Two leg playoffs, gotta love them. In one sense they create an incentive for each team to try to get a result in the first game, on the other it gives the winning team in leg one an excuse to park the bus. Luckily the conference semi-finals had an exciting round of second leg games. Parking the bus wasn’t an option for most teams and it wouldn’t have worked for the Columbus Crew anyway.
Here are how a selection of Yanks did in the long weekend of games.
We start at the top with the second leg of the insufferable hipster derby between the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Ruidiaz-Lodeiros. This game was played on a Thursday night kicking off at 10:30PM EST and it didn’t end until Saturday afternoon. The short time between matches seems like it took a bigger toll on Seattle’s depth than East Coast viewers though as both Chad Marshall and Cristian Roldan were absent with injuries. Seattle still managed to win the match and force penalties thanks to goals from, of all people, Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro. Here are some notes about the Yanks in the match:
Jorge Villafana played 120 minutes and suffered two fouls. Zarek Valentine is still on the Timbers roster.
Everyone’s new favorite American striker Jeremy Ebobisse had a shot on goal. It’d be easy to write off the attention that Ebobisse has gotten recently by asking, “well, yeah but who else is Portland going to start, Lucas Melano?” but don’t do that - the American has the potential to fill the shoes that we left empty in Portland by perennial “guy who is due for a huge 20+ goal year” Fanando Adi, but at just 21 he has years to prove that he can do just that.
Ebobisse and Stefan Frei teamed up for an all-American highlight as Frei saved the forward’s lone shot on goal in the match:
Frei made several big saves in the game but was overcome by the Timbers mighty goal scoring machine Dairon Asprilla, who scored a goal in extratime and drove home what would be the winning penalty in the shootout.
Will Bruin appeared in 40 minutes of the match and his main highlight was turning the ball over in the center of the pitch to spark a Timbers transition leading to a goal in the 93rd minute.
RSL is nothing if not dedicated to scoring goals - it seems like they don’t even really mind if they’re scored by the opposition. SKC and RSL teamed up for an exciting 4-2 match on Sunday. Salt Lake seemed like they had no chance after giving up two goals by the 19th minute. Sebastian Saucedo gave his team some home by scoring in the 60th minute after coming on at half-time.
It was a tough day for Nick Rimando who got chipped from the spot by Ilie Sanchez and gave up four goals in the match.
For a team that gets a lot of attention for having a young American backline, RSL also sure gives up a lot of goals. Brooks Lennon put in 90 minutes in his position at right back and Kyle Beckerman got a yellow card.
For SKC it’s a familiar story. Zusi, Opara, Besler, and Sinovic played in front of Tim Melia and while they gave up two goals late, the game was well in hand at that point and the aggregate seemed secure. Khiry Shelton came off the bench for 22 minutes to put the game away for SKC and help keep Diego Rubio fresh for the next leg.
Atlanta United vs. New York City Footballbaseball Club
What do you want to know about the Americans for New York - Sean Johnson picked the ball out of the net three times including a goal that he gave up one on one with Josef Martinez.
Ben Sweat somehow managed to get the start over Ronald Matarrita and helped New York try to kick Miguel Almiron for 90 minutes.
Atlanta won the game easily 3-1 thanks in no small part to the Americans on the team - Darlington Nagbe, Michael Parkhurst, Greg Garza, and Brad Guzan. The Polar Bear made three saves and let in a goal on a set piece that one of the four - FOUR - center backs that Tata Martino started couldn’t manage to defend. Nagbe had a signature moment in front of goal as he ended up being one on one with the keeper but failed to put his shot on goal.
New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew
In front of a crowd that looked to be in the dozens, the New York Red Bulls beat the Columbus Crew 3-0 in an emphatic home win. The game was a clinic in pressing as the Red Bulls cut off passing lanes for the Crew forcing the away team to settle for crosses the entire game. In attack, Alex Muyl opened the scoring with an assist from Aaron Long on a set piece in the 17th minute.
Columbus held strong until the 77th when Muyl worked a ball into the box to Tyler Adams who flicked it to Daniel Royer. The forward drove his shot past Zack Steffen in what would be the game and series winning goal.
Adams was terrific in the game and will be a handful for Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Final which will pit the two best teams in MLS against each other after the international break.
While Steffen had a long day in the office, Luis Robles made four saves while keeping a clean sheet including this play against Gyasi Zardes.
Since this is MLS and USSF isn’t into making things easy for the league unless it wants to, you’ll get to see some of these players represent the Stars and Stripes against England and Italy.