MLS Five Points: Decision Day offers resolution
Galaxy, Sounders tumble into Knockout Round meeting after inconsistent seasons
LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders anticipated a meeting at some point during the Western Conference playoffs. They did not expect it to occur at this stage, though. Both clubs now must grapple with the peril of a Knockout Round meeting at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday after their inconsistent regular season performances pushed them down the table.
Seattle finally sparked to life by brushing aside a disinterested Real Salt Lake side to secure a playoff berth on the final day, but the Sounders’ belated outburst only proved enough to claim the fourth seed out West. The defending champions failed to match that modest feat after suffering a 2-1 defeat at desperate Sporting Kansas City.
Feilhaber decision pays off as Sporting Kansas City seals playoff berth
Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes looked at the data at his disposal and made the difficult choice to leave Benny Feilhaber on the bench at the start of that 2-1 victory over LA Galaxy. The choice to leave Feilhaber — a Best XI certainty and the best player on the team by quite some distance this season — on the bench in a critical game opened Vermes up to substantial criticism if everything went sideways.
It did not. Feilhaber climbed off the bench and produced the desired ending instead. His incisive, perfectly weighted ball through the line prompted Dom Dwyer’s winner and sealed Sporting’s place in the postseason.
“It was a decision based off of physical data from the last game, it was based on watching video from the last game, it was based on a lot of different variables,” Vermes explained to reporters after the game. “But at the end of the day, for us I know it was the right decision. He did exactly what he needed to do and I love the fact that his attitude was great when he came in the game. He gave a great ball to Dom and that’s what we needed at that time in the game. It was fantastic.
Red Bulls claim deserved Supporters’ Shield with victory in Chicago
Toyota Park finally turned into a place for celebration for the New York Red Bulls on Sunday. Jesse Marsch’s side navigated through the potentially tricky date with Chicago to secure the Supporters’ Shield with a 2-1 victory. The triumph provided a deserved exclamation point for a Red Bulls side thoroughly deserving of a second Supporters’ Shield in three years. This group adapted to a new system, adjusted to a revamped squad and executed week after week. They were the best side in the league over the balance of the season. And their silverware reflects that standing.
Drogba cajoles and inspires Montréal to home playoff game
Montréal spent most of the first half and much of the final half-hour trying to compensate for its frailty in midfield. Toronto FC dictated the terms of the proceedings in the middle third and used that superiority to pin the Impact back. Those measures pointed toward a TFC win and a potential home playoff game, but Didier Drogba turned the game by himself after the interval. His quick double exploited the evident vulnerabilities in the TFC defense and underscored his ability to alter the calculus at a moment’s notice. The resulting 2-1 victory arranged another fixture between these two sides at Stade Saputo on Thursday. TFC must figure out a way to contain Drogba at some point before then.
Decision Day extends into the offseason for New York City FC
The final act of NYCFC’s expansion season captured this frustrating campaign in a nutshell. New England ravaged NYCFC’s shoddy defense for the opening goal after two minutes and tacked on a couple of more before the hour. The heavy 3-1 defeat to end the season underscored the lingering questions about the direction of the club after a fraught first year.
There are a raft of decisions to make in Manchester and New York City during this offseason. Executives on both sides of the pond must ponder the fate of Jason Kreis and wonder whether a change in Designated Player course is necessary. Those quandaries — particularly the fallout if former MLS Cup winner Kreis is sacked after just one year — ensure more intrigue for a team already filled to the brim with it.