With the four Knockout Round games in the books, the stage is now set for the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Conference semifinals. Before the top seeded teams from the West and East get set to take on the Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, let's revisit the top Audi Player Index players from each of these squads’ first round match-ups.
Toronto FC 3, Philadelphia Union 1
Unsurprisingly, Sebastian Giovinco finished Toronto FC's win against the Union as the top man per the Audi Player Index. It is difficult to appreciate how taxing it can be for an opposition to defend a player of such quality that is consistently threatening for the entirety of 90 minutes. What are defenses supposed to do when he is always making possession in the final third meaningful? Against the Union, the Atomic Ant had a goal, won 3 corners, connected 11 passes in the final third, and attempted 10 crosses. His ability to always get something from the that part of the field is a problem for any side he faces and it is only a matter of time until he makes his presence known against NYCFC in the next round, beginning on Sunday (7 pm ET, FS1 | TSN1/4 in Canada).
LA Galaxy 3, Real Salt Lake 1
Figuring in all three goals, Alan Gordon finished atop the Audi Player Index board after the LA Galaxy downed Real Salt Lake. Gordon assisted on both of Emmanuel Boateng’s goals as well as finding the back of the net once himself (and probably should have had one more goal off of a set piece where his header missed wide). Just as impressive was Gordon’s ability to step up in a major game without the likes of a Robbie Keane or Steven Gerrard, something that may garner him more playing time against the Colorado Rapids (Sunday, 5 pm ET, ESPN | TSN1/4 in Canada).
DC United 2, Montreal Impact 4
Involved in three out of the four goals, Matteo Mancosu finished with an Audi Player Index score of 1663. It is not hard to recognize the impact of a player who is both unselfish enough tally an assist and opportunistic enough to score twice. Mancosu’s goals were aided by great service; but as tracked by the Audi Player Index, he demonstrated the ability to finish with either his feet or head. Mancosu’s clinical nature in conjunction with great off-the-ball movement and desire to be first to the ball, were a difference-maker for the Impact, who now turn their attention to the New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 3 pm ET, ESPN | RDS, TSN GO in Canada).
Seattle Sounders 1, Sporting Kansas City 0
Stefan Frei, the lone goalie to finish on top in the Audi Player Index for any Knockout Round match, was instrumental in the Sounders' win over SKC. He ranked first for the last 30 minutes and was in the top two for almost 90 percent of the match. Frei made seven saves. four from shots from inside the box (for context, no other Knockout match keeper made more than three saves total). What’s more, his tremendous performance gave the Sounders the confidence to know that one goal would be enough for a win on that night, and sure enough they were able to get it. That form could suit the Sounders well as they host FC Dallas on Sunday (9:30 pm ET, FS1 | TSN2 in Canada).