The play-in round of the MLS Cup playoffs is over and there was plenty to take away from it. We've covered some of that already, like the Philadelphia Union's offseason to-do list and the Montreal Impact's dominant attack, but here are some other items we took away from the knockout round to open the postseason.
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Landon Donovan has still got it
It's not just that Donovan set a new all-time MLS record on Wednesday. It's that he was one of the best players for the LA Galaxy in their 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake. He helped set up Alan Gordon's crucial first goal, earned an official assist on another Ema Boateng goal, and generally just made the Galaxy attack work. On top of it, his defensive work and tracking back, although underrated, was key in cutting out RSL's chances and he was a ball-winner in the midfield.
He un-retired because the Galaxy faced a slew of injuries and lost Nigel de Jong midseason, but it just so happens that he is also still one of the team's best players.
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Didier Drogba who?
Much to Drogba's presumed chagrin, the Montreal Impact still don't need the former Chelsea striker. Drogba set off his share of drama when he refused to dress for the Impact when he wasn't made a starter two weeks ago, and he hasn't played since. It's a measurable fact that Montreal gets more points out of each match without him, and they proved just how much they don't need him with a resounding 4-2 thumping over D.C. United on Thursday.
Montreal's attack was marked by quick ball movement and whiplash-fast counterattacks, which simply aren't weapons that work best with the 38-year-old Drogba. But it was that attacking method that dismantled a D.C. United team that had been in great form.
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Benny Feilhaber was great and Sporting KC dropped the ball
The best player on the pitch in the Sounders late 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City was not Seattle's No. 10, Nicolas Lodeiro, who has been so crucial to their last-season turnaround. It was the man leading SKC's attack, Benny Feilhaber. He was on a tear through the central midfield, weaving paths up the field and delivering deft passes. It was enough to surely cause at least a few U.S. men's national team fans to lament his broken relationship with USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Feilhaber did his part on Thursday, helping get his side closer to goal, but a combination of poor finishing, not enough good runs and some excellent goalkeeping from Stefan Frei meant it was all for naught. Frei recorded seven saves on the day with a spectacular performance, and Feilhaber's hard work was wasted.
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The Giovinco-Altidore striker pairing is the scariest in MLS
There's an argument to be made for Sebastian Giovinco being one of the best players to ever compete in MLS. On pure talent alone, he is a pleasure to watch, whether it's dancing through defenders or scoring stunning free kicks. Take him, and combine him with Jozy Altidore, who is perhaps the most in-form striker the USMNT has and what you get is a scary, scary duo. The Philadelphia Union were reminded of that in a 3-1 loss Wednesday.
Two-striker systems like the 4-4-2 aren't quite so popular anymore because teams want numbers in the midfield, but the way Altidore and Giovinco play off each other up top is something special. To be fair, the Union's defense was horrible and they will need to address it in the offseason, but TFC's striker duo is not to be taken lightly as the playoffs continue.
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Real Salt Lake should soon face some roster turnover
RSL has been relying on some veterans in the midfield for a while now. In fact, RSL is the oldest team in the entire league by average age. But unfortunately, they looked past their prime against the Galaxy.
Kyle Beckerman, 34, has been a solid enforcer in the midfield, but it may be time for Jeff Cassar to think about a succession plan. Even though Beckerman still has gotten call-ups from Klinsmann, he's clearly slowing down. Javier Morales, at 36, has mostly been a starter for Real Salt Lake in a playmaker role, but he will probably need to help make way for a new central midfield partnership. RSL weren't quick enough in transition and had too much trouble keeping up with LA.
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Video replay can't come soon enough
…At least if you're a Sporting Kansas City fan. There's no denying that Nelson Valdez's goal was a great moment -- the striker ended a scoring drought almost a year to the day after it began in the highest of stakes. But it was particularly cruel for SKC fans because Valdez's goal counted despite being a step offside, whereas a Matt Besler goal was waived off, despite being a bit less offside than Valdez. Besler was still offside, so the linesman got that call correct, but KC fans were upset with Valdez's goal being allowed for good reason.
"We are owed an apology from both PRO and the league," SKC coach Peter Vermes said afterward. It's doubtful he will get that, but the shouts for video replay and technology to ensure correct offside calls got a little louder on Thursday night. Of course, video replay trials are underway and, it's too late for SKC, but the technology is moving closer and closer to winning FIFA's final approval.