The second batch of knockout games in the MLS postseason was played on Thursday night, with the final two spots in the conference semifinals up for grabs.
Below, we'll take a look at the results of both contests along with the updated postseason schedule and a recap of Thursday's action.
|MLS Knockout-Phase Scores|
|Conference||Team 1||Result||Team 2|
|Eastern||No. 3 Montreal Impact||3-0||No. 6 Toronto FC|
|Western||No. 3 Portland Timbers||2-2 (7-6)||No. 6 Sporting KC|
Eastern Conference Schedule
|Sunday, Nov. 1||No. 1 New York Red Bulls vs. No. 4 D.C. United||TBD|
|Sunday, Nov. 1||No. 2 Columbus Crew vs. No. 3 Montreal Impact||TBD|
|Sunday, Nov. 8||No. 1 New York Red Bulls vs. No. 4 D.C. United||TBD|
|Sunday, Nov. 8||No. 2 Columbus Crew vs. No. 3 Montreal Impact||TBD|
Western Conference Schedule
|Sunday, Nov. 1||No. 1 FC Dallas vs. No. 4 Seattle Sounders/No. 6 Sporting KC||TBD|
|Sunday, Nov. 1||No. 2 Vancouver Whitecaps vs. No. 3 Portland Timbers/No. 4 Seattle Sounders||TBD|
|Sunday, Nov. 8||No. 1 FC Dallas vs. No. 4 Seattle Sounders/No. 6 Sporting KC||TBD|
|Sunday, Nov. 8||No. 2 Vancouver Whitecaps vs. No. 3 Portland Timbers/No. 4 Seattle Sounders||TBD|
Montreal Impact Beat Toronto FC, 3-0
The Montreal Impact left no doubt.
First, the club scored its first goal in MLS playoff history. Then it added two more for good measure, blowing past Toronto FC on Thursday, 3-0, to advance to the next round of the MLS playoffs.
Patrice Bernier opened the scoring in the 18th minute, finishing off a lovely bit of counterattack play by the Impact. Ignacio Piatti slipped him in free on goal, and Bernier did the rest.
The MLS on Twitter shared the goal:
That opened the floodgates. Fifteen minutes later, Piatti doubled Montreal's lead, sliding a low shot past 'keeper Chris Konopka.
Six minutes later a legend would get involved, as Didier Drogba gave the Impact a 3-0 advantage.
Toronto will have an entire offseason to lament its defense on that goal.
From there the Impact dug in defensively, content to protect a 3-0 lead and advance to face the Columbus Crew, a matchup Ives Galarcep of SBISoccer.com thinks is going to be a fun one:
The Crew will have two main players to concern themselves with: Drogba and Piatti. Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated spoke about both after the game:
Max Bretos of ESPN had more to say on the advantage Drogba gives his team, meanwhile:
The fact he's scored 12 goals in his past 12 games also gives the Impact a huge edge.
Montreal is certainly peaking at the right time. The club has just two losses in 12 matches since the beginning of September, with two draws mixed in there as well. The Impact also won both of their matchups against the Crew this year, so they'll feel good headed into this playoff series.
The team's streak of hot play—paired with the duo of Drogba and Piatti—makes them tough to bet against. The Crew will offer a stiff challenge, but right now the Impact look good enough to make a title run this season.
Portland Timbers Stun Sporting Kansas City on Penalty Kicks, 7-6
In a stunning series of late drama with the first penalty-kicks finish of the MLS playoffs, the Portland Timbers bested Sporting Kansas City 7-6 on Thursday to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey struck the game-winner in the 11th round of sudden-death penalty kicks, then blocked the would-be game-tying shot from Kansas City goalie Jon Kempis to secure the victory.
The climactic heroics—Kwarasey’s first career goal—reverberated throughout the sports-media landscape. Midfielder Stuart Holden, MLS Transfers and ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle all weighed in:
Kwarasey saved his team from what had been shaping up to be a come-from-behind Kansas City win after the Timbers surrendered a goal to Kevin Ellis in the final three minutes of regulation. The Kansas City defender netted a remarkable header to push the game to extra time, and Krisztian Nemeth followed with a tiebreaking goal in the 96th minute.
But Portland’s Maximiliano Urruti pushed the game to the brink in the 118th minute, tying the match at 2-2 and keeping Portland alive for its second appearance in the conference semifinals.
Prior to the late fireworks, Nemeth had just one shot on target and drew a yellow card—though it arguably should’ve been a red, per Total MLS—in the 76th minute, an uncharacteristic performance for the former European veteran playing his first year in MLS. Yet Nemeth came through in the clutch, as Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated noted, likening the Kansas City forward to another familiar face among iconic sports identities:
Nemeth’s late flare supplemented Ellis’ remarkable header in the 87th minute to tie the game. Ellis was positioned by a swift assist from Graham Zusi, who had been quiet for most of the night. MLS tweeted a video of the dramatic exchange:
The magnitude of the moment put the goal—the fifth of Ellis' career, all notched this season—among the most monumental plays in his five years in MLS, courtesy of Sporting KC.
In a knockout round with 11 goals in the other three games, Thursday’s tilt in Portland featured an aggressive defensive duel with late scoring, extra time and nine yellow cards.
Timbers forward Rodney Wallace netted the game’s first goal in the 57th minute to give Portland what looked like the only score it would need before a lapse in defense cost it in the final three minutes.
As Jamie Goldberg of the Oregonian indicated, Sporting Kansas City had held a goose egg against the Timbers in three matches this season, including two ties:
Sporting Kansas City's fifth straight playoff appearance ended earlier than the team had hoped. The Timbers, meanwhile, will head to the conference semifinals as one of the hottest remaining teams—now riding a four-game win streak and the momentum of resiliency. They will host the second-seeded Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday in a two-match, aggregate-goal series, per MLS regulations, with the finale slated to take place in Canada.
Portland posted two wins and a draw against Vancouver in the regular season, outscoring the Whitecaps 5-3.