MLS Decision Day

Portland Timbers – The 2015 MLS Cup Champion has been eliminated, no longer a2016 playoff contender. Bradley Wright-Phillips gets golden boot

2015 MLS Cup finalists Portland, Columbus fail to qualify for 2016 playoffs

History was made on Sunday. Dubious history.

Both 2015 MLS Cup finalists — the defending champion Portland Timbers and runner-up Columbus Crew SC — have officially been eliminated from qualifying for the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. It is the first time in league history that neither MLS Cup finalist from the previous season qualified for the postseason.
Columbus, already eliminated before Sunday’s Decision Day showdown with New York City FC, lost their season finale 4-1. The Timbers, meanwhile, were still alive on Sunday, needing a win over the Vancouver Whitecaps to clinch, but lost 4-1, going the entire season without winning a road game and were officially knocked out of the playoffs.
The Timbers and Crew SC are just the sixth and seventh teams in league history to fail to make the playoffs the year after reaching the MLS Cup final. Previously, two champions (D.C. United in 2000 and LA Galaxy in 2006) have missed the playoffs the following year, while three other runners-up (Chicago Fire in 2004, Kansas City in 2005 and New York Red Bulls in 2009) have failed to qualify the ensuing season.

Vancouver Whitecaps 4, Portland Timbers 1 | 2016 MLS Match Recap
The Portland Timbers came into Sunday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps knowing that a win would put them into the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, but their Cascadia Cup rivals played the spoiler with a 4-1 victory at BC Place taking the 2016 Cascadia Cup in the process.
With the loss and Sporting Kansas City’s win over the San Jose Earthquakes, the 2015 MLS Cup champions are the first reigning MLS Cup winner to miss the playoffs since the LA Galaxy in 2006. The win pulled the Whitecaps into a tie with their Cascadia rivals on points in the Cup standings, and the three goal difference gave them the goal differential advantage which earned them a bit of silverware.
Giles Barnes scored his first two goals in a Whitecaps uniform, both which were highlight-reel worthy. The ‘Caps smashed two more insurance goals home in the second half, including aPedro Morales rocket from the corner of the penalty area. The Timbers managed to get on the score sheet with a penalty kick goal by Diego Valeri.
Three Things
1. BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Barnes’ 2016 season after the Whitecaps acquired him may not have gone his way, but he certainly closed out the season on a high note. The brace against the Timbers is his first since April 25th, 2015, according to Opta.
2. MISSING HOME: Road wins are always difficult in MLS, but the Timbers managed to go the entire 2016 season without a road win; the only team in MLS to do so (0-11-6). They finish the season with seven straight losses on the road.
3. RECLAIMING HOME: The Timbers’ road record coming in made them the movable object, but the Whitecaps home record made them the stoppage force. This was just their second win in ten MLS home matches (2-4-4). The penalty kick for the Timbers took away the clean sheet, which the Whitecaps only managed to do once in this 10 game stretch.

Colorado Rapids 1, Houston Dynamo 1 | 2016 MLS Recap
The Colorado Rapids needed a win to determine to clinch the Supporters’ Shield on Decision Day. The Houston Dynamo put a stop to that.
Andrew Wenger’s goal in the 20th minute gave Houston an early lead in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, but the Rapids came back to tie the game in the second half on Sunday. Without the victory, the Rapids fell in the Shield chase, as FC Dallas prevailed and won the 2016 Supporters’ Shield.
The Dynamo slowed the game down going into the second half. The match got heated with players on both sides, such as when Colorado’s Marc Burch and Houston’s Sheanon Williams got in a scuffle. Rapids’ forward Shkelzen Gashi scored in the 67th minute with an assist by Dominique Badji. Houston ran out of steam, but held off a Rapids winner, to end the game level in closing out the regular season.
Three Things
• WHAT’S AHEAD: Gashi’s first goal at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park this season saved the Rapids from a loss at home, but came short for the Supporters’ Shield. Despite that, the Rapids end the season with 58 points, having already clinched a first-round bye heading in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, going from worst to nearly first in the span of a year.
• HOUSTON’S STREAK ENDS: The Dynamo haven’t won at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park since 2008, a streak that was extended on Sunday. With this loss on the road, the Dynamo’s away game winning streak comes to an end at four. It wasn’t a win like they hoped, but the Dynamo did end a disappointing season with a result.
• JONES RETURNS: Colorado’s Jermaine Jones makes his first appearance since July 6. Suffering with a knee injury for the second half of the season, his return to the lineup will be important for the Rapids and should strike fear in Colorado’s playoff opponent, as he’s made the most of his limited time this season.

New England Revolution 3, Montreal Impact 0 | 2016 MLS Match Recap

The New England Revolution needed an epic performance against the Montreal Impact onDecision Day and help in order to qualify for the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
While they were unable to maneuver their way above the red line in the Eastern Conference, they did end 2016 on a positive note, putting in an entertaining, quality performance to best the Montreal Impact 3-0 at a windy Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Diego Fagundez gave the home side the lead when his 13th-minute free kick left Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush frozen on his line. Juan Agudelo added his seventh goal of 2016 to double the Revolution’s lead in the 60th minute. Kei Kamara would put the cherry on the cake for New England in the 71st minute, burying a big chance created following a slick passing sequence by the Revs.
The loss is one that Montreal will need to shake off quickly, as their task now becomes a Knockout Round match at D.C. United on either Wednesday Oct. 26 or Thursday Oct. 27.
Three Things
1. GOLDEN 2016: Heading into Sunday’s Decision Day game it was unclear who would grab the 2016 Golden Boot for the New England Revolution. Lee Nguyen, Kei Kamara and Juan Agudelo were all tied with six goals and Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez each had five. Fagundez’s delightful free kick in the 13th minute made the race a four way tie until Juan Agudelo pulled ahead but was then tied by Kamara, who bagged his seventh goal for the New England and 12th overall in 2016 regular season play (5 goals for Columbus). Agudelo nearly got to eight just minutes later, clattering a left-footed effort off the far post.
2. AGUDELO’S FORM: Speaking of Agudelo, there are few strikers who have been playing as well as the American international of late. The talented attacker has scored four goals in his last seven games and has notched three assists as well. His labor is bearing fruit, too, in the form of a call into the US men’s national team camp earlier this month.
3. QUICK RECOVERY: Montreal will certainly be disappointed with their performance on Sunday, after being thoroughly outclassed by the Revolution, all game long.
D.C. and Montreal have met twice so far in the 2016 MLS regular Ssason with both matches ending in a 1-1 draw.
Success against D.C. United for the Montreal Impact could very well hinge on whether mercurial striker Didier Drogba – who was once again not in the 18 for Montreal on Sunday – will be included in the team’s roster or not.

Philadelphia Union 0, New York Red Bulls 2 | 2016 MLS Match Recap

CHESTER, Pa. — What was all but certain coming in was made official on Decision Day at Talen Energy Stadium.
With a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, the New York Red Bulls wrapped up the top seed in the Eastern Conference while Philly secured their first playoff berth in five years, beating out the New England Revolution for the sixth and final spot in the East by virtue of the goal-differential tiebreaker.
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the only goal of the first half, sneaking behind the Union defense, chipping it over hard-charging goalkeeper Andre Blake and depositing the ball into an open net in the 26th minute. The goal was Wright-Phillips’ 24th of the season, which was enough to hold off New York City FC’s David Villa (23 goals) for his second Golden Boot in three years.
Alex Muyl sealed the win with a 57th-minute tally with Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty helping set up the goal.
The Red Bulls, who haven’t lost since July 3, will go into the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs unbeaten in their last 16 while the Union enter a Knockout Round matchup at third-seeded Toronto FC on on a seven-game winless streak.
Three Things
1. STREAKS AND SLUMPS: Nobody is entering the 2016 MLS Audi Cup hotter than the Red Bulls … and nobody is entering as cold as the Union. On Decision Day, the Red Bulls continued to look like a team nobody will want to play in the postseason, controlling the game from the opening whistle to finish with 16 wins and 57 points — fewer than only two other teams in the league. The Union, meanwhile, are still searching for answers after losing their third straight contest, including two straight at home, to back their way into the playoffs amidst boos from the home crowd.
2. MILESTONE MEN: Although the Red Bulls didn’t win the Supporters’ Shield, they can hang their hat on Wright-Phillips edging Villa for the Golden Boot, thanks to a pretty first-half goal. Klejstan also finished the season on top of MLS with 19 assists, even though he wasn’t credited with one on his deflected pass that set up Muyl’s goal.
3. REST FOR THE WEARY: While the Red Bulls played a mostly first-choice lineup, the Union didn’t start banged-up regulars Chris Pontius, C.J. Sapong, Tranquillo Barnetta andBrian Carroll with their Knockout Round game just a few days away. That led to teenagerEric Ayuk making his first start of the season and coming through with a couple of late scoring chances. Alejandro Bedoya also wore the captain’s armband for his first time in MLS but couldn’t help the midfield get on track and overcome the rough news that captain Maurice Edu is officially out for the season with another injury. Union head coach Jim Curtin said afterwards that Edu was set to play his first game of the year.
Seattle Sounders 2, Real Salt Lake 1 | 2016 MLS Match Recap

The Seattle Sounders’ 2016 resurrection is complete.
The Rave Green rode early goals from Alvaro Fernandez and Cristian Roldan to a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field, clinching a place in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs for a team that looked all but dead and buried at midseason.
Fernandez got the home side off to a dream start, tapping in at the back post after a lovely flick of Tyrone Mears’ low cross by Jordan Morris just three minutes in. RSL leveled less than a minute later, however, when Luke Mulholland’s deflected shot snuck past Stefan Frei into the far inside netting.
But Roldan was the man on the spot to thump home from close range after a Seattle corner kick sparked havoc in the Real box just past the half-hour mark, pushing his team back in front.
When the proceeding hour of play unfolded with little fuss, the Sounders had the win, the playoff berth and even the hosting rights for a Knockout Round playoff match at midweek.
Three Things
1. JORDAN GROWS UP: It’s still not known whether he’ll win over league awards voters for Rookie of the Year honors. But Jordan Morris has unquestionably made enormous strides in his first professional season. After looking overwhelmed at times early in the year, he’s come of age over the past three months, scoring clutch goals – and making big plays like the visionary touch that gave “Flaco” Fernandez an easy tap-in for Seattle’s opener.
2. SALT LAKE SCORING SLUMP: RSL did find the net on Sunday, unlike in their 0-0 home draw vs. Sporting KC last week. And they’re in the playoffs. But their attacking woes remain. Mulholland’s tally was the only shot on goal they could muster vs. Seattle. Yura Movsisyan came off the bench late as they chased the game, but as ESPN’s broadcast team noted, the striker is still fighting a painful heel issue that’s likely to hamper him in the postseason…in which RSL are the lowest seed in the West.
3. SCHMETZER GITS ‘ER DUN: The influence of midseason signing Nico Lodeiro (and less obviously, injury returnee Roman Torres) has been enormous, but let’s give some dap to interim head coach Brian Schmetzer. Seattle are a sizzling 8-2-4 since he took the helmafter going 6-12-2 up to that point under Sigi Schmid. Will it be enough to earn the job permanently?

LA Galaxy 0, FC Dallas 0 | 2016 MLS Match Recap

Two titles down, one to go.
FC Dallas added more hardware to their trophy case on Sunday by picking up the Supporters’ Shield after playing the LA Galaxy to a scoreless draw at StubHub Center in Carson, California. Dallas, who claimed the 2016 US Open Cup crown last month, finished the regular season with 60 points via a 17-8-9 record to capture their first Supporters’ Shield. As a result, they have homefield advantage throughout the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Neither team was overly dominant or that creative in the final third, but they each came close to finding the breakthrough. Atiba Harris had a golden first-half chance from inside six yards that he smacked off the near post, and Landon Donovan had a snap header bounce inches past the left side of FC Dallas’ goal just before the hour-mark.
Three Things
1. JUST ENOUGH: It was not gorgeous by any stretch of the imagination, but FC Dallas did what was necessary to get the result they needed to claim their first Supporters’ Shield. There are still questions as to how Dallas will play without Mauro Diaz, especially in games in which they cannot just settle for a draw, but those will have to be answered on another day. Right now, it is celebration time in Dallas.
2. DAMME IMPRESSIVE: While FC Dallas will get kudos for getting a shutout on the road, the LA Galaxy also deserve praise for not allowing an at-strength Dallas team to get on the board while fielding a reserve-filled side themselves. One player who especially stood out for LA was center back Jelle Van Damme, who made a number of timely interventions and served as a leader during his 90 minutes on the field.
3. STALEMATE: Expect both these teams to play much different once the postseason rolls around. Both the Galaxy and FC Dallas were not overly aggressive in pushing numbers forward and did not take many risks in the attack. That should change as the intensity and pressure ramp up in the playoffs.

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