MLS Playoff Recap (Leg 2 Conference Finals)

The MLS Cup Final will be hosted by Toronto FC for the second year in a row after its victory over the Columbus Crew on Wednesday. And just like last year’s game, the Seattle Sounders will be coming back to the great north, looking to win the championship back-to-back after defeating the Houston Dynamo on Thursday night.

Match: December 9 at 4pm E.T. in Toronto

Here are the recaps of both Leg 2 matches that took place this week:

Toronto FC 1 – Columbus Crew 0 (1-0 on aggregate)

Winning the Supporters Shield for earning the best league record this season might be great. But for Toronto FC, they have the chance to earn another trophy next week; one that will be the biggest in club history. Toronto was able to hold off a spirited Columbus Crew side Wednesday night, and defeated the Ohio club 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Final second leg clinching a spot in the MLS Cup Final.

Zack Steffen was able to keep Toronto out of his goal for most of the night. As one of the best players in this year’s playoffs kept up his hero status for Columbus by saving a penalty kick taken by Victor Vazquez in the 26th minute, making it three-for-three on penalties saved by Steffen, including the two he had against Atlanta United in a shootout during the knockout round.

But it was Toronto forward Jozy Altidore who would bring the home crowd to their feet in the second half after giving them a cause for concern. Altidore looked to have injured his ankle early in the half, causing some nervousness in the crowd at BMO Field. But he would later prove to be the hero as he scored the game’s only goal a few minutes later in the 60th minute.

Dan Hamilton

Teammate Sebastian Giovinco started the attack that allowed Altidore to attempt a give-and-go with Vazquez into the box. After the pass, Altidore calmly placed his shot behind the keeper Steffen and into the side net.

Columbus kept its composure for most of the match, and gave Toronto all it could handle. The Crew wasn’t able to convert on any shots against a sturdy Toronto defense. A late chance in the 87th minute by Ola Kamara could have given Columbus a vital away goal, but the ball went between his legs in front of goal before being able to put his foot in front.

While Columbus now heads home facing an uncertain future with a possible relocation looming, the win by Toronto now leaves the club with one more victory separating them from completing the domestic treble, something that no MLS team has done before. A treble is earned by a club that wins the MLS Cup, the Supporters Shield, and its domestic cup (Toronto plays in the Canadian Championship rather than the U.S. Open Cup). It will be the second-straight year that they will host the MLS Cup final.

Seattle Sounders 3 – Houston Dynamo 0 (5-0 on aggregate)

Coming back home with a 2-0 Leg 1 win was a massive boost for the Seattle Sounders, and Thursday night at CenturyLink Field showed just how confident the team looked in heading back to the MLS Cup Final, with a convincing 3-0 victory against the Houston Dynamo. For the second consecutive season, the final will be a Toronto-Seattle affair in Canada.

With a big deficit to overcome, the Dynamo also had to go to Seattle short on its regulars, as Erick Torres didn’t start and came on in the second half. Alberth Elis also missed the match due to a suspension.

The shortcomings for Houston proved to be too much for the club as Seattle continued its fine form, and attacked early and often. The Sounders were able to add to their aggregate lead thanks to a 22nd minute goal by Victor Rodriguez. The Spaniard received a great through-ball by former Dynamo player Will Bruin, and swiftly put the ball over Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis to give Houston very little chance at making a comeback in the game. Clint Dempsey added a goal in the 57th minute that sealed the game and the round in the second half, after a Joevin Jones cross led Dempsey to finish on an open net.

Max Aquino/Sounder at Heart

While the Dynamo were unable to create any sort of chances against Seattle and its defense, the team’s chances took an even bigger hit in the 66th minute when Tomas Martinez received a red card after video replay showed him shoving Seattle’s Jordy Delem’s head to the ground after both jumped and fell going for a ball in the air.

Bruin would join in on adding more misery to Houston’s night with his goal less than 10 minutes after the red card, receiving a pass from Harry Shipp, and burying Seattle’s fifth goal in the round.

Seattle throughout the entire Western Conference Finals didn’t show any sign of weariness or pressure. In fact, goalkeeper Stefan Frei and the Sounders defense have been so prolific in shutting down opponents, the club was able to extend its shutout streak to 542 minutes, an accumulation of the entire 2017 playoffs as well as the final two games of the regular season.

But now the biggest match of the season lies just ahead. With a chance to hoist the trophy once again, Seattle heads back to Toronto looking to become the first team to win back-to-back MLS Cups since the LA Galaxy did it during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

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