Chicago Fire 0 – 4 New York Red Bulls
Toyota Park – Thursday 26th October 2017 – 19:30 CT (01:30 BST)
With their last two postseason appearances ending in underwhelming fashion after being considered one of the favourites. Number 6 seed, New York Red Bulls came out swinging and simply outclassed their Chicago opponents. Bradley Wright-Phillips netted the opener for Red Bulls after just 7 minutes, scrambling home a Damien Perrinelle chipped pass. It wasn’t long before Red Bulls added a second. The impressive Sacha Kljestan, who has been the provider for many of the Red Bulls goals this season, got one for himself after 11 minutes, arriving into the box to slide home a Tyler Adams cross. Chicago must not have known what had hit them. They had barely had time to finish their pre-match team talk and they were already 2 goals down.
The score remained this way until the break. After the interval, Chicago seemed to wake up a bit, but the game was put to bed after Daniel Royer added a well-worked goal with 20 minutes left on the clock. Red Bulls were not finished their though and continued the route on 87 minutes. Chicago striker, David Arshakyan gave away possession in the midfield, only for Sacha Kljestan to do what he does best, putting Gonzalo Veron through on all goal. The Argentine lifted the ball over the keeper and lifted Red Bulls into the semi-finals. Next up they face a tougher challenge in the shape of Supporters Shield Winners, Toronto FC. The first leg will be played at Red Bull Arena Monday evening.
Vancouver Whitecaps 5 – 0 San Jose Earthquakes
BC Place – Thursday 26th October 2017 – 19:30 CT (01:30 BST)
After their fairytale end to the Regular season, it quickly turned into a nightmare for San Jose who was sent crashing out of the playoffs by a ruthless Vancouver. It was always going to be a tall order for San Jose who certainly wasn’t outshone by the Canadian side. The sides were fairly evenly matched in possession but Vancouver just put their chances away when presented to them. The rout began on 33 minutes after some pinball style football saw Fredy Montero head home from Kendall Waston’s initial headed attempt. The score remained this way till the break, San Jose having their fair share of opportunities also.
On the 57th minute, the games biggest talking point happened. Vancouver was awarded a free kick which Cristian Techera sent thundering home emphatically. It was a free kick of the highest quality, worthy of winning the Playoffs alone. On 64 minutes Costa Rican defender Kendall Waston added the 3rd goal. With the ball pinging around the box, Earthquakes goalkeeper, Andrew Tarbell, pulled off a fantastic save from a Fredy Montero header. But Watson was on hand to steer the ball home to send Vancouver fans into raptures. Nicolas Mezquida replaced Yordy Reyna at 68 minutes and the Uruguayan certainly made his mark on the game, netting a brace in 2 minutes to add insult to injury to San Jose. A 5-star performance from Vancouver sees them through to the next round in a hotly anticipated fixture against Cascadia rival, Seattle Sounders. The first game will be played on Sunday 29th at BC Place.
Atlanta United 0 – 0 Columbus Crew (1-3 pens)
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Thursday 26th October 2017 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)
It’s been a season to remember for Atlanta United. Their debut season in the MLS and they have stolen the hearts of many football fans in the MLS and around the globe. Their attacking football has been nothing short of breathtaking and their home support sends a shiver down your spine. Sadly for them, all good things come to an end and so did there season on Thursday evening. Columbus Crew went into the game as underdogs and found themselves up against it almost right away. Miguel Almirón saw his spectacular, long-range effort rattle off the crossbar with 10 minutes on the clock. Both sides continued to press and both goalkeepers were in unbeatable form, pulling off a string of important saves. The action was end to end and in the 67th minute, it was time for Columbus to hit the woodwork when Kekuta Manneh raced through and fired his shot against the upright. 4 minutes later the action was back at the other end with Joseph Martinez, who has been prolific during the regular season, couldn’t covert and once again the goal frame was rattling.
The minutes kept passing and no-one could find that cutting edge to take the lead. A combination of great goalkeeping and bad luck and the with woodwork taking more of a beating, penalties was looming. On 117 minutes without a winner and penalties on the horizon, Brad Guzan came rushing out unable to get on the end of a ball into the box and Harrison Afful nipped in. His header was bouncing towards goal only for Michael Parkhurst to clear it off the line. The dreaded moment for fans and players come after 120 minutes, the game would be settled on penalties. Zack Steffen was still in great form, pulling off two great stops from Julian Gressel and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. The deciding penalty came down to Adam Jahn who duly delivered, cruelly bringing his finger to his lips, gesturing to silence the huge crowd. Atalanta have been arguably the best experience of 2017. The hard work starts now for Tata Martino and his men though. They will now need to regroup and hope to build on that impressive first season in 2018. For Columbus Crew, they face a semi-final clash against New York City FC on Tuesday evening.
Houston Dynamo 1 – 0 Sporting Kansas City
BBVA Compass Stadium – Thursday 26th October 2017 – 20:30 CT (02:30 BST)
In a match that confirms possession doesn’t always win you games. Astonishingly Houston only had 37% of possession as they advanced to the semifinals with a 1-0 over Sporting Kansas. Both sides must have skipped shooting practice in the build-up to the game, with them registering over 40 shots between them, with only 25% of them being on target. It wasn’t until the 37th minute when the first real piece of the action came. Kansas forward, Gerso Fernando, tore down the left-hand side towards goal. He tried to lift it over the advancing Houston keeper, but he managed to get enough on it to send the ball into the air for the defender, Philippe Senderos to head safely away for a corner. In the second half, Houston worked a decent opening down the left. Alex whipping in a great cross which was meant by Erick Torres, but his header lacked power and no placement as it fell straight into the keeper’s arms.
The game needed extra time to determine a winner and it was nearly found just 15seconds in. Alberth Elis got in behind the Kansas defence but chose power over placement and his shot fired high and wide past the goal. He would go on to make amends for that miss just 4minuets later though. Some great play from Vicente Sanchez down the right, skipping over a challenge before getting to the byline and squaring it to Elis in the center of the box. The Honduran took a couple of touches to get the ball from out of his feet and send the ball into the back of the Kansas net, his 11th of the season. The two traded places later in the game when Elis put Sanchez clean through. But the outcome wasn’t the same as his poor effort rolled past the left-hand post, much to the annoyance of Elis and the Dynamo fans in attendance. That would be the last of the action the one goal was enough to send 2 time MLS Cup Champions through to the semis. They will need to improve greatly for Monday evening when they host a tough looking Portland Timbers side.