The San Jose Earthquakes and LAFC are three wins away from claiming the MLS is Back Tournament championship.
San Jose defeated Real Salt Lake in the first game of Monday's round-of-16 doubleheader in Orlando, Florida, while LAFC beat the Seattle Sounders FC in the second one.
Unlike the group-stage games, the knockout-round contests do not count toward the 2020 MLS regular-season standings. However, claiming a title in the makeshift tournament would be one way for Monday's two victors to make their mark on an unusual 2020 season that was already suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
San Jose Earthquakes def. Real Salt Lake, 5-2
LAFC def. Seattle Sounders FC, 4-1
San Jose Earthquakes Pull Away from Real Salt Lake
San Jose still has not lost in the MLS is Back Tournament after going 2-0-1 in group play, and it put an exclamation mark on its 5-2 knockout-stage win over Real Salt Lake by pulling away in the second half.
Four of the Earthquakes' goals came after halftime with Magnus Eriksson converting two second-half penalty kicks.
The late flurry came after Cristian Espinoza opened the scoring for San Jose and Real Salt Lake's Douglas Martinez answered approximately one minute later to tie the game in a thrilling sequence.
However, Eriksson's first penalty kick in the early stages of the second half gave the victors the lead for good before Valeri Qazaishvili provided some insurance with his team's third goal. Damir Kreilach cut the deficit to 3-2, but things unraveled for RSL following Marcelo Silva's red card in the 84th minute.
With only 10 men, Real Salt Lake couldn't prevent a Chris Wondolowski—who owns the MLS goal record—goal and another Eriksson penalty kick following a Kyle Beckerman handball in the box to complete the dominant performance for San Jose.
The Earthquakes will try to keep the momentum rolling in Saturday's quarterfinal match against the winner of Tuesday's game between the Columbus Crew and Minnesota United FC.
LAFC Survives Late Drama and Dominates Seattle Sounders FC
There never should have been any drama at the end of LAFC's 4-1 victory over Seattle.
After all, Seattle's first shot on target didn't even come until the 65th minute. That shot came after Diego Rossi started the scoring at the 14th minute with a penalty kick and Latif Blessing pushed the lead to 2-0 in the first half by firing a right-footed shot across the box that deflected off a Seattle defender and into the back of the net.
It was more of the same for Rossi, who now has seven goals in four games as someone who is making an argument to be the tournament's MVP.
It was a testament to Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei's ability that he even kept his side within striking distance, and Will Bruin rewarded his effort with a goal at the 75th minute to pull within 2-1. LAFC missed numerous opportunities to put the game away early and had to sweat out multiple chances for Seattle following that goal.
That Rossi put the contest away with a beautiful right-footed shot at the 82nd minute was fitting given his overall dominance, as LAFC was clearly the superior side throughout Monday's match. Brian Rodriguez removed any lingering doubt with a late goal to push the lead to three.
LAFC, which is still yet to lose in the tournament after going 1-0-2 in group play, faces Orlando City in Friday's quarterfinal showdown.