Revisiting every penalty-kick shootout in MLS Cup Playoffs history

The Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs have gone on a strict diet of one-game, winner-takes-all, which means coaches will need to consider the increased likelihood of facing the dreaded penalty shootout. 

You all may have forgotten one or two of the 16 penalty-kick shootouts in MLS postseason history. We'll let it slide, but grab your sneakers because we're about to jog everyone's memory. 

Nine of these shootouts decided single-game ties, and the other seven occurred at the end of a second leg with a knotted aggregate. Exactly half of the triumphs were accessory to an MLS Cup heist, with four of those coming in the title game. 

Certain names will pop up more than once and certain shootout scores will be eerily repeated. You'll remember how no one should ever want to face Colorado or Nick Rimando in this situation and why the Fire and Galaxy would probably prefer to settle playoff matters on the clock. 

Portland 4, Seattle 4 (4-2 on PKs)

November 8, 2018
Western Conference Semifinals

For the second time in four seasons, the Timbers survived a gripping shootout win on their way to MLS Cup. The tie ended crazily after a 2-1 home leg win by Portland. In the Seattle return, the archrivals traded five second-half goals, with the Sounders twice evening the count in stoppage time. The visitors shrugged that off to hit four of five from the spot, and Dairon Asprilla hammered home the final nail.

Columbus 2, D.C. United 2 (3-2 on PKs)

November 1, 2018
Eastern Conference Knockout Round

For the second year in a row, Columbus went on the road and cruelly ended a feel-good story in its own shiny new house. The teams traded goals in both regulation and extras, with D.C. United's Nick DeLeon sending it to spot kicks in 116th minute. Zack Steffen denied both Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney, and DeLeon went from hero to goat by firing over on the last kick.

Columbus 0, Atlanta United 0 (3-1 on PKs)

October 26, 2017
Eastern Conference Knockout Round

This one was even more of a Steffen Show, as he piled up eight big saves through 120 minutes. He followed that up by saving Atlanta's opening two tries from Julian Gressel and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. It was over when Jeff Larentowicz pinged the post in round No. 5. It was the veteran's second miss in a row after burying all of his first 11 tries as an MLS player. 

Seattle 0, Toronto FC 0 (5-4 on PKs)

December 10, 2016
MLS Cup

The last championship match decided by penalties never would have made it there if not for Stefan Frei's stunning extra-time save on Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore. Michael Bradley misfired and Justin Morrow hit the bar, while the Sounders nailed five of their six tries to raise MLS Cup. In case you hadn't noticed, that makes four straight shootouts won by the road team.

Colorado 1, LA Galaxy 1 (3-1 on PKs)

November 6, 2016
Western Conference Semifinals

Giovani dos Santos bagged the lone goal in Los Angeles, and then Shkelzen Gashi matched his feat in Colorado to enact the shootout protocol. The Rapids converted all three of their kicks, while Tim Howard stonewalled LA's Ashley Cole in between misses by dos Santos and Larentowicz.

FC Dallas 2, Seattle 2 (4-2 on PKs)

November 8, 2015
Western Conference Semifinals

Clint Dempsey's 86th-minute strike won the opener in Seattle, and that aggregate lead survived until the waning moments in Dallas. Tesho Akindele and Walker Zimmerman scored late to push the tie to the spot. Both were then among the four straight FC Dallas takers to hit the back of the net, and Jesse Gonzalez shut the door with a pair of saves. 

Portland 2, Sporting 2 (7-6 on PKs)

October 29, 2015
Western Conference Knockout Round

And so we arrive at the crazy first chapter in Portland's championship story. Kevin Ellis' 87th-minute tally kept the Timbers from taking the game in regulation and Maxi Urruti similarly pulled the rug from under Sporting two minutes from the end of extras. Many penalties were then taken. Three KC players missed the net, with Saad Abdul-Salaam's 11th-round shot blasting off the inside of both posts. Soon thereafter, Portland's Adam Kwarasey scored past goalkeeping counterpart Jon Kempin. Kwarasey than stopped Kempin on the next and final boot of the game. 

Sporting 1, Real Salt Lake 1 (7-6 on PKs)

December 7, 2013
MLS Cup

As Sporting will tell you, sometimes you live by the 7-6 sword and sometimes you die by it. Two years before being rudely brushed aside by the Timbers' title train, SKC outlasted their faraway nemesis to take the league crown. Aurelien Collin made off with the MVP prize after sending the game to free soccer with a 76th-minute equalizer and later netting the winning penalty.

Colorado 2, Columbus 2 (5-4 on PKs)

November 6, 2010
Eastern Conference Semifinals

Crew goals from Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers overturned a first-leg deficit, before Conor Casey leveled the aggregate for Colorado six minutes from time. When time for penalties came, the Rapids’ striker found the net to set off a string of nine consecutive conversions. The away side moved on after Brian Carroll fired the fifth Columbus shot over.

Real Salt Lake 1, LA Galaxy 1 (5-4 on PKs)

November 22, 2009
MLS Cup

Four years before they'd drop a title bout on penalties, RSL won their first league crown by the same method. Robbie Findley's goal midway through the second half evened the score. Nick Rimando saved two penalties and Landon Donovan shot his high, setting the stage for Robbie Russell to bury the title clincher.  

Real Salt Lake 0, Chicago 0 (5-4 on PKs)

November 14, 2009
Eastern Conference Final

Before grabbing the title away from the Galaxy in the final, Real Salt Lake had to squeak past the Fire by the same shootout count. Rimando turned away spot tries from John Thorrington, Logan Pause and Brandon Prideaux, which allowed Ned Grabavoy to sink the dagger for the underdog visitors. 

Houston 1, New England 1 (4-3 on PKs)

November 12, 2006
MLS Cup

The first time an MLS Cup came down to spot kicks also marked a first Dynamo title to cap their first year in the league. Taylor Twellman bagged the first goal of the title match with seven minutes left in extra time, but Brian Ching nodded one home shortly thereafter later to set up penalties. After the US forward's successful fifth-round try, Pat Onstad smothered a weak Jay Heaps effort to close the deal.  

Colorado 4, FC Dallas 4 (5-4 on PKs)

October 28, 2006
Western Conference Semifinals

In the decisive Frisco leg, a Niko Hernandez double brought Colorado back from two down on aggregate just seven minutes from regulation doom. The Rapids would put five of their six kicks past FC Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala, who brought the shootout suspense to its end when his try was saved by Joe Cannon.

New England 2, Chicago 2 (4-2 on PKs)

October 28, 2006
Eastern Conference Semifinals

Chicago were sailing with a 2-0 aggregate lead until Twellman and Pat Noonan rang the bell to bring the Revolution level with 22 minutes left in leg No. 2. Matt Reis was one four straight New England players to convert; he also saved a pair of Fire attempts.  

Colorado 2, FC Dallas 2 (5-4 on PKs)

October 29, 2005
Western Conference Semifinals

FCD looked all set to go through on an extra time strike by Carlos Ruiz when Ritchie Kotschau popped up with his first goal in over two years. Once it got to penalties, the Rapids couldn't miss. They scored on all five kicks before Cannon shut down FC Dallas rookie Roberto Mina to kick off the club's PK dominance. 

D.C. United 1, New England 1 (4-3 on PKs)

November 6, 2004
Eastern Conference Final

The first spot-kick shootout between MLS clubs capped a cracking Eastern Conference final in the nation's capital. Three times the hosts grabbed a lead, and three times the Revs pulled 'em back to level. Then with the Black-and-Red, Rimando stopped Jay Heaps and Clint Dempsey to grab the victory. Of course, this would be the first example of a title-winner edging a shootout along their path to MLS Cup. 

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