After 8 months, a stoppage due to a pandemic, a tournament to announce its return, and the most hectic Decision Day ever, the quarter-century season of Major League Soccer has reached its championship stages
With 18 teams (10 Eastern, 8 Western), it’s the largest playoffs in league history. In a year which 2 new teams entered the league and more big stars came stateside, there was more competition and parity than ever before.
This proved that the MLS was getting more and more talented by the year.
It also made for a Decision Day which had mathematical eligibility for the postseason spanned all the way to 13th in the Eastern Conference.
Decision Day Results
- Montreal made it after holding their ground against D.C. United, 3-2, despite going down to 10 men after what appeared to be a revenge tackle by stand-in captain Samuel Piette on D.C.’s returning talisman Paul Arriola. In the 88th minute, Zachary Brault-Guillard’s interception started it all, then he slid in Mason Toye, who put in a back post cross to Romell Qiuoto for the game-winner. D.C. had the way clear for them but had to do the main part to get in. They fell just short and bow out 13th. Meanwhile, the Impact get ready to take on New England next Friday.
- Miami were the last team in it on D-Day. To the shock of basically everyone, they came from 2 places down to make their first postseason in their debut season after a 2-1 win over Cincinnati despite also going down to 10 men. A Mikey Ambrose screamer and a looping Leandro Gonzalez Perez header provided the goods for the Herons. The sending off came 2 minutes from time when Andres Reyes clipped Franko Kovacevic from behind for a second yellow card.
- With Chicago, Atlanta, and D.C losing, Miami had the way cleared for them and all they had to do was their part. What D.C. couldn’t do, Miami did and now they have shocked the league by making it in from as far down as they were coming into the game against FCC. They’re getting ready to take on another team who have also surprised as far as debut seasons are concerned: Nashville.
From Our End
As for our Red Bulls, they meet a team they will face for the third time in the last 6 years: the Columbus Crew. They have had a history in the playoffs with this lot, as they have met them in an MLS Cup Final (2008) Eastern Conference Final (2015), and an Eastern Conference Semifinal (2018). I can tell you from experience that this team always gives us a game. Prime example: My first MLS game where we came back from a goal down to beat the Crew 2-1 in overtime.
Their chief quality? Their quality all over the pitch.
The Red Bulls will have to be careful and consistent in order to right the wrongs of 2019 and get to where they know they belong: on top of the American soccer world.
Red Bulls’ Path to Victory
Should all forts be held, the Red Bulls’ path is simple: scale the ladder. This means they have to go through all of the top three Eastern Conference teams: Columbus, Toronto, and the team who eliminated them last year: MLS Supporters Shield winner Philadelphia.
After all the times they have come so close, and yet, all too far, when the Red Bulls beat this gauntlet, it will be a testament to their fortitude, their talent, their commitment to a championship culture through adversity, and the values that guide it. Other teams that can cause problems for our boys are 4th-seeded Orlando City, 5th-seeded NYCFC, and 9th-seeded Montreal, who has beat us before (2016).
The Red Bulls have to be wary and consistent at all times throughout the playoffs in order to avoid yet another critical snag.
Featured Image: New York Red Bulls