Coming into Matchday 3, few would have thought it was possible that the New York Red Bulls would advance out of their Champions Division group and into the semifinals. Only the top finisher from each group advances, and the Red Bulls were in a hole.
New York were sitting on three points with two teams above them, Club Tijuana (5 points) and Estudiantes de la Plata (4 points). They were playing Tijuana, so they were in position to overtake them with a win, but they would need help from fellow MLSers Toronto FC to advance. The odds of that seemed slim as Toronto lost their first two games by a combined score of 6-2.
Facing the only Liga MX team in the Champions Division, which features the top MLS and foreign academies, the Red Bulls held up their end of the bargain. On the strength of two first-half red cards and another towards the end of the game, the Red Bulls cruised to a 5-0 win. New York Red Bulls II player Ben Mines added another goal in the match after scoring two on Sunday, while RBNY's John Murphy notched a brace.
With the win, the NY Red Bulls knew they could advance with help from Toronto. Unfortunately their Canadian competitors fell behind 3-0 to Estudiantes. But they didn’t lie down. With two goals from Jordan Faria and a third from Steffen Yeates (you can watch them all above), Toronto took the Argentinians to a penalty-kick shootout that would determine whether RBNY or Estudiantes would go through.
Fortunately for the Red Bulls, Toronto FC pulled out the come-from-behind win, beating Estudiantes 5-4 in the shootout. The win puts the Red Bulls through to the semifinals where they will play Flamengo on Thursday at 8:15 pm ET with the live stream of the match available on MLSsoccer.com
CHAMPIONS DIVISION SEMIFINALS:
New York Red Bulls (USA/MLS) vs. Flamengo (Brazil)
Independiente del Valle (Ecuador) vs. River Plate (Argentina)
Union go undefeated in Premier Division
With previous Premier Division Group B wins over Monterrey and the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union faced off against the Chicago Fire needing only a result to win the group and advance to the Premier Division semifinals.
The Fire scored early in the second half to take a 1-0 lead, the result of persistent pressure from the Fire’s Victor Bezerra, who drew a foul in the box and finished the subsequent spot kick. Chicago's lead was short-lived, however, as some individual skill from Union striker Chad Letts provided an instant response with Letts holding off two Fire defenders to chip the 'keeper and equalize the match.
Fueled by dynamic play from their captain, Seth Kuhn, the Union then scored a dramatic winner with only minutes remaining when Brendan Aaronson’s cross found super-sub Iverson Brisma at the far post for a powerful winner.
With the win, the Union advanced to the semifinals in the Premier Division along with two other MLS teams, New York City FC and the San Jose Earthquakes. NYCFC clinched their spot thanks to a Thriston Briscoe goal just after the halftime break, enough for a 1-0 win over UNAM Pumas.
NYCFC managed to hold onto the lead despite a large scuffle that resulted in a second yellow being shown to defender Veljko Petkovic.
Seattle, D.C., LA get big results
NYCFC weren’t the only team to beat an international opponent on Tuesday, as the Seattle Sounders, D.C. United and LA Galaxy also scored big wins. The Galaxy’s was particularly impressive, as they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 behind goals from Jonathan Estrada, Ulysses Llanez and Efrain Alvarez.
PREMIER DIVISION SEMIFINALISTS:
- New York City FC (USA/MLS)
- Philadelphia Union (USA/MLS)
- Tigres UANL (Mexico)
- San Jose Earthquakes (USA/MLS)