Auston Trusty - solo vs. Atlanta United - 2018-07-07
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This Week in MLS - October 30, 2018

  • The playoff-bound clubs that are playing their kids
  • Could New York host MLS Cup for first time in MLS history?
  • Blistering D.C., Knockout Round sides look to defy MLS Cup odds
  • Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Bracket challenge locks Oct. 31
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Knockout Round Notes
The playoff-bound clubs that are playing their kids
New York Red Bulls.
FC Dallas.
Real Salt Lake.
Philadelphia Union.
 
What do these playoff-bound clubs have in common? They played their kids more than any other clubs in MLS this season, ranking as four of the top five teams in terms of Homegrown Player minutes in 2018.
 
And while three of those clubs (Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union) will rely on their young stars in Knockout Round action this week, the New York Red Bulls, who started four Homegrowns in the midfield alone in Sunday’s Supporters’ Shield clinching win, secured a first-round bye behind a game-winning goal from Academy star Derrick Etienne Jr.
 
After leading the league in Homegrown minutes with three-fourths of the starting back line comprised of Academy products, Real Salt Lake will count on recent U.S. National Team call-ups Justen Glad and Brooks Lennon while facing the No. 3 seed Los Angeles Football Club on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2 / UniMas / TVA Sports / TSN3). Forward Corey Baird meanwhile is on the shortlist for the 2018 AT&T MLS Rookie of the Year after finishing the season with eight goals, tied for third on the club.
 
Long-recognized as a leader in the youth development landscape, Dallas qualified for the playoffs behind the fourth-stingiest defense in the league, led by 20-year-old homegrown and recent U.S. National Team call-up Reggie Cannon. With current Homegrown Players like Cannon and starting goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez on the roster, along with former Academy products such as Weston McKennie (FC Schalke 04), the club is continuing its run of excellence in the space of identifying, training and signing top players. Dallas and the 10 Academy products currently on its roster will face the Portland Timbers on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET, UniMas / TVAS / TSN 1 / TSN4 / ESPN+).
 
Philadelphia, anchored by the youngest starting center back pairing in the league with 20-year-old Auston Trusty and 19-year-old Mark McKenzie, Jim Curtin has trusted the teenage defense to stop the likes of Josef Martinez, David Villa and Wayne Rooney this season… and they will have to stop them in just four more games if they want to earn a chance at MLS Cup beginning with NYCFC on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, FS1 / UniMas / TVAS / TSN1 / TSN4).
 
The No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the New York Red Bulls finished second in MLS in Homegrown Player minutes this season, setting a league record with 71 regular season points, and capturing the Supporters’ Shield and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Tyler Adams, who began with the Red Bulls Academy at age 11, is the latest in a long list of stars to develop in the system and experience success with the U.S. National Team. The 19-year-old anchored the midfield for a Red Bulls squad that saw six different Homegrowns record a goal or assist for the team this season.
 
Could New York host MLS Cup for first time in MLS history?
Never before has MLS Cup been hosted in New York and with the Red Bulls capturing the Supporters’ Shield on Sunday, the club is only four games away from hosting the championship match at Red Bull Arena in front of their home fans.
 
But not so fast… how likely is that to happen?
 
Only seven times in the league’s 23-year history have the Supporters’ Shield winners also been crowned MLS Cup champions. And only five clubs have accomplished it.
 
While the LA Galaxy (2002, 2011) and D.C. United (1997, 1999) were able to pull it off twice each, Toronto FC most recently accomplished the feat during their extraordinary record-setting 2017 season. The other two clubs include Columbus Crew SC (2008) and the Kansas City Wizards (2000).
 
The Red Bulls (71 points) have already outpaced Toronto’s 2017 season (69 points), but their MLS Cup ambitions have been dashed in previous Supporters’ Shield-winning years with the team bowing out in the quarterfinals (2013) and the semifinals (2015).
 
Will the third time be the charm for these Supporters’ Shield winners?
 
 
Blistering D.C., Knockout Round sides look to defy MLS Cup odds
D.C. United’s red-hot surge garnered a Knockout Round position in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. United and seven other clubs in action this Wednesday and Thursday will attempt to do what just three previous teams have accomplished from this starting point: win MLS Cup.
 
United players have downplayed their impressive 10-game unbeaten streak (7-0-3) to cap off the MLS Regular Season because the heavy postseason lifting awaits. They hope to join the 2012 LA Galaxy, 2015 Portland Timbers and 2016 Seattle Sounders FC, who won their respective championships – meaning 7.5 percent of Knockout Round teams (3 of 40 teams, from 2011-17) have defied the odds.
 
This year, D.C. United in the Eastern Conference and FC Dallas in the Western Conference have earned No. 4 seeds – the same position as the 2012 Galaxy and 2016 Sounders, who are the lowest-seeded teams to win MLS Cup. The Houston Dynamo, as a No. 5 in 2012, is the lowest seed to advance to MLS Cup.
 
Is it hopeless for the No. 5 or 6 seeds, who have never won MLS Cup? Will Columbus SC, the Philadelphia Union, Portland or Real Salt Lake be the first to break through with the title this year?
 
Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge locks Oct. 31
MLSsoccer.com has officially launched the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge, which allows fans to predict each round of the postseason for a chance to win MLS season tickets or a VIP driving experience at the only Formula One track in the United States.
 
Participants can build their own leagues, challenge friends, or join a league created by their favorite MLS clubs before brackets lock on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET, when the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs kick off with Knockout Round games.
 
More information is available here.
 
MLS Cup Playoffs: Knockout Round Notes
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
No. 3 New York City FC vs. No. 6 Philadelphia Union, 7 p.m. ET (UniMas, FS1, TSN, TVA Sports)
  • The teams met twice during the regular season, splitting the two matches, each winning at home. Cory Burke and Ilsinho netted for the Union in a 2-0 win on Aug. 18 at Talen Energy Stadium, then Maxime Chanot and David Villa bookended an early NYCFC blitz as they rolled to a 3-1 win on Decision Day at Yankee Stadium.
  • NYCFC are looking to advance in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time. They have appeared in the Eastern Conference Semifinals each of the past two years, eliminated by Toronto FC (2016) and Columbus Crew SC (2017). They lost their first three postseason games before defeating Columbus in the second leg of their conference semifinal last year, despite losing on aggregate.
  • The Union are looking for their first-ever playoff win. They have appeared in the MLS Cup Playoffs twice previously (in 2011 and 2016), dropping all three matches played thus far. Their last appearance came in the Knockout Round in 2016, suffering a 3-0 loss at Toronto FC.
  • NYCFC put an end to a two-game losing slide with the Decision Day win vs. Philadelphia, their first since Sept. 26. They have won their last two home matches.
  • The Union come into the postseason on a two-game losing slide on the heels of a four-game undefeated run, falling to both New York clubs.
 
No. 4 FC Dallas vs. No. 5 Portland Timbers, 9:30 p.m. ET (UniMas, ESPN+, TSN, TVA Sports)
  • The teams are meeting for the second time in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Timbers advanced 5-3 on aggregate when the clubs met in the Western Conference Championship in 2015, Portland winning the first leg 3-1 at Providence Park, before the teams reached a 2-2 draw in the return match at Toyota Stadium.
  • The teams met twice during the regular season, playing to a pair of draws. They reached a 1-1 result March 24 in Frisco, Texas, before playing to a goalless draw Sept. 29 in Portland.
  • The Timbers have not won in Frisco since 2014, their only road victory in the league series between the clubs. The last two matches at Toyota Stadium have ended in draws.
  • FC Dallas comes into the postseason riding a three-game losing streak, after their 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids on Decision Day. Maximiliano Urruti’s goal early in the match put an end to a 218-minute shutout streak.
  • The Timbers saw a two-game winning streak come to an end on Decision Day, falling 2-1 to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place.
 
Thursday, November 1
No. 4 D.C. United vs. No. 5 Columbus Crew SC, 8 p.m. ET (UniMas, FS1, TSN, TVA Sports)
  • The Knockout Round match renews what was once one of the most heated playoff rivalries in all of MLS – though United and Crew SC have not met in the postseason since 1999. The clubs met in three successive seasons from 1997-99, D.C. United advancing on all three occasions, including back-to-back wins in best-of-three series in the Eastern Conference Championship in ’98 and ‘99.
  • D.C. United are making their first appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2016. They have lost their last three postseason matches, suffering a 4-2 loss to the Montréal Impact at RFK Stadium in the Knockout Round in their last playoff match.
  • The teams met twice in the regular season, three weeks apart early in the year. Crew SC took a 3-1 win March 24 at Mapfre Stadium, then United made the lone goal stand up for the entire match after just 43 seconds of play, for a win April 14 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Md.
  • Crew SC reached the Eastern Conference Championship a year ago, falling 1-0 to Toronto FC on aggregate, after getting past Atlanta United on penalties in the Knockout Round, then New York City 4-3 on aggregate in the semifinals. Crew SC have not scored a goal in their last 270 minutes of postseason play.
  • Crew SC put an end to a two-game losing slide and three-game winless run on Decision Day, defeating Minnesota United FC 3-2 at Mapfre Stadium. Gyasi Zardes scored the first hat trick of his professional career, accounting for all the Columbus goals.
  • D.C. United concluded their regular season with a 10-game undefeated streak (7-0-3), ending with a goalless draw with the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Decision Day.
 
No. 3 Los Angeles Football Club vs. No. 6 Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m. ET (UniMas, ESPN2, TSN, TVA Sports)
  • LAFC are looking to become only the second expansion team to win a game in the MLS Cup Playoffs. One of five expansion clubs to reach the postseason, the only one to actually win a game in the playoffs was the Chicago Fire in 1998 – coached by Bob Bradley. The Fire won all five of their games in the postseason that year (two by shootout), on their way to winning MLS Cup.
  • Real are making their first appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2016. They have been eliminated by the other team from Los Angeles – the Galaxy – on each of their past two playoff trips, including a 3-1 loss in the Knockout Round at StubHub Center last time out.
  • The teams met twice during the regular season, and LAFC won both. Diego Rossi became just the sixth player in MLS history to be involved in five goals in a single game, scoring two goals and assisting on three in leading LAFC to a 5-1 win on March 31 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Christian Ramírez netted both goals in the LAFC win Aug. 15 at Banc of California Stadium.
  • LAFC saw a three-game undefeated streak put to an end on Decision Day, falling 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park. Carlos Vela netted his 14th goal of the season.
  • RSL had Decision Day off, their regular season coming to an end Oct. 21 in a 3-0 loss to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.
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