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Sunday, November 04, 2018: New York Red Bulls midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. (7) attempts a pass past Columbus Crew SC defender Jonathan Mensah (4) in the second half of the match between New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew SC in the Conference Semi-finals Leg 1 of 2 at MAPFRE Stadium, in Columbus OH. ..Mandatory Photo Credit: Dorn Byg/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA. ..Columbus Crew SC 1 - New York Red Bulls 0(Credit Image: © Dorn Byg/CSM/Sipa USA)

Is the MLS Cup Los Angeles FC’s to lose?

Los Angeles FC
USA Today Sports

The world watched on in disbelief last season, as the MLS Cup was won by Atlanta United despite the New York Red Bulls taking home the Supporters Shield. This offers hope to anyone that isn’t an Los Angeles FC fan.

Los Angeles FC have marched to the Shield with ease in their second-ever MLS season, while this Decision Day saw several scraps for playoff places. Josef Martinez dominated the goal-scoring charts last year and broke records in doing so. Many of these have been beaten by Mexican forward Carlos Vela who has been Los Angeles FC’s talisman.

Bob Bradley failed to impress when he took charge of Swansea City but the American and his side have had a huge impact on the league, so much so that they are heavy favourites to go all the way with MLS Cup. Colorado Rapids had a slight chance of sneaking into the playoffs on the final day but they had to beat Los Angeles FC to have any chance and the inevitable happened; Vela netted a hat-trick to break Martinez’s record from last year and push his tally onto 34.

Their 3-1 victory over the Rapids also saw them break another record, this being the amount of points in a season with 72. Robin Fraser’s goal came from the man who sits fifth in the all-time MLS scoring charts, Sierra Leone national Kei Kamara while legend of the game Tim Howard played his final game before retiring. This loss proved to not count for anything anyway though due to Portland and FC Dallas both winning.

FC Dallas smashed SKC for six at the Toyota Stadium to top off a solid season considering some of the stats that come with that squad. Luchi Gonzalez at 39 is the youngest manager in the league and he has taken the youngest MLS side to the playoffs with a tie against Seattle to come. Talking of the Sounders, they finished second in the West behind only the rampant LAFC and they ended the regular season on a high as Roman Torres’ first goal of the season saw them past Minnesota United.

Despite this loss, Minnesota have clinched a playoff spot in their inaugural MLS season thanks to a fourth-place finish in the West. The aforementioned Portland Timbers will also be featuring in the playoffs with them beating Chris Wondolowski and co to earn their spot. Portland versus San Jose was the game on TV in England as both sides had a playoff place on the line and the Timbers came out on top even in Diego Valeri’s absence.

Wondo bagged for the Earthquakes but Portland won 3-1 and will now be hoping to build on last season where they reached the final only to be beaten by Tata Martino’s dominant Atlanta United.

On the topic of the Five Stripes, moving over to the East and Atlanta finished the regular season on a high.

Los Angeles FC
PA Images

The fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief as Josef Martinez returned from injury in this one, scored and even played the full 90. This 3-1 win over New England Revolution is hopefully foreboding of what to come as they will battle it out again in the opening stage of the playoffs.

Julian Gressel starred in this one as he assisted the goals scored by Darlington Nagbe and Martinez, to then go on and score the third and seal the deal. Last year, a New York side won the Eastern Conference and ATL went on to win the MLS Cup so they’ll be hoping that history will repeat itself and none more so than captain Michael Parkhust who, like Tim Howard, will be retiring at the end of this season.

Parky has been a great asset to the league and also to Atlanta, another club that he has played for is Columbus Crew who have effectively been out of the playoff picture for a few weeks now and they lost 1-0 to Toronto who finished fourth in the east. Alejandro Pozuelo rattled in a free kick from range to give Greg Vanney’s side the three points and he will have to be on form if they are to get past DC United, the side that they only finished ahead of via goal difference.

Staying in the east and it’s NYCFC that are the pick of the bunch with a stellar away win to top it all off, especially considering it came against the Union. Philadelphia were top of the conference about a month ago but they finished third in the end and Marco Fabian’s penalty was merely a consolation as they were beaten 2-1 at Lincoln Financial Field by Domenec Torrent’s side.

Pep’s former assistant led the blue side of New York to winning the conference by six points with two early goals being enough in this one. Ronald Matarrita opened the scoring and this was then doubled up on by Ismael Tajouri-Shradi’s deflected effort that looped over Andre Blake. Valentin Castellanos assisted both goals and he wasn’t the only Argentinian player to excite NYCFC fans. The Red Bulls may have got their playoff spot but they lost 3-0 to the Montreal Impact with Maxi Urruti being in and amongst the goals. Former Barcelona player Bojan netted and also Orji Okwonkwo chipped in with a goal and an assist.

NYCFC and Los Angeles FC are the two sides with a bye into the MLS Cup quarter finals with fourteen sides going into the opening round. Seven teams from each conference will face off in two weeks’ time with some cracking ties to look forward too. DC United are in an interesting situation with Wayne Rooney set to join Derby County after just the one season in the capital so he will be looking to leave his mark on the MLS as they travel to Toronto to face Jozy Altidore and co.

Philadelphia Union hosting last year’s Supporters’ Shield champions the Red Bulls will certainly be a spectacle and to conclude this round; Zlatan’s LA Galaxy will go away from home to face new boys Minnesota United. Ibrahimovic was beaten to the golden boot by Vela despite his very impressive 30 regular-season goals. He will certainly be looking to prove a point and if he turns up, Minnesota will certainly have a big battle on their hands.

Written By: Jamie Rooke


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