Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you’re up and at it and ready for the week ahead.
It was a wild first weekend of playoff action, a weekend truly befitting the glorious, chaotic mess that is known as Major League Soccer.
Two of the matches were snoozers, with Minnesota United and Nashville SC advancing easily. The rest though? Basically every other match had a late goal or two, penalty kick drama and/or absolutely baffling refereeing.
Nowhere was this more true than in Orlando. If you’re reading this you probably know by now what went down, with the Lions seemingly victorious, only for Pedro Gallese to have been adjudged to have left his line on the decisive penalty.
Because of the truly baffling rule that leaving your line is delay of game, Gallese was sent off for a second bookable offense. Orlando City said “Well OK, we have a sub left. We’ll bring on our back up keeper, Whitecaps legend Brian Rowe.”
Except it turns out that you can only substitute in a keeper during a penalty shootout if there is an injury involved, so Rowe couldn’t be brought on. I can’t say I knew this rule and neither, apparently, did any of the referees on the field, as Rowe initially was allowed to enter the match, only to eventually get the hook. The gloves were then passed to Rodrigo Schlegel.
Schlegel made the decisive save — except Chapman screwed up the count, initially awarding Orlando the win when in reality they had one more PK left to take. Fortunately Benji Michel converted to end the Yakkety Saks-esque display.
So ... yeah. Peak MLS right?
Two other matches also went to penalties, and both FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes tallied late, stoppage time equalizers to force extra time (Dallas wound up winning, San Jose fell to Sporting KC).
Oh and New England’s Gustavo Bou buried a winner on the stroke of full time to push the Revs past Montreal Impact.
It is rare that one of my columns actually comes to fruition but my prediction of a wild, unpredictable playoffs from Friday did, in fact, play out. It admittedly helps my success rate when I make absolutely freezing cold takes.
Simply put, one of the best decisions MLS has made in a long time was to take the playoffs to a single-leg format.*
*I think this because Vancouver haven’t gotten screwed over by the decision yet.
The fun continues tomorrow night. Here are a few predictions:
Toronto FC vs. Nashville SC: It is tough to argue with the form Nashville is in right now. Despite having very little success scoring from the run of play this season, they put 2 goals from open play (plus a Hany Mukhtar penalty) past a Miami team which had been decimated by COVID-19 and handcuffed by a baffling tactical strategy. But the defensive style they so often employ will be a much tougher proposition against Toronto, who has the attackers to pick apart such an approach. I think Nashville hangs on until the second half but TFC’s quality shines through eventually. Prediction: Toronto FC.
Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revolution: This one is much tougher to predict — the Revs weren’t in the best form heading into Friday night and while they needed a late winner to get by the Impact, they bossed most of that game and were good value for the win. The Union are clearly the better team but not by as much as you’d think and I don’t know that anyone in the east wants to play the Revs on their day. This seems to smack of a game which needs more than 90 minutes and after that? It is anyone’s guess. The Union haven’t lost to the Revs yet this year and I’ll give them the slight edge to continue that tomorrow. Prediction: Philadelphia Union.
Seattle Sounders vs. LAFC: This one was looking a lot more tasty before Diego Rossi tested positive for COVID-19. While Carlos Vela is back in form there are a lot more questions than answers for LAFC: Who will start in goal? Will the defense stop leaking goals? Can Bradley Wright Phillips be the goal scorer they need with Rossi (and Brian Rodriguez) out? Seattle should be too good of a team to slip up against an opponent who has this many unknowns. Prediction: Seattle Sounders.
I cannot guarantee that these predictions will be right but I can almost certainly predict that these three matches will be worth your while.
Onto the links!
Shameless Self Promotion
Our end-of-season series continues with discussing the role of some of the most hotly debated squad players on the roster (aka Russell Teibert). You’ll want to read it for sure
Best of the Rest
Hear from Maxime Crepeau on his injury-plagued 2020 season and how he’s getting ready for a return next year
Worth noting that Alan Chapman and his crew, who worked the Orlando City/NYCFC match, will not be doing another game in the playoffs
On why MLS’ staffing cuts could signal trouble ahead for the league
An NYCFC intern has gone public about alleged sexual harassment from David Villa