Warshaw: Winners and Losers from a Decision Day that did not disappoint

The Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs may be ahead, but there were already plenty of winners and losers after the regular season concluded on Sunday, the 2018 edition of MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T. Here's a look at who gained and lost the most 

The Clear Winners

RBNY Duh. The Red Bulls lifted a trophy (props to whoever decided to whip this shield out). New York's 1-0 win over Orlando paired with Atlanta’s loss to net a third Shield in six years. RBNY also set the record for most points in a single season.

A question for the super MLS dorky: Does three Shields in six years count as a dynasty? My gut reaction says no. But if they were MLS Cups, the answer would be yes. Should it be a different answer for the Shield? Isn’t the Shield harder to win?

Big Winners

REAL SALT LAKE What a night they must have had. RSL had to watch from home as the Galaxy carve up Houston in the first half en route to a 2-0 lead. Then Houston pulled a goal back, and it was surely just a tease … no way Galaxy could cough this up, right? Then Houston get another to tie … but it’s Zlatan on the other end, and this has storybook LA ending written all over it, right? Then Houston scored a third and Mike Petke must have lost his *&^% as RSL snuck into the six spot in the West.

The folks in Utah gotta send the Dynamo something, right? What’s the proper gift for such an occasion? Nobody actually wants a fruit basket. Flowers could be funny; I’d watch a GIF of Alberth Elis opening a box of roses.

We better see a ‘gram from Houston showing off an arrival from RSL this week.

Winning

SPORTING KC The good news: The 2-1 win over LAFC ensures Sporting skip the elimination game. After losing four straight first-round games, they can sleep a little easier this week. They also got the game winner after going down a man.

The bad news: Seth Sinovic got the red card and Sporting have struggled without Sinovic on the field this year. In Sinovic’s 18 starts prior to Sunday, Sporting were 11-3-4; in the remaining games, they were 6-5-4. To make matters worse, their reserve left backs — Cristian Lobato, Jimmy Medranda, and Jaylin Lindsey — are all unavailable right now. Sporting can either call Lindsey back from U-20 national team duty, or move Yohan Croizet to left back for next weekend’s playoff game (or maybe move Matt Besler there?).

SEATTLE With the win over San Jose, the Sounders finish as the No. 2 seed in the West. Yeah, crazy, huh?

I stick to my comments that the Sounders weren’t yet good through the early parts of their win streak. But they are good now. They spun the confidence into a reliable playing style revolving around sharp passing, fluid attacking movement, and dominating dangerous space near their box. The No. 2 seed is a fair finish for them. They are one of the top-two teams in the West.

CREW SC They won; they’re in; Gyasi Zardes bagged a hat trick. Once upon a time they would have been bummed to have to travel for the elimination game, but they can’t dwell on that. They get the five-seed and will travel to D.C. for the elimination game.

D.C. UNITED A draw was enough to move into fourth and earn D.C. a home game. They're 12-2-1 at home since christening Audi Field.

NYCFC They might have gotten their mojo back in the 3-1 win over Philadelphia. Or, at least they got their starters back, who brought the mojo with them. Yangel Herrera, Maxi Moralez, Jesus Medina, and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi all returned to the starting lineup, and we saw what would probably be Dome Torrent’s first-choice group for the first time since the manager took over the team. The win means NYC get the elimination game at Yankee Stadium, where they are 12-1-4 in 2018.

The Clear Losers

LA GALAXY I still can’t believe that happened. Winning 2-0 at half in a home game against a team that’s been eliminated for a month and then … Splat.

Actually, yes I can. The Galaxy had been better recently, but they still weren’t playing like a playoff team, especially defensively. In preparation for our studio shows, our producers asked me to put together film on how the Galaxy had improved defensively. I couldn’t do it. I went back through their last four games and couldn’t find a single clip when they showed solid team shape. They weren’t making the elementary mistakes that they had been making, which elevated their level by default, but they still allowed plenty of gaps between their lines, and someone was bound to exploit them at some point.

Big Losers

ATLUTD Matt came in hard on Atlanta for their disappointing 4-1 defeat to Toronto.

I see where he’s coming from, but I disagree; I wouldn’t call it a collapse. Atlanta won 5-of-7, and 9-of-13. The two most recent losses were at the Red Bulls and at Toronto (The Reds have had a bad year, but they still have the ability to be very good). There’s nothing embarrassing about any of that. It just so happens that Red Bulls also won 9-of-13, but happened to draw instead of lose in the other couple.  

That said, this has gotta hurt. Atlanta were the best team for most of the year, and it felt like a matter of time until they would hoist their first trophy. Now everything’s falling apart: Tata’s leaving soon; Miguel Almiron’s hurt; the midfield looks unable to control a game. Atlanta didn’t just lose a game and a trophy on Sunday – they looked far from being a team that could win three straight tough playoff series.

MONTREAL IMPACT So close yet so far. They gave themselves a chance heading into Decision Day, but the 1-0 loss to New England ended their hopes. The Impact held on longer than anyone expected. Mais c’est fini, as they say.

Losing

PHILADELPHIA The loss itself wasn't that bad. The way they lost, though …

The Union looked like the worst version of themselves at Yankee Stadium on Sunday; the tight dimensions of the field hindered their ability to pass. The Union’s entire gameplan, both offensively and defensively, depends upon their ability to move the ball in a controlled manner. Philly have worked hard to build a playing style, but Yankee Stadium might be the toughest place to execute it. Sunday’s loss means they fall to sixth … and will play in Yankee Stadium. Again. On Wednesday.

LAFC It’s harsh to call LAFC “losers” on the night; they lost on the road to the top team in the conference. Unfortunately, though, they also fell out of the top two and must now play an elimination game.

Of note, head coach Bob Bradley reinserted Eduard Atuesta into the lineup. Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen played with Atuesta in the middle and Carlos Vela started on the right. I understand why Bradley wants Atuesta on the field — Atuesta can offer more defensive stability — but LAFC look better to my eyes when Vela plays centrally. The spacing with a triangle of Feilhaber-Nguyen-Vela makes for more fluid ball movement than Atuesta-Feilhaber-Nguyen with Vela tucking central. That's something to watch during their midweek elimination game against RSL.

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