With a number of playoff spots still up for grabs on the final day of Major League Soccer’s regular season, bedlam reigned Sunday as teams scrambled to make the postseason.
Known traditionally as Decision Day, all of the Eastern Conference teams kicked off simultaneously, followed by all of the Western Conference teams less than three hours later.
When it was over, FC Cincinnati earned a playoff berth for the first time. Real Salt Lake, Orlando City and Minnesota United also captured spots. The Portland Timbers, who went to the MLS Cup final last season, were eliminated. And Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar claimed the Golden Boot.
The stakes were high for Columbus Crew’s match at Orlando City, with both teams vying for the playoffs. The Lions came from behind to defeat the Crew 2-1 and advance.
Brenner had a hat trick before halftime and FC Cincinnati defeated D.C. United 5-2 on Decision Day. The Brazilian forward has three hat tricks and 18 goals this season.
Cincinnati finished fifth in the East, ahead of Inter Miami and Orlando for the final two playoff spots. With the loss, Columbus finished just below the line.
“We’re going to try to enjoy the heck out of it because these players, and staff, have worked so hard to get to this point,” Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said. “Our goal wasn’t just to get here and hopefully do something special. ”
Like Cincinnati, Miami will make its first postseason appearance despite losing 3-1 to Montreal on Decision Day. David Beckham’s team joined the league in 2020.
“I suppose it’s the sum of the parts that’s most important to us,” Miami coach Phil Neville said. “We built a football team, not just a team of individuals. There are probably teams in this league that have better individuals than us, but they haven’t got a better team in terms of spirit. These guys love being with each other. They love coming to work every morning.”
The Timbers, who have been rocked by scandal, needed a victory or draw at Real Salt Lake to make the playoffs. But RSL came out on top 3-1 to claim a postseason berth.
The Timbers share ownership with the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League. Earlier this week, an investigation was released that detailed misconduct in the NWSL. In the fallout, the club fired a pair of executives, and owner Merritt Paulson stepped away from day-to-day operations of the teams.
Minnesota United claimed one of the last berths in the West with a 2-0 victory over Vancouver. The Whitecaps were eliminated.
A record 19,941 fans watched the Loons clinch at Allianz Field.
“I knew they’d turn up, I just wanted to make sure we did,” Minnesota coach Adrian Health said about the fans.
Nashville’s Mukhtar led the league in scoring with 23 goals to win the Golden Boot award. Austin FC’s Sebastián Driussi and the Philadelphia Union’s Dániel Gazdag finished with 22.
Mukhtar is the first German-born player to win the MLS scoring award. He accounted for 44.2% of Nashville’s goals.
Brandon Vasquez and Jesus Ferreira were the top American scorers, among four players with 18 goals.
TOP OF THE TABLES
Daniel Gazdag scored three goals and the Philadelphia Union defeated Toronto 4-0 on Sunday to secure the top spot in the East standings. Their 19 wins are a club record.
In the West, LAFC had already won the Supporters Shield for the league’s best regular-season record. It is the second time in four seasons that LAFC has won the honor.
As the top team in the East, Philadelphia gets an opening-round bye. The Union will play the winner of the match between the fourth-seeded Red Bulls and No. 5 Cincinnati. Second-seeded Montreal hosts No. 7 Orlando, and No. 3 NYCFC, last year’s MLS Cup champions, play Miami.
LAFC has the West’s first-round bye and will face the winner of the match between the fourth-seeded LA Galaxy and No. 5 Nashville. Second-seeded Austin will host No. 7 Salt Lake and No. 3 Dallas will host No. 6 Minnesota.
DONE FOR THE YEAR
The teams that were eliminated from the playoffs this season included Charlotte, New England, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto, D.C. United, Colorado, Seattle, San Jose, Kansas City, Houston, Columbus, Portland and Vancouver.
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