In the Quarterfinal round of the MLS is Back Tournament underdogs with something to prove ruled the day. The four matches over three days showed that the teams moving to the semifinals are teams who may have not predicted to make it far in the knockout rounds.
Philadelphia Union v.s. Sporting Kansas City
The first match of the quarterfinals was a highly anticipated matchup between a strong SKC team and a Philadelphia Union side looking to make a statement. The Union were able to do just that in the first half against Kansas City.
The Union started strong in their counter-pressing style and produced a great team goal, with Jamiro Monteiro taping in the first goal. Later in the half, Sergio Santos started and finished a fast break, his speed and ability to finish gave the Union a two-goal lead. Philly added a third on another counter-attack. This time, Brenden Aaronson was able to get on the ball, shimmy his way past two SKC defenders and then pick a perfect pass through the Sporting backline to find Sergio Santos who hit a one time ball into the net. SKC’s Alan Pulido scored one to make it 3-1 just before half, but it did not spark a comeback.
In the second half, the Union did a good job shutting down Sporting Kansas City. The flustered side was not able to find a goal and was lucky Philadelphia was not able to net one or two more. Philly are moving on to the semis!
Orlando City SC v.s. LAFC
One of the surprises of the tournament, Orlando City, faced off against the favorites to win the whole tournament LAFC. As the match kicked off it was clear that this was going to be a highly contested match. Both teams went back-and-forth at one another in the first half. Orlando’s newfound style under head coach Óscar Pareja is one that looks to kill the opponent with smart passes in possession. While they were not able to get a goal past LAFC, they were able to limit the lethal LA side. The match went into the half tied at zero, but things heated up in the second half.
In the 57th minute Orlando won a penalty, their captain Nani stepped up to take it. It was not taken well and was saved by LAFC. Three minutes later, LAFC went down the field and found the opening goal from the ageless Bradley Wright-Phillips. The LAFC lone-goal looked to be enough, but in the 90th-minute things changed. Ex-LAFC draft pick Joao Moutinho, now on Orlando City scored a goal to keep the Lions hopes alive. The match ended 1-1 and went straight to penalty kicks.
In Penalties, it was clear that the first team to make a mistake was the team that would not move on. LAFC’s Jordan Harvey took the second spot-kick and did not score. All Orlando had to do was not miss and they would move on. It went down to Orlando’s captain one again. With the pivotal PK, Nani stepped up and slotted home a goal for Orlando. David killed Goliath, Orlando move on!
San Jose Earthquakes v.s. Minnesota United FC
In a battle of the teams who love to be the underdog, it was clear that one had the other number. San Jose and Minnesota both want to be the underdog, but when they face off against each other, Minnesota Usually comes out the victor. This happened again in the MLS is Back Tournament.
From the jump, it was clear that the loons figured out San Jose’s odd man-marking style of play. by the 20th minute, Minnesota drew out San Jose and made them pay for the space they left. Robin Lod scored in the 20th minute and then one minute later Jacori Hayes doubled the lead. Minnesota United took a 2-0 lead into half time.
The Earthquakes came out flying in the second half. After a strong first five minutes, they played strong and won a PK. Magnus Eriksson stepped up and converted the chance. Unfortunately for San Jose, Minnesota exploited the passing into the spaces they made by drawing out their opponents. Luis Amarillamade it 3-1 for the Loons in the 56th minute. As the match drug on for San Jose, they were caught out for the fourth time in the 80th minute as Marlon Hairston. The Loons showed they have what it takes to not be an underdog, and are on to the semifinals.
NYCFC v.s. Portland Timbers
In a really interesting match, NYCFC took on Portland. The Timbers were looking to out possess NYC. However, this NYCFC side were one who looked to be peaking at the right time in the knockout rounds.
Much like they were able to do in their past knockout round matches, NYCFC took the lead in the first half. In the 27th minute, NYCFC found the opening goal thanks to Jesus Medina. Unfortunately for NYCFC, this did not spark the goal-fest from them; it actually allowed Portland to get into the game. Just before halftime, Portland equalized through Sebastian Blanco. The match went into the half 1-1.
In the second half, Portland brought on their not-so-secret-weapon. Club legend Diego Valeri came off the bench as a supersub to help Portland find the win. In the 65th minute, he did just that. Valeri scored to give his team the lead and shocked NYCFC. New York could not get themselves back into the match after going down a goal. Portland piled on with a third goal. Andy Polo went on a long run and hit a screamer to burry NYCFC. Portland took the match 3-1 and are on to the final four.
The Final Four
The MLS is Back Tournament is down to the last four teams standing. Philadelphia takes on Portland, and Orlando takes on Minnesota.
Philadelphia have been assessed by FiveThrityEight.com as the favorites to win out of these four. They will have to face off against a battle-tested Portland timbers side. That match is tonight (August, 5th) at 8:00 p.m on FS1! Don’t miss that one!
On the other side of the bracket “hosts”, Orlando City are out to prove that they are no fluke in this competition. Minnesota United will still label themselves as underdogs even though they are in the final four. Thesse two square off on Thursday, August, 6th at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN 2.
The semifinals are set! Who will make it to the final match for a chance to win the trophy, over One Million Dollars, and a spot in next years CONCACAF Champions League? Make sure to tune in to find out!
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Mandatory Credit: MLSSoccer.com