for me. Fans argued. Stands were empty. Supporters’ culture faded. Two years in a row, the Chicago Fire finished in last-place earning them the honors of the ISC Wooden Spoon.

As a supporter, it was frustrating and often heartbreaking to see the decline of the team, but the 2015-16 seasons took suffering to a different level. Somehow, even with love for the Men in Red in my heart, the team grew more agonizing to watch.

So what exactly is the Wooden Spoon that I speak of, and why did I (and other Fire fans) learn to embrace it?

When your team finishes last place in the league two years in a row, you can either sulk endlessly or embrace it. And don’t get me wrong, we did sulk. We cried. We complained. We were bitter. But in the end, we continued to love the Fire, and we even learned to love our wooden spoon too.

The History of the ISC Wooden Spoon

via Daniel Giroux (Vice-Chair of S8C) on October 17, 2017

Conception of the spoon

The spoon was kind of a long term process if you wanna talk about it’s conception. It was first decided at the ISC in Chicago, so January 2016, that there needed to be a league wide trophy to shame the worst team. Since the ISC is the overarching organization that administrates the Supporters Shield it made sense that they will also run the Wooden Spoon. It was decided Section 8 Chicago would make it as we won the wooden spoon that year. Sadly, it would be a long process as we would also win the spoon the following year as well. The reason it was decided this needed to happen is we felt that the league didn’t do enough to punish or shame the failures in the league. Pro/rel does that automatically for most leagues and in most leagues the losing team gets significantly less money. In MLS you are rewarded for failure, at least monetarily by the league. The spoon was our small way of putting pressure on a failing organization.

Trophy design

For some reason it was put on me to make the trophy, with the deadline of having it ready by the next ISC in Atlanta. I definitely stalled on it a bit and we tried many many different designs before we settled on the current iteration. I started work on the final design in November 2016, but I don’t think it was actually finished until the week before the 2017 ISC in late January. It is made of 90% plywood, wood glue, malort and hatred. Seriously, the woodworking is absolutely garbage, but that is kinda the point. I did my worst, in a very literal sense.

Who should win the Wooden Spoon?

Personally, I’m hoping for LA, as this year is already so backwards. That would just be the most backwards thing possible. Also, I want a fanbase that will properly shame their front office with it – that is the whole point. I think D.C. and Colorado will laugh it off and take it in stride. LA would HATE having this thing.

With that said, Congratulations, LA Galaxy and fans. You are now the privileged winners of the ISC Wooden Spoon. Even last-place deserves a trophy.

Featured image courtesy: @nikhak

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @nikhak

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Congratulations to Chris Rolfe: A Chicago Fire favorite retires from professional soccer

Nicole Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

Today one of my all-time favorite Chicago Fire players, Chris Rolfe, has announced his retirement from professional soccer. By showcasing his passion for the game with his quick-footed talent, he allowed me to love the magic of the beautiful game more than I already did.

In Rolfe’s tenure with MLS, I was able to establish two amusing interactions with him:

2005:

The first time I met Rolfe was at a team Meet & Greet event. I was young (25) and awkward. Rolfe was a rookie and meeting fans was unfamiliar for him. I approached Rolfe not knowing what to say, “You’re my new favorite player.” He responded by staring at me blankly.

2017:

At the Chicago Fire’s 20th Anniversary party this year, I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Chris. I reminded him that he, along with DaMarcus Beasley, are my two favorite Fire players of all-time. I explained that I had finally found my third favorite Fire player, and I asked him to guess who it could be. In less than thirty seconds, he responded, “Michael de Leeuw?” And so, my admiration for Rolfe grew.

Without question, Rolfe has created countless memories with those who knew or supported him during his playing days. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors. He will always have a home in Chicago.

Featured image courtesy: tradingcarddb.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @nikhak

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Bear Witness: Toronto FC Starts It’s Playoff Bid with a 2-1 Away to NYRB

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne // @crissypayne

Song: On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons

So we won the Supporter’s Shield, now what? The logical progression, as the best team in the regular season, would be the MLS Cup. However, recent history has proved this a challenge with only 2 teams winning the MLS double in its modern form (since 2003 when the format was changed Source). In this Toronto FC season, records have fallen and new depths have been explored and Toronto FC have shown on Monday night that they aim to win.

Of a wide spectrum of emotions familiar to football fans across the globe, this game had them all. Through the highs and the lows our viewing party buzzed with passion for our team. Despite some long periods of time spent in eerie silence punctuated by fist banging fits of anger, many of us insisted at the end that we were confident in our team all along.

I approached the game with a certain apprehension, knowing that the New York Red Bulls at the Red Bull Arena might just be our toughest game of the playoffs.

A dodgy penalty, a standard Sebastian Giovinco free kick, a kick in the pubis, some dodgy Red Bulls fans whom Greg Vanney eloquently put in their place (what a dad) and 90+ 5 high altitude minutes later we emerged victorious and on top of the world, a feeling we have grown accustomed to. What looked the start of a rocky second half seemed to stabilize after some minor adjustments and Toronto FC kept calm and won the game.

2-1 is a pretty good scoreline to come home to. 2 away goals and the win, NYRB have to score more goals at BMO Field than the home team; a rare feat for wary travelers this year. And the city is ready for them. We have not appreciated the treatment of our players in the States these past few weeks and we are ready to bring the 12th man to the game on Sunday.

If I had to call to mind one image that summed up the match besides the obvious big moments, it would be something like this: Nick Hagglund (possibly in a cape), leaping 10 feet into the air in some sort of karate kick of a clearance. Insert a written sound effect of your choice to indicate great physical prowess and that about sums up our Super Nicky. That’s not to say that Drew Moor doesn’t get the job done, but there was something incredible about watching Nicky come off the bench to accomplish feats of heroism to save us from uncertain death.

It is that type of depth that will take Toronto FC far in this playoff campaign. Hagglund, who has featured in just 3 games for TFC since mid-May after being sidelined twice by injury, was exactly what TFC needed to see the game off. With vigor and the pluck that makes him well loved by Toronto and by former Toronto FC captain and current TSN commentator Steve Caldwell, he put in a performance when we needed him to keep us ahead in New Jersey.

We will likely require another player to step up on Sunday with the possibility of Victor Vazquez missing out (though not if he has anything to do with it) and the team with the greatest depth in the history of the MLS will be tested once again. Who will be our next hero? A stadium will wait with baited breath for all to be revealed.

Featured image courtesy: @torontofc

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @crissypayne

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New York Red Bulls: Autumn, Harrison Falls

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Monday, October 30: 1-2 Loss (1-2 agg)

Leg 2: Sunday November 5th, 3pm

“They say that these are not the best of times,
They’re the only times I’ve ever known.”  –Billy Joel, “Summer, Highland Falls”

I dare you to fight me on my musical choices.

Originally, I was tasked with writing a “Know Your Enemy” style of article before the first leg. But I couldn’t do it. Because there’s not much I have to say: Toronto FC are the beasts of the East. Supporter Shield winners with a record number of points in League history. They have Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco. TFC is top seed, coming into the playoffs well rested and ready to go.

But the New York Red Bulls have Luis Robles, Danny Royer, and Bradley Wright-Phillips. And they have the momentum of defeating the Chicago Fire in the knockout round. Head coach Jesse Marsch has said RBNY is “going on a run”. The first leg was the true test of that statement.

I’m not gonna lie: I was nervous for the team. The second I got into my car to make the drive to Red Bull Arena, I was hit with a wave of nausea, and I’m not talking about the fumes on the Turnpike. RBNY were able to prove that they can avoid the mental errors and the devastating injuries that plagued them during the regular season. They really looked like a team that is just having fun together and not wearing themselves out mentally. They’re really in the driver’s seat, especially at home in the the first leg.

And when I think about it that way, holding TFC to two goals is pretty impressive.

And also really freaking horrible.

Let me tell you a little something about myself: I tell people that I’m not the least bit competitive. It’s a bold face lie. I’m actually super competitive. I don’t even like admitting it about myself. So losing hurts, and I’m not even the one out there letting myself get pinged in the face with a ball or stomped with some $300 cleats.

You can see the rundown of the game anywhere. You can watch Victor Vazquez nail the rebound after Luis Robles punched away the initial shot from Jozy Altidore:

You can find Danny Royer’s Panenka, which leveled the game right at halftime:

And everyone can show you Sebastian Giovinco doing Sebastian Giovinco things:

But let me tell you how it felt.

It felt like I was watching a different team than I had seen in the past month or so. One that didn’t know how to face down a terrible opponent. A team that didn’t want the responsibility of dominating possession and demanding rewards for it. Players who panicked in the face of danger. Men who were ripped apart and had no one to blame but themselves (or each other). A subdued locker room like I had never seen before.

And “I can only stand apart and sympathize”. I’ve been to press conferences following losses during the season. This was nothing like those times. “We didn’t look like ourselves,” head coach Jesse Marsch said following the game. This was echoed by Captain Sacha Kljestan: “I don’t think we played like us.”

Can RBNY right the ship? They have to remind themselves of who they are, more than any fan or writer could ever do. They have to play like they have nothing to lose. They have to give themselves and each other the tools and the guidance to face TFC head on. They need to be a team. And I hope one of them sees this and embraces it. Because I have no problem being a PollyAnna about RBNY: that’s why I’m here. Maybe they need to take that kind of unbridled positivity to heart. Because the whole point of the playoffs is for an underdog to look at an opponent with a winning record and laugh it away in a brief series… just ask the Houston Astros.

“For we are always what our situations hand us… It’s either sadness or euphoria.”

PS: Let me take a minute to comment on the vitriol directed towards TFC players Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Both are referred to as “Metro Products”, having been part of the MetroStars when they and MLS were younger. They were booed Every. Time. They. Touched. The. Ball. They were treated similarly in Atlanta on Decision Day. They will likely be treated that way if they continue in the Playoffs.

They will definitely be treated that way when they return to hostile fields across America next season. They know why it’s happening. They can handle it. And I condone it. I just wonder how long it will last or what, if anything, it will take to quiet it. And I draw the line at cursing… but that’s just my own sensibilities at play.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @whitezinwench

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Hold Me, I’m Scared – Atlanta United’s First Playoff Game

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Thoughts about Atlanta United’s first MLS Playoff game

I’m so nervous. I’ve not been this freaked out about a sporting event ever. I’m not even sure writing this is a good idea, but I feel like if I get this out of my system, I’ll feel better. Maybe. Possibly. Or not. I don’t know.

This article from Dirty South Soccer sums up a lot of what I’m thinking/feeling this week:

I’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions this year thanks to Atlanta United. This year has been everything I expected and more. Now that we’re just a little over 24 hours before actually playing a playoff game, though… *breathes into paper bag*

ATLUTD has played Columbus Crew three times this year: once in preseason at the Carolina Challenge Cup (Columbus won 2-1) and twice in the first half of the regular season (both wins for Atlanta). Both teams play a similar style of attacking soccer. Atlanta is favored to win this game, but it doesn’t seem likely to be an easy victory.

Atlanta does have home field advantage, though – and with over 70,000 people expected at this game (for the third time in just over a month and second in less than a week!), it’ll be LOUD.

In the meantime, though, I’ll be over here scrubbing my floors with a toothbrush or trying to braid my dog’s fur just to kill time…*breathing into paper bag again*

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

2017 MLS Playoff Preview

A collaboration by official reporters of MLSFemale @MLSFemale

With Major League Soccer, there is no greater prize than the MLS Cup. Twelve teams, 6 from each conference, are vying for the chance to lift the ultimate prize of the league’s 22nd season. Here’s a quick rundown from our MLSFemale squad:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale 

By Cris Payne // @crissypayne

Toronto FC: AND NOW YOU’RE GUNNA BELIEVE US, we’ve gone and won the league! Suffice it to say the city of Toronto is over the moon with our accomplishments this season and we are looking forward to what we hope is a great playoff run. Michael Bradley succinctly put our season in summation by saying “…we went after every game from 1 to 34 like it was the only thing that mattered.” (source)

I think they can be proud that they never really wavered on that goal and it paid off. As a member of the Kings in the North, one of the official protectors of the Supporters’ Shield during it’s stay in Toronto, I look forward to spending some time up close and personal with it.

Our playoff future looks bright; one is left hoping that we take that same winning mentality into the playoffs and consider every opponent and every game with care. Finishing off the regular season at Atlanta was also a good test for us to end on. Fresh to the league, they were the one team I felt we hadn’t had a proper chance to sound out back in April. Having seen their house and how they feel about our players (your hate makes them strong, our love makes them unstoppable), I now feel confident that Toronto FC has the arsenal to make a successful playoff run. And as Giovinco has shown, this team is ready for whatever is thrown at them. So bring on our second (okay fine, third) go at it, we’re here to win it all!

*NYCFC: Not gonna lie: this team gets measurably better every year. With head coach Patrick Vieira, the Pigeons have made it to their 1st MLS post season in style, with a bye for the knockout round. Legend David Villa and newcomer Jack Harrison, as well as the rest of the squad, are going to face their first opponents well rested and ready for a run. Just how far can the boys in blue go their first time out?

Nicole - Chicago head

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

Chicago Fire: Nine months ago Fire fans were excited for the club’s new signings  – with Dax McCarty, Juninho, Niko, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, certainly the Men in Red wouldn’t finish last place again – would they?

By early June, fans knew that not only were the Chicago Fire going to dig themselves out from the bottom of the table, but the likelihood that they would be playoff contenders looked promising.

David Accam, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho, amongst others have been battling injuries, just returned from injury, or will return from injury for the playoffs. Is the squad recovering at the appropriate time? With key players on the bench over the last couple of months, other players gained experience – this will certainly help strengthen roster options when Veljko Paunovic looks to his bench for substitution options.

Who will get the nod for the goalkeeper position? Matt Lampson, who has been with the team since February of 2016 and a total of 34 games played for the Fire? Or will Richard Sanchez start in net after only recently signing with the Fire?

We supporters are excited for the playoffs, for the opportunities that lie ahead, and for a home game, but we’re also realistic, especially after the last two unfortunate seasons.

¡Vamos, Chicago!

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Atlanta United: Well, here we are…The new kids in the league are in the playoffs. A 4th place finish to the regular season is better than where I thought we’d be at the beginning of the season. This gives us home field advantage for Thursday’s knockout round game – and home field advantage in Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be significant. We’ve also won both games against Columbus (#SaveTheCrew!) earlier this season – although we did lose to them in the preseason Carolina Challenge Cup in February.

This team is much stronger now. They’ve now had an entire season to get to know each other. We have a solid starting lineup – even with a few subs because of injuries. And with over 70,000 people expected at the game on Thursday to cheer them on, I think Atlanta United has a really good chance at hoisting that cup in December.

The boys are ready for this. Atlanta is ready for this.

Atlanta wants the Cup.

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Columbus Crew:  In the middle of the season, the Crew was struggling and looked unlikely to make the playoffs, but Berhalter seems to have the magic touch with his team at the end of the season.  The tie against NYCFC took the Crew’s unbeaten streak to 10.  It kept the team in the 5th spot while a win could’ve put them in 2nd place. 

The team is dealing with a lot of distractions with a fan base who passionately loves them and is distraught that an owner would take them away.  (#savethecrew)  However, if the team can keep their form and absorb the passion the fans are showing them, they actually have a chance against Atlanta.  Although, it will be a tough away game.  The fans really need them to win, so we have a home playoff game to show how much we love the players. 

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

New York Red Bulls: Whew! Just made it in under the wire. But RBNY is in the playoffs for the 8th season in a row. Always the bridesmaid, RBNY is the only MLS 1.0 team (originally the NY/NJ Metrostars) never to lift the MLS Cup. Coach Jesse Marsch has said that the team has been the favorite during the playoffs to no avail and that it’s time to be underdog.

I’m expecting a solid performance from Tyler Adams and the rest of the back line as well as more attacking from Daniel Royer. Defender Aurelien Collin has been working his way back to full health, and Jesse hopes to be able to bring him back into the 18. Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire are the first obstacle in the knockout round, and another edition of the Hudson River Derby is practically guaranteed after that. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. Fight Together.

#knockoutround
Image courtesy: @MLS

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Portland Timbers: It is not an overstatement to say that for the Timbers this Sunday’s game was the most important game of the year up to this point. The Cascadia Cup was on the line, as was the chance to win the conference and a first round bye.

With a Portland win, they have won the West and a first round bye. They also take back the Cascadia Cup, the coveted supporter-owned trophy awarded to whichever northwest team has the best finish among the three Cascadia-area squads. If Portland had tied or lost, Seattle would have taken the Cup, and Portland would almost certainly have dropped to third or fourth place, hosting a midweek knockout round game.

As I expected, Attinella remained in goal, with Vytas and Powell on the wings, and Mattocks up top as we wait for Fanendo Adi to be match fit. And with PTFC’s Mattocks being a former Whitecaps player there was plenty of opportunity for a knife-twisting match finish as he gave us the go-ahead goal to seal the deal. Now we wait to see who makes it out of the knockout round.

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Seattle Sounders: It is finally time to defend our cup.  This year has been such an up and down year.  There are days where we look like the team from last year’s run.  And then there are games where we look like a team that hasn’t even played together before. 

The game against FC Dallas gives me hope that maybe we are turning a corner.  With a win on Sunday gives us a much needed bye.  This will give the team time to heal up.  I can’t wait for this run at the MLS cup.  I really hope the top team in the East loses so we can host the cup this year!!

Christy Casas - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale

By Christy Casas // @nkstar9

Vancouver Whitecaps: The Whitecaps were able to pull themselves above the red line in a very decisive way, landing themselves in 3rd place in the Western conference after flirting with the top spot for a hot minute. They will meet the San Jose Earthquakes in the knockout round at home in Vancouver. This is a decided advantage for the Whitecaps, as BC Place has been a fortress for the team this season.

*Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo played VERY well at home this year, giving up only one game at home at BBVA during the regular season. And they have to be looking forward to the opportunity to take on Sporting KC again, having just beaten them at home less than two weeks ago and drawing them in Kansas City shortly thereafter. If they manage to pull it off, their next opponent will be one of the top two finishers in the West, Portland or Seattle.

kirsten-sporting-or

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Sporting KC: I am not pleased with how this season ended, and I am not pleased that Sporting fell from 1st to 5th in the West over the last third of the season. If we’re going to make it anywhere in the playoffs we have to do one thing…score goals. It seems like that should be pretty easy, but obviously it’s not since SKC scored just 3 goals in their last 5 games.

If the Sporting team from the beginning of the season comes back then we could be in good shape, but the run will be hard since we have no home field advantage. Hopefully, with this being the third game against Houston in a two week span we’ll have them figured out. Sporting, don’t make this city regret all the energy you put into the US Open Cup. We need some of that magic for the playoffs.

*San Jose Earthquakes: The Quakes had a wild finish to the regular season, with the winning goal coming three minutes into stoppage time against expansion side Minnesota United. Now they travel to Canada on only three days rest for a single game elimination round. They may still manage the upset against a Whitecaps squad that is struggling to put games away at precisely the wrong time in the season.

If San Jose can pull it off, they will face Portland in a conference semifinal, a team they’ve beaten at home twice during the regular season.

(Teams marked with a * do not have an official reporter from MLSFemale. If you support any of these teams, find your inner reporter and contact us!)

Featured image courtesy: @MLS

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