When the Seattle Sounders needed a difference-maker, Clint Dempsey stepped up. Deuce broke open a defensive struggle with the Vancouver Whitecaps, scoring twice to send the Sounders through to the Conference Championship with a 2-0 aggregate victory.
Dempsey’s contributions were reflected in the Audi Player Index, where he led all Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoff performers with 1141 points. His goals made up a lion’s share of that total -- 570 Audi Player Index points -- but he also connected well in Vancouver’s area. Forty-one successful passes (205 points) in the opponents’ half and 23 successful passes in the final third (69 points) show Seattle’s nice control of possession throughout the pivotal second leg of the playoff series.
As we move to the Conference Championships, Seattle’s attacking star is joined by three defensive stalwarts, all of whom stood out in one of the most entertaining days in MLS Playoff history.
Drew Moor leads TFC: Come Monday morning, there was likely nobody more sore than Toronto FC’s Drew Moor. The 33-year-old veteran constantly threw his body around as TFC clung to its spot in the Eastern Conference Championship, despite losing 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls.
Wright-Phillips definitely just laid his elbow into the side of Drew Moor's head. Gets a yellow. Wild. #TFCLive— Laura Armstrong (@lauraarmy) November 5, 2017
Drew Moor having his best outing in weeks. #TFCLive— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) November 5, 2017
Moor stuffed the Audi Player Index with defensive activities: five headed clearances (240 points), three regular clearances (144 points), five aerials won (another 144 points), and even two fouls received (40 points).
Mensah leads Crew SC: In the second leg of the Conference Semifinals, Columbus looked to hang on to its three-goal cushion from the first leg against New York City FC. Thanks to central defender Jonathan Mensah, they did--just barely. The Crew SC defender loomed large on the backline, repelling enough attacks to see his team through to the next round despite a 2-0 loss on the night.
NYCFC had a hard time beating Mensah in the air. His six headed clearances accounted for 288 Audi Player Index points. He added four interceptions for 192 points, en route to a team-leading 572 API points.
Anibaba triggers Dynamo: Like Mensah, Houston Dynamo defender Jalil Anibaba had his hands full with trying to hang on to a late lead against the Portland Timbers. But unlike Mensah, it was his offensive contributions that made the difference between winning and losing. Thanks to Anibaba’s alertness in the penalty area, his headed touch set up the equalizer, and eventual series-winner, from teammate Dylan Remick -- that assist goes down as 186 points in the Audi Player Index.
Once Houston took the lead through Mauro Manotas’ strike, Anibaba’s four clearances and three tackles won helped his team book the final opening in the Western Conference Championship.