Tag Archives: MLS Cup Playoffs

Weekly Roundup: El Trafico, Dio Returns, Playoff Rally

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Playoffs Week is here!

El Trafico is coming back to the Banc for the Western Conference Semifinals.

Minnesota United fell to the LA Galaxy last night in a 2-1 loss at Allianz Stadium – advancing the Galaxy to the semifinals.

LAFC will host the much anticipated matchup on Thursday, October 24 at 7:30 PST.

Dio returns!

Major League Soccer reinstated Adama Diomande this past week. And he is eligible for selection for Thursday’s intense matchup.

Dio voluntarily entered MLS’ Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) program on September 20 and was assessed by SABH program doctors.

He has been cleared to resume all team activities, including competition. Dio was even seen training with the team last weekend during a special event for the fans.

Roster Injury Updates

  • Six minutes into Canada’s Concacaf Nations League match last Tuesday, Mark-Anthony Kaye exited with an apparent leg injury. Although it has not been determined what type of injury the midfielder has acquired – Kaye is on a day-to-day basis as he continues to receive treatment.
  • Walker Zimmerman suffered a concussion after colliding with Colorado Rapids forward Kei Kamara in LAFC’s 3-1 win over the Rapids on Decision Day. The injury kept the defender out of international duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team. According to Vince La Rosa, Zimmerman returned to full training last Wednesday and needs to get in as “many training sessions as possible to regain his fitness level” ahead of the playoffs.

The hype surrounding the playoffs is real!

LAFC players have been making numerous appearances around town all week in celebration of the upcoming playoffs.

Fans also attended a playoffs rally last night at the Banc to show their support for the Black & Gold.

Fans had the opportunity to enjoy live music, games, drink and food specials, and take photos with the Supporters’ Shield. They were also able to write a message for the players on the special “#ForLosAngeles” wall.

LAFC goes virtual

The club announced its official entry into eMLS, Major League Soccer’s competitive gaming league competing in the EA SPORTS™ FIFA franchise on October 17.

LAFC will host an “online selection qualifying tournament” in search of the club’s first-ever esports player to represent the club in eMLS competitions.

There will be three qualifying round competitions that will take place on October 26, November 1, and November 3 – top performers in the first three rounds will square off in the final on Wednesday, November 6.

Gold Links

Featured Image:  LAFC

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Red Bull Life on the Highway

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Sunday, October 20th: 4-3 Loss (Added Extra Time)

Folks, scratch one off the soccer bucket list.

With a couple of emails, I got a press pass to Talen Energy Stadium to see the first round of the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. My first away match.

Of course, I would have much preferred to see this match in beautiful downtown Harrison.  But that is how it goes when the Red Bulls land in 6th place ahead of a single elimination tournament.

We Won’t Hesitate

Josh Sims, the stunner from Southampton. His first goal for the boys in Red came just six minutes into the match. Just another name to add to the long list of 2019 goalscorers for the Red Bulls. Tim Parker doubled the lead with a header than bobbled into the goal in slow motion. While Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya pulled one back at the half hour mark, the Red Bulls kept the game in their hands. Tom Barlow restored the two-goal lead in stoppage time. It was all going so well.

When There’s One Day Here and the Next Day Gone

Sims got hurt and had to leave the match. Alejandro “Kaku” also left the match in pain. Add to that Marc Rzatkowski and Kemar Lawrence getting banged around quite a bit and Parker going full ‘Brute Squad’ and getting himself in yellow card danger… I’ve said it before: when one piece of the puzzle is lost, the whole thing suffers.

‘Suffers’ is a pretty good way to summarize what happened next.

There’s Not Much Time Left Today

Actually, there was a ton of time. Because thanks to goals from Jack Elliott and Fafa Picault, the game was 3-3 at 90 minutes and went into extra time. This was the third game of the first round that went for 120. It was just enough time for Philly to bring on Marco Fabian to seal the deal for the Union. His cross floated into the net at the end of the first half of extra time. I think he was just as surprised as anyone. Try as they might, New York couldn’t get that fourth goal, something they had trouble doing all season.

I Loved You Now Like I Loved You Then

Yeah, but aside from that…

Look, it’s sad to see the Red Bulls exit like this. They didn’t have what it takes to get through the playoffs. I’m sad but not surprised. But it’s not the end of my world. At the risk of adding a second song to this article, my love for the team doesn’t cost a thing. My hopes are not hung on what silverware they hold. Red Bull fans want their team to finally get a MLS Cup because it’s an outward symbol of the passion they have had, the fight they have shown.

If anyone who calls themselves a fan says they’re going to find another team to support, they were never a fan.

I pondered these things on my two-hour drive up the Turnpike. And they will not leave me as I look to the conclusion of this post-season tournament. But I’ll be there when the light comes in. Just tell ’em we’re survivors.

P.S. I really hoped you’ve enjoyed the playlist I built over the course of the season. It’s been an important creative exercise for me. Here’s Tom Cochrane’s version of the song, although Rascal Flatts’s version is good, too.

Featured image: John Perdicaro

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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Red Bull Playoffs: Do You Really Believe in Magic?

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Sunday, October 6th: 3-0 loss to Montreal

Season: 14W-14L-6D, +2 GD, 48 pts.

With a reportedly lackluster finish to the season (I’ll admit, I didn’t watch), the New York Red Bulls ended the 2019 regular season in 6th place in the Eastern Conference. Twenty-three points down from last year’s record-breaking, confetti-showering, champagne-puddle-making, Supporter’s Shield-winning season,  it was nothing to write home about.

They say the playoffs are a whole different season. Frankly, that’s what I can’t stand about them. But, here we are.

I can’t stand waiting around to dance

A solid two weeks and an International Break between the end of the season and the playoffs. Unavoidable, but still annoying. Defender Aaron Long put in another good shift for the USMNT, who is taking part in the CONCACAF Nations League. They trounced Cuba 7-0, as expected. But they also lost 2-0 to Canada. CANADA.

I don’t meant to be rude or anything. Canada’s MNT is on the upswing. The US… not so much. People blame it on the number of ‘meaningless’ games they’ve played since the match that must not be named. But meaningless matches don’t have to equate to meaningless mentalities. If everyone called up played as if they could never be called up again, we might see a huge difference.

RBNY midfielder Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra bagged a goal for Paraguay in this break as well. And it was lovely. Striker Omir Fernnadez put in some time with the US Youth National Team. Here’s hoping the same can be said for club as for country.

When will you stop wondering who you are?

Something I hear from manager Chris Armas, captain Luis Robles, and a number of other club members following a result is whether or not ‘we looked like us.’ When they utilize their signature high press, force turnovers, and pounce while not in possession, they look like themselves. When they play more direct, hog the ball, and allow the opposition to stretch them wide, they don’t look like themselves.

Guess what? They usually win when they look like themselves. Begs the question: why do they ever allow themselves to not look like that?

But you can only change yourself

There has been a fair amount of grumbling amongst fans this season. See my first paragraph for the main reasons why that is. More than one season ticket holder, voting with his or her dollars, has canceled to say they’ve had enough of waiting. Pundits are predicting a shake-up in the club.

But there are still multiple buses heading to Chester for the playoff match. Many more are headed down the Turnpike on their own. Morale may be low, but belief has not wavered.

What can’t happen in the off-season, win or lose, is nothing. Don’t sit around and complain about it.

All your friends, they got the nicest things

Shout out to my colleagues whose teams are also in the playoffs. Let’s enjoy this post-season.

(Spoiler alert, I’m finishing this article right before I head down to Talen Energy Stadium. The first day of matches have happened, and I watched most of them. Check out the subsequent articles, if you could.)

P.S. I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it. I’m happy I got to use it.

Featured image: New York Red Bulls

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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D.C. United’s 2019 Season Comes to a Close with a 5-1 loss to Toronto

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
MLSFemale Editor-In-Chief 
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

The Match

D.C. United’s 2019 season has come to a close with a steep loss at BMO Field in Toronto. Black-and-Red supporters will not see Wayne Rooney hoist the MLS Cup, or in fact, play another match at Audi Field. It was a bitter end to a season that started with such high hopes.

Toronto’s Marky Delgado opened the scoring of the match early in the first half, and D.C. struggled to find their own scoring opportunity, even with both Wayne Rooney and Ola Kamara on the field. There was no dirty play, and no controversial calls were made by referee Allen Chapman, tonight simply wasn’t D.C.’s night.

In the dying moments of the match, Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez found the elusive equalizer. Weaving through the chaos surrounding Toronto’s goal, Rodríguez capitalized on a corner kick taken by Rooney. The Argentine’s goal tipped the match into extra time and gave everyone behind the Black-and-Red something incredible after almost 90 minutes of nail-biting – hope.

Unfortunately for D.C., Toronto quickly racked up the goals in extra time, creating a deficit that proved impossible to overcome. Bill Hamid’s clean sheet record mattered for naught as Toronto lobbed ball after ball into the back of the net.

The shot with the most sting, however, came from a spurned Nick DeLeon. DeLeon’s shot flew past Hamid into the high right corner of the net, tinged with a sense of poetic justice.

A D.C. substitution prior to the final 15 minutes of extra time saw Wayne Rooney leave the field for the last time as a D.C. player for Leonardo Jara. It was apparent the match and season were both over. There would be no final minute miracle for the Black-and-Red.

Looking Forward

2019 began with high hopes, as D.C. United beat the reigning MLS Champion, Atlanta United, in their very first match. As the freezing rain poured down at Audi Field, the Black-and-Red showed their fighting spirit and emerged tenacious, gritty, and hungry to win. While many are somber at the departure of superstar Wayne Rooney, and surely feeling the sting of loss as the season comes to a close, it’s time to reflect.

This season has been special. We’ve seen living legends, like Robert Gillespie and Tony Quinn, honored for their part in building our rich culture. We’ve been part of the magic that is a Wayne Rooney own half goal. We’ve witnessed Alejandro Bedoya of the Philadelphia Union speaking out against gun violence. We’ve had an all-female broadcast crew at Audi Field.

We’ve witnessed our players become parents, struggle with loss, and start new endeavors. We have seen them grow and succeed, both on the field and off. And soon, we will welcome back Yamil Asad to our fold.

Our supporter community has grown as well, with many faces welcomed into the Black-and-Red family this season. Throughout 2019, we have come together to battle illness, stand against intolerance, fight hunger, and make our community a better place. 

Tonight was not the ending to our 2019 season that any of us would have chosen, but there really is so much to look forward to. Together.

Vamos United!

Featured image: D.C. United

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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LA Galaxy Playoff Set in Minnesota

Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

September 29, 2019 was fan appreciation day and the last home game of the season at Dignity Health Sports Park, yet fans were left disappointed as LA Galaxy lost to Vancouver Whitecaps 4-3. 

LA Galaxy then finished in 5th place on Decision Day after a 4-2 loss in Houston, Texas on October 6th. Zlatan Ibrahimovic didn’t get the golden boot and the team failed to get home advantage for their first playoff game in two seasons. 

The extreme heat and humidity in Houston were definitely a factor. Water breaks were given. The Galaxy’s backline didn’t do its job to even when the team was up 2-1. Zlatan couldn’t finish in front of net. In the stands, fans were nearly suffering from heat stroke.  It was a very familiar feeling to last season and one to be forgotten.

Fans stood in sweltering heat and humidity to cheer on LA Galaxy for 90+ minutes

The team is now headed to Minnesota and contrasting weather conditions; it had already snowed some, the forecast predicts rain, and temperatures have dipped to the 40s at Allianz Field. Kickoff is scheduled for October 20 at 5:30PM PST. 

Rapper MURS collaborated with LA Galaxy to hype up fans as the journey for the sixth championship begins

LA Galaxy have set many records in the league. Final numbers on 2019 MLS attendance had more LAG supporters travel this year than any other club, with a league high of 27,118. 

The new MLS playoff format begins with single game eliminations. If LA Galaxy advance, the bracket still gives them a chance of hosting the Western Conference Final or MLS Cup. 

Efrain Alvarez had been called up to the Mexico National Team for the U-17 World Cup, so LA Galaxy need to make it to MLS Cup final on November 10th for him to be back on the field, otherwise, this ends his season.  

Boca Juniors loan, Cristian Pavon, has made quite the impact and can service the ball to feed the lion in ways that still don’t reflect statistically since he joined late in the season. His presence on the field really has made all the difference to fans and to the LA Galaxy’s attack with assists and three goals of his own. 

Romain Alessandrini is expected to be available after being out most of the 2019 season recovering from knee surgery, though another key midfielder Joe Corona is questionable since his toe was injured in Houston.

To further wrap up the regular season, 2019 LA Galaxy Team Awards include Player of the Year to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  Diego Polenta was officially awarded LA Galaxy’s Defender of the Year. Back up Goal Keeper Matt Lampson gets Humanitarian of the Year. 

Additionally, Ibrahimovic had the most sold jersey in MLS. Teammates Alessandrini and Sebastian Lletget were also top sellers.

LA Galaxy has what it takes in the race to seis. Don’t miss history being made and support the Gs at the Dignity Health Sports Park watch party.

Other viewing parties are available. Check below for your area: 

Featured image: LA Galaxy 

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Seattle Sounders claim no. 2 seed in West with 1-0 win over Minnesota

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

After an incredibly unpredictable run of games, the Seattle Sounders grabbed 3 points at home against Western Conference rival, Minnesota United, to lock up the 2nd spot in the West and a home road in playoffs.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

In their fan appreciation match, the Sounders honored the return of their longtime captain, Osvaldo Alonso, prior to kickoff and the fans showed Ozzie nothing but love. General Manager Adrian Hanauer presented Ozzie with a framed copy of the recently elected Sounders Best XI, which featured Ozzie in the midfield. The Honey Badger gave the entire stadium a clap and wave before heading in to the opposing team’s locker room, a feeling that must have felt odd for the man who spent nearly a decade in Rave Green.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

In front of nearly 48,000 home fans, the Sounders pushed the attack from the opening whistle. Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones provided plenty of pressure from the wings, while Nicolas Lodeiro was a welcome return to the middle of the pitch after missing the previous two games from injury. Due to another red card suspension, Xavier Arreaga missed the match and was replaced by Roman Torres, who had only returned to eligibility in the 18 man lineup the previous weekend after serving a 10 match ban for substance violation.

The Panamanian made a thunderous return to starting form in the 29th minute. After a corner kick played in fell outside the box, Joevin Jones sent in a vicious cross that found the head of Roman Torres perfectly. This goal was Torres first in Rave Green and couldn’t have come at a more dire time for the Sounders.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

The Sounders managed to generate a few more offensive chances and also held off the Minnesota United attack as the match ended 1-0 in favor of Seattle. While the result was probably not what Osvaldo Alonso would have hoped for his return to CenturyLink, the Sounders and their fans relished the 3 points, which secured them the second seed in the Western Conference.

Up next the Sounders will face FC Dallas, who had a disgustingly dominant 6-0 win on Decision Day vs Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink on Saturday October 19th with a kickoff of 12:30 PM.

Playoff Preview

The biggest concern to the Seattle Sounders over the back half of the season has been health and squad depth. The Sounders reached deep in to their reserves for many games this season and dropped more points at home than ever before. However, the Sounders were able to maintain the third longest playoff appearance streak in American professional sports (behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Antonio Spurs, respectively) by securing their 11th straight playoff appearance.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

While it appears Victor Rodriquez is sidelined by yet another injury, Seattle is entering playoffs with nearly their entire squad healthy and ready for battle. Both Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro are questionable to be at full health after recent injuries, but Gustav Svennson, Kelvin Leerdam and Brad Smith are all back to full health after missing long individual stretches. Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris are as hungry as ever, the former having been named to Opta’s MLS Best XI. In this final game, Joevin Jones seemed to show flashes of his former self as well.

While the road to MLS Cup is not a simple one for the Seattle Sounders, they just might be hitting their stride at the right time.

All images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

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Decision Day: Can the Timbers clinch a playoff spot at home?

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Following a chippy 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City this past Sunday night, the Portland Timbers are taking the point and the fight for a playoffs spot back home to Providence Park.

In a night full of trading cards and goals – Sebastian Blanco notched the opening goal in the 29th minute. However, Krisztián Nemeth cut the celebrations after finding the equalizer just moments later.

Then chaos ensued.

A brief altercation broke out in the 35th minute after Felipe Gutierrez and Brian Rodriguez collided on the sidelines that ultimately led to both Rodriguez and Roger Espinoza receiving red cards and were ejected from the match.

Head Coach Giovanni Savarese disagreed with the decision telling media during the postmatch conference:

“To be quite honest, I don’t think anybody should [have been] thrown out, from what I saw,” said Savarese. “From what I saw it got heated, but no, I think a lot of yellow card situations there. So I have to be honest that I haven’t seen it yet, I just heard that it wasn’t as much as they made it seem like.”

Steve Clark who rose to the occasion during the midseason after starter Jeff Attinella suffered a season-ending injury, made three saves to keep the match level.

Savarese said of Clark’s performance: “He’s done fairly well. We said from the beginning he is an important player. [And] that’s why we put him in. We felt very content to have two goalkeepers like Jeff [Attinella] and [Steve] Clark – that we knew what they’re going to give us. And we’re very content [he would] step up to help us out. I think he made some good saves.”

Sporting KC immediately regained the lead in the 46th minute after Daniel Salloi hit home the rebound scoring his first goal of the season.

In the 85th minute, a penalty was awarded to the Timbers after Ilie Sanchez tackles Jeremy Ebobisse in the penalty area. Darien Asprilla converts the goal leveling the match and giving the Timbers a hard-fought point on the road.

Although everything went their way score-wise across the league with a loss from both FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes, it all comes down to Decision Day.

But it comes with an added challenge.

After Savarese stated the club would be appealing Fernandez’s suspension; the club has since rescinded the appeal Wednesday based on new evidence – leaving them without their star forward for the big matchup. In addition to Diego Valeri still questionable due to tightness in his calf he acquired in Kansas City.

But maybe luck will be on Portland’s side as the Earthquakes are currently on a five-game losing streak and are a point below the line. As well, losing defender Tommy Thompson to a red card during their previous match against the Seattle Sounders.

The Timbers will look to clinch a playoffs spot at home when they face the Earthquakes on Sunday, October 6.

“It’s a must win. That’s all it is,” said Zarek Valentin.

Featured image: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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D.C. United Clinch 2019 Playoff Spot

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
MLSFemale Editor-In-Chief 
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

After a tumultuous season, D.C. United have managed to clinch a 2019 playoff spot! Throughout 2019, the Black-and-Red have faced countless challenges. Injury, roster shakeups (Wayne Rooney’s early departure anyone?), and winless streaks have forced many to question how soon the season would end.

After a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers at Providence Park and a little help from the LA Galaxy in shoving the anemic Montreal Impact further down the Eastern Conference table, D.C. United are currently sitting in a comfortable 5th place. A win tonight against the Seattle Sounders at Audi Field could indeed move D.C. up into 4th place and earn the opportunity to host a playoff match at home.

D.C. United will play two more regular-season matches after tonight, the first on the road against the New York Red Bulls, and the second at home against FC Cincinnati. It stands to reason that the Black-and-Red could win at least one of these matches, especially a home match in front of an energized supporter base.

D.C. United’s roster has experienced quite a few shakeups in the past few months. Captain Wayne Rooney announced his departure at the end of this season to play for Derby County, cutting short his contract with the Black-and-Red. Although the striker will be missed, D.C. has made valuable additions that should mitigate the impact of his exit. Ola Kamara, Emmanuel Boateng, Felipe Martins, and now, Yamil Asad, are a few of the players who will bolster the Black-and-Red in the 2020 season.

D.C.’s new players (except for Asad who will join the roster in 2020) have already more than proven their capability to be difference makers on the pitch, especially Kamara with his innate ability to find the back of the net. As D.C. looks to make a solid playoff run, the Black-and-Red’s newfound roster depth will be a tremendous asset.

Vamos United!

Featured image: MLS

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Carlos Vela is back: LAFC wins the west; claims two points on the East Coast

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Best in the West

The Los Angeles Football Club is the best in the West thanks to Minnesota United’s 2-0 road loss in Houston on September 11.

So what does this mean for the Black & Gold?

The MLS Cup playoffs are coming to the Banc!

As the No. 1 seed – LAFC has secured a first-round bye, home field advantage, and will begin their quest for MLS Cup on Oct. 23 or 24 in the Western Conference semifinals, as other teams kick off their journey on Oct. 19-20.

And should they secure the Supporters’ Shield – the Banc could host its first final.

But there’s more!

The world’s stage is calling LAFC. Along with obtaining the top spot, the Black & Gold qualified for the 2020 Concacaf Champions League; giving the club a chance to compete against world football giants like Real Madrid, Liverpool, Boca Juniors, or Barcelona in the FIFA Club World Cup.

East Coast Rivals

The Black & Gold returns home after earning two points in back-to-back draws on the East Coast.

  • Orlando City

The club kicked off their East Coast road series in Orlando on September 7th and played Orlando City to a 2-2 draw.

Missing seven players due to international duty – Adrien Perez earned his first start and Alejandro Guido made his first appearance on the bench.

In the 12th minute, Lee Nguyen sent the ball inside the box, a deflection off Orlando’s backline gave it to Perez, who then tapped it in to score his first goal; giving LAFC the lead.

Nani got in behind LAFC’s defense to chip in the equalizer just moments later. Benji Michael doubled the score in the 20th minute after Ruan cut back a pass to him inside the box.

Down by one, the Black & Gold rallied in the latter part of the half to level the match. Dio played in a ball to Diego Rossi, who, like Perez, beat the keeper in the 78th minute to earn the club their first road point on the East Coast.

LAFC remained on the East Coast to train ahead of their match against the Philadelphia Union.

  • Philadelphia Union

MLS Cup final preview? Maybe.

The two playoff bound teams matched each other in a 1-1 draw at Talen Energy Stadium. Despite conceding a goal each, Tyler Miller and Andre Blake kept their teams in the game.

The Union’s Kacper Przybylko opened the scoring early with a header over Miller in the 3rd minute. Carlos Vela returned to action – scoring his 28th goal in the 43rd minute to level the match.

Both sides exchanged scoring opportunities in a chippy second half with the final play falling to the home side. Fortunately, Fabrice-Jean Pinault’s shot went wide – seeing LAFC leave Philadelphia with four cautions and a point.

Carlos Vela Update

The captain is back!

Carlos has missed a total of three matches this season and with Ibrahimovic closing in on the golden boot race – things are beginning to look more challenging for the winger.

Vela rejoined the group in Philadelphia last week to participate in full training. And even though it was great to see the captain back in action, he did not seem to be at full strength – only seeing 66 minutes of playing time in Philadelphia.

I can only assume Bob Bradley saw this too; leading to his decision to switch Vela out with Brian Rodriguez.

What’s next?

Staying atop of the standings for 24 weeks straight and holding 64 points, LAFC will look to close out the regular season on a high note with four games left and the Supporters’ Shield in sight.

The Black & Gold still own the best home record this MLS season (11-1-2) and on Sept. 21, the club will look to restart it’s winning streak at home when they host fourth-place, Toronto FC.

Featured Image: LAFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Sporting Kansas City advances to Western Conference Finals in Icy Battle

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Sporting KC Contributor

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

From the moment the whistle blew, this icy match didn’t disappoint when it came to drama.

Following a 1-1 draw on the road, Sporting Kansas City returns home to stamp their ticket to the Western Conference Finals in a 4-2 (5-3 on aggregate) win over Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park.

Felipe Gutierrez arguably had the best game of his career having recorded two assists – becoming the first player in Sporting KC postseason history to record two assists in the first half. As well, recording a total of three assists in the 2018 playoffs campaign, tied for a club postseason record.

Sporting KC was up 2-0 by the 20th minute after two brilliant goals by Diego Rubio and Daniel Salloi. However, things started to slow as the home side’s defense became noticeable lazy – giving RSL an opportunity to pull one back shortly after the restart.

The tide would shift again in the 67th minute after RSL defender Nedum Onuoha received a caution for a tackle on Gutierrez – Referee Jose Carlos Rivero awarded Sporting KC a penalty, which Ilie Sanchez successfully converted with a shot down the middle, putting SKC back ahead 3-1.

Moments later, RSL answered the penalty when Damir Kreilach sends a clear header off of a corner shot from Joao Plata past Tim Melia pulling one back for RSL 3-2.

The remainder of the match saw RSL putting all bodies forward continuously challenging Melia and the backline – in an attempt to level the match. Fortunately, Sporting KC was able to dismiss all opportunities the visitors created in front of a sold-out crowd.

Every heart in the stadium filled with anxiety when the crowd witnessed the ball falling to Nick Besler, the younger brother of Sporting KC captain Matt Besler, off a corner kick in the 83rd minute but his chance fizzled past the goal, landing in the side netting. Seconds later, nerves rattled again, when Jefferson Savoring won possession on a loose ball in the penalty area and sent a side-footer in close range just wide of Melia’s right-hand post.

After a brutal seven minutes of stoppage time, Salloi slammed home the silencer in the 96th minute securing the home side’s spot in the Western Conference Final. As well, handing the team their first playoff win since 2013.

Sporting KC will have a two-week break period to regroup before traveling to Portland for leg 1 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday, November 25.

Featured image: @SportingKC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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