Below is a selection of the notable performances and moments from the 11 matches played on the 34th matchday of the 2023 MLS season, played on Saturday, September 23.
Matchday 34 will conclude on Sunday with a trio of matches: Toronto FC at New York City FC (1 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass), Inter Miami CF at Orlando City SC (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass / FS1), and the LA Galaxy at Austin FC (9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass / FS1).
A Look at the Playoff Picture
Through Matchday 34, seven teams have clinched a berth in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, including two teams who secured their spot on Saturday night: Atlanta United and the New England Revolution.
Six teams in the Eastern Conference have punched their ticket to the postseason: FC Cincinnati, Orlando City SC, the Columbus Crew, the Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United, and the New England Revolution. Just one team has clinched a berth from the Western Conference -- St. Louis CITY SC -- as only seven points separate second place from 10th place in the conference entering Sunday's matches.
For a full look at the conference tables through Saturday's action, click here.
Atlanta United Clinches Playoff Berth with Dominant Offensive Performance
Behind four different goal scorers, Atlanta United punched their ticket to the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs courtesy of a 4-1 victory over CF Montréal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With the win, Atlanta clinched the fifth postseason berth in club history and their first since the 2021 season.
Building on his Landon Donovan MLS MVP campaign, Atlanta midfielder Thiago Almada added to his impressive season-long stat line with a goal (Watch Here) and an assist (Watch Here) in Saturday night’s victory. The 22-year-old Argentine now has an MLS-best 16 assists and 10 goals this season and became the third player in club history to record at least 10 goals and 10 assists in a single season. He joins Miguel Almiron (2018) and Hector Villalba (2017) as the only players to accomplish the feat in team history.
In just his sixth MLS game, Atlanta midfielder Saba Lobjanidze also made history with his helper on Xande Silva’s goal in the 30th minute (Watch Here). Saba joined elite company with the assist, as he became just the third player in MLS history to record at least three goals and three assists in his first 250 career minutes, joining Federico Higuaín with the Columbus Crew in 2012 and Diego Rossi with LAFC in 2018.
FC Cincinnati Inches Closer to Home Wins Record in 3-0 Victory
FC Cincinnati continued their dominance at home with a 3-0 victory against Charlotte FC at TQL Stadium on Saturday night. The victory was the club’s 13th home victory of the season, which is tied for third-most home wins in a single season in MLS history. With 62 points (18-4-8) and four matches left in MLS regular-season action, Cincinnati moved closer to capturing the Supporters’ Shield, a race that the club currently leads by nine points.
Midfielder Álvaro Barreal scored early for FC Cincinnati on a sensational free-kick goal that slotted home in the right upper 90 (Watch Here). Aaron Boupendza doubled their lead with a goal assisted by Landon Donovan MLS MVP candidate Luciano Acosta in the 50th minute (Watch Here), before Acosta scored the final goal of the night for the Eastern Conference leaders in the 79th minute on a weaving breakaway (Watch Here). It was the 15th goal of the season for Acosta, tying him atop the Golden Boot presented by Audi leaderboard with Atlanta’s Giorgos Giakoumakis and Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar.
Revolution Punch Ticket to Postseason
The New England Revolution earned their spot in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs while they were still competing on the field, thanks to a D.C. United loss to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening. The clinching marks the 17th playoff berth in club history and ties the Columbus Crew (17) for the most playoff appearances by a team in MLS history.
In tonight’s action, after taking an early lead on a Tomás Chancalay goal in the 17th minute, Revolution captain Carles Gil scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season in the 59th minute to draw even with the Chicago Fire FC, 2-2. The match was the Revolution’s final in a three-match road swing and they are set to return home next Saturday, September 30 as they welcome Charlotte FC to Gillette Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass).
New York Red Bulls Overcome Hat Trick, Defeat D.C., 5-3
The New York Red Bulls overcame a first-half hat trick from D.C. United’s Christian Benteke (Watch Here) and roared back with a season-high five goals in the club’s 5-3 victory on Saturday night. The first half of the match featured six goals – three apiece from the Red Bulls and D.C. United – and marked the highest-scoring half in the 101-game history (including postseason) between the two clubs.
With the win, the Red Bulls became just the fourth team since 2015 and the ninth team in league history to win a match in which an opposing player scored a hat trick. The last team to accomplish the feat was Real Salt Lake, who fended off an Eduardo López hat trick in a 4-3 victory over San Jose on Sept. 15, 2021.
Benteke’s heroics were overshadowed in the loss, as he became just the fifth player in D.C. United history to register a hat trick in the first half of a match and is only the fifth player in the series history with the Red Bulls to score a hat trick.
St. Louis CITY SC Strengthens Grip on the West
Trailing 1-0 in the second half, St. Louis CITY SC received a thunderous, game-tying goal from forward João Klauss in the 64th minute (Watch Here) and a game-winning goal from Njabulo Blom in the 73rd minute (Watch Here) as the club defeated Minnesota United 2-1 at Allianz Field. For Klauss, the goal was his third in the month of September, while Blom’s goal was the first of his young MLS career.
Continuing their sensational debut season, St. Louis (53 points, 16-10-5) extended their lead in the Western Conference to eight points with three games remaining on their schedule. The victory was St. Louis’ 16th of the season, which ties the 2018 LAFC squad for the most wins by an expansion team in their inaugural season (excluding the shootout era).