16 Teams made it out of their groups to the knockout stage of the MLS is Back Tournament. The single elimination matches started in the Round of 16, and produced some great games. Here’s a look back at who advanced and who went home!
Orlando City SC v.s. Montreal Impact
Orlando looked like one of the best teams in the tournament. They won Group A and took on Montreal a wildcard side. Montreal boss Thierry Henry set his team up to sit deep and counter-attack. The Impact had a few chances but failed to live up to their namesake.
A mistake from Montreal allowed Orlando to be in on goal; Tesho Akindele netted a fine finish giving Orlando the lead in the 60th minute. Orlando did not look back, they controlled the game and limited Montreal’s chances. The match ended 1-0 and Orlando moves on to the quarterfinals.
Philadelphia Union v.s. New England Revolution
In one of the most anticipated matchups of the Round of 16, Philadelphia took on New England. Philly controlled the match even without possession. Their defense was sound, with McKenzie and Wagner winning Team of the Week honors. Andre Blake made some great saves again stating his case for being the keeper of the tournament.
New England was without playmaker Carles Gil, and could not find the creative spark to break Philly’s defense. In the 63rd minute, the Union sparked a counter-attack where Jamiro Monteiro found the run of Sergio Santos who rocketed a shot home to give Philly the 1-0 win. Philly moves on to the quarterfinals.
Toronto FC v.s. NYCFC
Toronto FC won Group C; NYCFC got into the knockout rounds as a wildcard on the last night of the group stage after other teams failed to play well. You wouldn’t know this fact if you just watched this match. Jesús Medina put NYCFC up 1-0 after just five minutes. New York was up and Toronto looked lackluster in their attack.
Toronto was without up-and-coming star Ayo Akinola, and could not get things together. NYCFC added two more goals in the second half. Toronto did find a late goal in the last few minutes, but they were unable to make the most of their chances. NYCFC are through to the quarters.
Sporting Kansas City v.s. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Sporting Kansas City were heavily favored to beat wildcard side Vancouver Whitecaps. The Whitecaps were missing many players and did not even dress a backup keeper due to injury. Vancouver started Thomas Hasal a homegrown keeper who would steal the show in this match. Kansas City did dominate this match, but Hasal kept Vancouver in the matchmaking eight saves in the match.
Sporting had 37 shots but couldn’t get one past Hasal. The match ended 0-0 and went to penalties. In the shootout Hasal could not save Vancouver again, The Whitecaps missed two chances and Sporting Kansas City didn’t. SKC survive and advance after being frustrated by Vancouver.
San Jose Earthquakes v.s. Real Salt Lake
San Jose and Real Salt Lake met in the Round of 16 and played a very open match. Both teams play a style that is very attacking, almost a defense-be-dammed style of play. In this, both teams tried to control the match, which led to a thriller. After 20 minutes San Jose found the opener thanks to Cristian Espinoza. Literally a minute later RSL equalized thanks to Douglas Martínez. The match went to half time tied, but it was San Jose who came out firing in the second half.
Magnus Eriksson scored a PK in the 49th minute and Valeri Qazaishvili added a third in the 61st minute. With 15 minutes left RSL tried to spring back to life thanks to a Damir Kreilach goal, but it was not enough. Salt Lake’s Marcelo Silva was shown a red card with six minutes left that doomed his side. Not long after the age-less wonder Chris Wondolowski added a fourth goal, then Magnus Eriksson scored his second PK to make it 5-2. San Jose is marching on to the quarterfinals.
Seattle Sounders v.s. LAFC
Seattle and LAFC met in a rematch of the 2019 western conference final. Seattle took the match last season, this time around LAFC found a way to win. From the get-go, the match was open and both teams ran at each other. It was LAFC who started off a little better than Seattle. Diego Rossi converted a PK in the 14th minute, and Latif Blessing added a second goal for LA in the 39th minute. Seattle was behind going into halftime but found a way to get back into the match with 15 minutes left.
Will Bruin cut the lead in half and brought Seattle some life in the 75th minute. Instead of sparking a Seattle comeback, it woke up LAFC. Rossi added another goal for LAFC in the 82nd minute, and Brian Rodriguez scored a fourth for LAFC in the 89th minute. LAFC have been the strongest team in the MLS is Back Tournament, and will be moving on to the quarterfinals.
Columbus Crew SC v.s. Minnesota United FC
Columbus Crew SC won all three of their group stage matches and conceded no goals. There was a lot of hype surrounding them, and not too much attention to a strong Minnesota side. This put a chip on the shoulder of the Loons, and it showed in this match. Minnesota United got off to a fast start scoring in the first 20 minutes of the match, Robin Lod scored the first goal against the Crew in the tournament. Both teams settled into the match after the goal, and it was an exciting bit of back and forth play.
As the match went to the last quarter, Columbus found themselves back in the mix. Gyasi Zardes scored a rebound after having a penalty effort saved. The match ended 1-1 and went to penalties. The first two rounds of penalties were converted by both sides. In the third round, Minnesota scored, but Columbus’ effort was saved by Tyler Miller. The rest of the takers made their efforts meaning Minnesota won 5-3 on penalties to move on to the quarters!
Portland Timbers v.s. FC Cincinnati
Portland were heavy favorites in their Round of 16 match against one of the surprises of the tournament, FC Cincinnati. Cincinnati coach Jaap Stam has found a way to set up his team. He parks the bus and then relies on countering opportunities to get and take chances. In the first half, Cincinnati frustrated Portland and shut them out, the problem was that they themselves had no chances.
In the second half, Portland finally found a way to breakdown Cincy. Sebastián Blanco found space in the box and found the perfect pass to Jaroslaw Niezgoda who put away the effort in the 67th minute. This flipped a switch for FC Cincinnati. Jürgen Locadia was brought on and he converted a penalty in the 81st minute. Locadia then missed a chance to win the match for Cincinnati a few moments later as he skied a sitter over the crossbar. This meant the match moved to penalties. In penalties, it was clear Portland was above Cincinnati. Portland took four and made four. Cincinnati took four and made two, their last two takers were not confident in their attempts and couldn’t get the job done. Portland is moving on to the quarterfinals.
On to the Quarterfinals
The quarterfinals kick off tonight! Philadelphia takes on Kansas City in a very interesting matchup. This kicks off a weekend of the MLS is Back quarterfinals as Orlando takes on LAFC on Friday, and San Jose and Minnesota play the beginning of a Saturday doubleheader followed by NYCFC v.s. Portland! Who will make it to the final four of the MLS is Back Tournament? We’ll have to watch the upcoming matches to find out!
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