Philadelphia, Columbus, Orlando, St. Louis clinch Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs spot
The Union are looking for a third-straight Eastern Conference Final, the Crew have returned to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in their first year under head coach Wilfried Nancy, Orlando City SC have secured a fourth straight postseason trip and St. Louis CITY SC continued their dream expansion season by clinching the first playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Messi, Alba exit early
Lionel Messi, back in action after missing Saturday’s 5-2 loss at Atlanta United, left Inter Miami’s match against Toronto in the 37th minute. That was just two minutes after former FC Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba made an early exit as well. Both will miss Sunday’s matchup with Orlando City.
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What if road games weren’t actually hard? Just something to consider. Let’s talk it out.
What happened?: Charlotte took a 2-0 second-half lead but a goal from Quinn Sullivan and one of the most unnecessary fouls of the year allowed Dániel Gazdag to tie the game from the spot. It’s his 11th penalty goal of the season.
So, did we learn anything?: Charlotte. Buds. Pals. What are we doing? You had this. You could have been one point out of ninth place with two games in hand. But… man, nope. The stoppage-time foul that gifted the Union a draw might be enough to keep them out of a playoff spot when all is said and done.
For the Union here, road points are good points. Take what you can.
What happened?: A penalty, a penalty and a set piece goal gave Cucho Hernández a hat trick inside the first 25 minutes. That hat trick clinched a playoff spot for the Crew.
So, did we learn anything?: If you’re just now learning that Chicago will find a way to create a Rube Goldberg machine that ends with a bowling ball dropping on their face, you haven’t been watching MLS for the last…[checking]...14 seasons. They’re very likely going to miss the playoffs. Again. It will be the 12th time in 14 seasons.
Meanwhile, the Crew are two points out of second and equal on games with Orlando.
What happened?: Atlanta took an early lead but D.C. were largely in control from there. Eventually, after a few big misses, they found an equalizer.
So, did we learn anything?: D.C. stayed in ninth and two points ahead of NYCFC with the draw. There are worse outcomes against a streaking Atlanta team, but it won’t lessen anyone’s nerves over the final four games in D.C. It would help if they would just put Ted Ku-DiPietro out there every game.
Road points are good points for Atlanta. Still, they’ll be bummed on some level to not get all three after taking an early lead. A top-four playoff spot probably isn’t in the cards this year.
What happened?: Messi and Alba left early but that didn’t bother Miami much. The Herons cruised as Facundo Farias and Benjamin Cremaschi found the net and Robert Taylor added a brace.
So, did we learn anything?: We knew coming in that Miami could take care of business here even without Messi and Alba. We didn’t know that Messi and Alba would be struggling with fatigue to the point of having to be pulled in the first half. Beating Orlando on the road is a far different task than beating Toronto at home. The Herons won’t be favored. And if Messi and Alba can’t go against Houston in the USOC Final next week, they may not be favored there either.
What happened?: Mahala Opoku scored for Montréal but they couldn’t hold onto the lead after surrendering a penalty in stoppage time.
So, did we learn anything?: Montréal missed a huge opportunity here. A win would have pretty much sealed a playoff spot. Instead, multiple teams are still in touching distance.
What happened?: I’m not entirely sure but it seems like NYCFC actually scored? Twice? Not sure if there’s been a misprint or something but I’m rolling with it for now. I’m pretty sure I saw Mounsef Bakrar send home a rebound off a penalty and Talles Magno put a header into the back of the net, so I’ll just assume those things weren’t a part of a fever dream I had last night.
So, did we learn anything?: Road games are hard! But still, Orlando certainly had other ideas about how they could follow up their 4-3 win over Columbus. It’s a tough loss for the Lions and a critical win for NYCFC. They’re still alive in the playoff race and three points out of eighth place with four games to go.
What happened?: Austin scored twice, once for New York and once for Austin.
So, did we learn anything?: Two teams that didn’t need to draw, drew. The playoffs feel like a long shot for both.
What happened?: Houston did the whole “Who needs a match-winner when every player on your team can score at any moment?” thing and steamrolled the Whitecaps for a huge win.
So, did we learn anything?: The Dynamo don’t have an outright star in attack but that’s a big reason why they’ve turned into one of the most exciting teams in the league. They’re creating beautiful goals week after week and have turned into one of the West’s most dangerous teams. They jumped into the top four with the win and may even be looking at a Messi-less Miami in the US Open Cup Final on Wednesday. A trophy and a top-four finish would be a heckuva first season for Ben Olsen, huh? They’re on the verge of both.
What happened?: Nashville did Nashville things and picked up a road win just to make sure they didn’t accidentally slip into a Wild Card spot.
So, did we learn anything?: Nashville kept themselves well ahead of eighth place Montréal and Sporting KC probably saw their playoff hopes begin to evaporate. SKC are three points behind ninth-place Dallas with two games out of hand and only four games to go. It would take something special down the homestretch here to stay alive.
What happened?: Uhhh shockingly, nothing.
So, did we learn anything?: Nothing at all! And that’s great news for St. Louis. A draw is a perfectly acceptable outcome and it maintained a six-point gap between them and LAFC with four games to go for St. Louis and five games to go for LAFC. It’s a great result all considered.
What happened?: Léo Chú and Albert Rusnák led the way as Seattle took care of businness.
So, did we learn anything?: We did not and that’s great news for Seattle. They ended the night second in the West. Léo Chú has been highly productive this year by the way. The 23-year-old has five goals and eight assists on the year.
What happened?: RSL imploded in the second half and Dallas rolled thanks to Paul Arriola and Jesús Ferreira.
So, did we learn anything?: It’s a needed win for Dallas but I can’t stop staring at RSL and wondering what exactly has gone wrong here. They’re in full nose-dive mode right now and it feels like there’s gotta be something beyond Pablo Ruiz’s injury. They’re in genuine danger of falling into a Wild Card spot at this point… or worse. Just three points separate them and 10th place Minnesota.
What happened?: Oh, Loons, no, not like this. Minnesota took a 3-1 road lead and self immolated the rest of the way as Billy Sharp and Diego Fagundez completed a huge comeback for the Galaxy.
So, did we learn anything?: Is any team more frustrating than Minnesota this year? Even when they’re good, they do stuff like that. They can’t win at home, they can’t see games out and they can’t turn their great underlying numbers into overlying success. Now, they’re in 10th place and looking up at the playoff line. Oof.
Great comeback for LA, though. It’s not enough to save their season, but they’re aren’t all the way dead yet. Only mostly dead.
What happened?: The Timbers doing Timbers things. Evander doing Evander things. Y’all should know what’s up by now.
So, did we learn anything?: Nope! Unless you needed a reminder that the Timbers are absolutely making the playoffs and Evander is on an elite heater right now. He’s scored seven times in his last 11 games across all competitions and three times in the last four games. Portland have 13 points from their last five games and Evander has played a key role in that success.
- Take a look at every third jersey from the 2023 MLS season.
- Inter Miami's Leonardo Campana won the AT&T 5G Goal of the Matchday.
- Is Cucho Hernandez the best modern forward in MLS?
- Jesus Ferreira made history with FC Dallas last night.
- Houston Dynamo are making a challenge for the elite in the West.
- Billy Sharp kept the Galaxy alive with a hattrick.
Good luck out there. Next man up.