The first round of the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs showcased exactly why the MLS is an exciting competition. It may not have the star players that are based around Europe, but when the MLS lacks in big names, it makes up for in big performances.
In the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake defeated the Los Angeles FC and the Portland Timbers were victorious against FC Dallas, ensuring the lowest two teams ranked in the conference made it through to the semi-finals.
Real Salt Lake went through thanks to an own goal by Los Angeles’ Walker Zimmerman. Having taken the lead, Real Salt Lake found themselves down 2-1 after 55 minutes, but an equalizer just before the hour mark made it all square. However, the decisive moment came in the 69th minute.
The Portland Timbers were a lot more comfortable in their win over FC Dallas, even after going down to 10 men whilst leading 1-0. Two goals by Diego Valeri ensured Portland made it through to the semis and knocked out FC Dallas.
At the start of the last regular season game, FC Dallas were in a position to secure a bye into the semi-finals, and now they’ve gone bye-bye from the competition.
The Eastern Conference had even more drama as Wayne Rooney’s DC United were knocked out on penalties by Columbus Crew. Rooney himself missed a penalty in what was shaping up to be a fairy tale story as DC United, who were bottom of the conference when Rooney arrived at the club.
In what was the stand out performance of the first round, New York City FC were resounding winners over the Philadelphia Union. Goals courtesy of Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, David Villa, and Maximiliano Moralez helped the Cityzens into the semis.
The lack of success big named European players are currently having in the MLS may open the eyes of a few fans who have called the MLS a retirement league.
Sporting Kansas City v Real Salt Lake
Seattle Sounders v Portland Timbers
New York Red Bulls v Columbus Crew
Atlanta United v New York City FC