The MLS is Back Tournament continued with a 16-team bracket after the completion of its group stage. Teams like Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Columbus Crew SC, and Los Angeles FC dominated in group play, and will look to make noise in the knockout round. Other teams like New York City FC, FC Cincinnati, and the Seattle Sounders struggled at times, but managed to find a way into the next stage of the tournament.
A handful of the eight matchups in the Round of 16 needed penalty kicks to decide which team would advance. Other games were played close to the bitter end, with just a couple matches where one team dominated the other.
Check out how each game played out, as the matchups have been set for the quarterfinals of Major League Soccer’s summer tournament in Orlando.
Team records are written as (Wins-Draws-Losses)
Orlando City Still Undefeated in Tournament, Downs Montreal 1-0
The hosting club, Orlando City SC, won Group A with a record of two wins, one draw, and no losses. They edged out the Philadelphia Union to win the group, with a one goal advantage in goal differential.
The Montreal Impact advanced as a third place win, with a 1-0-2 record. The Impact got their lone win, a 1-0 victory over D.C. United, in their final group stage match. But they remained competitive in all three games, and their -1 goal differential gave them the edge over other teams that earned three points in the group stage.
The matchup was pretty even, though Orlando City led in key areas such as shots, shots on target, and time of possession. But the Impact lagged behind only slightly in all three categories. Each keeper recorder a single save.
Ultimately, the difference in the match would be Tesho Akindele’s unassisted goal in the 60th minute. An errant defensive pass was intercepted by Orlando, and though the initial shot attempt was blocked, the trailing Akindele was wide open for the easiest tap-in of his life.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) July 26, 2020
Montreal finishes the MLS is Back Tournament with four close matches that really could have gone either way. Orlando City improves to 3-1-0, and advances to play LAFC on Monday night in the quarterfinals.
Surreal Santos Goal Sends Union to Second Round, Philadelphia Defeats New England 1-0
Like Orlando City, the Philadelphia Union finished the group stage with a 2-1-0 record (the two teams drew against each other.) The New England Revolution didn’t lose any matches either, as they won once and played to two draws, finishing virtually tied (with the same 5 points and +1 goal differential) for first in Group C with Toronto FC, but being relegated to second place on further tiebreakers.
There was only one goal scored in this game as well, but it was far from uneventful. New England came out of the gates with offensive pace and intent. Both teams had prime scoring opportunities in the first half, with Union goalie Andre Blake denying a potential goal by the Revolution’s Tajon Buchanan. In added time, Philadelphia’s Sergio Santos booted a shot that missed the far post.
But Santos would strike in the second half, on a jaw-dropping finesse shot. He took an equally impressive Jamiro Monteiro pass down to the end line, before lifting the ball and putting it in the far top corner of the goal.
Fast feet. Rifled shot. Smooth moves
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) July 26, 2020
It was Santos’ sixth career MLS goal, as well as his third against the Revolution.
That goal would be the lone difference in a back and forth matchup on the field. New England ripped off 20 shots, landing five of them on target. Philadelphia’s goal keeper, Blake, saved all five of these attempts. New England keeper Matt Turner made four saves, letting in only Santos’ incredible shot.
The Union improve to 3-1-0 in the tournament, just like Orlando City. The two teams are on opposite sides of the bracket, and could potentially meet again in a winner-take-all final on August 11. Philadelphia will face Sporting Kansas City in the next round of the tournament.
NYCFC Jump Out to Early Lead, Blow Past Toronto FC 3-1
Due to life getting in the way, I wasn’t really able to watch the third set of group stage matches in the MLS is Back Tournament. So when I saw New York City F.C. in the Round of 16, I was shocked to say the least. After dropping their first two matches to Orlando City and the Philadelphia Union, NYCFC defeated Inter Miami CF 1-0 for their first win of the 2020 MLS regular season. Somehow the lone win and -2 goal differential allowed NYCFC to qualify for the bracket stage as a third-place finisher in Group A.
Toronto FC under-performed their expectations, winning just a single match in group play. Still, the club won Group C, with five points by virtue of two draws.
Jesus Medina would kick off the scoring for New York City in just the fifth minute of the game, and NYCFC would never look back.
He’s heating up
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) July 27, 2020
The goal was impressive on New York City’s end, but an absolute defensive lapse early in the game for Toronto.
Valentin Castellanos terrorized Toronto’s defense further in the 51st minute, using nifty footwork to beat his defender and put the ball in the far side of the net past Toronto keeper Quentin Westberg.
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) July 27, 2020
Westberg did make three saves, as NYCFC attempted 11 shots with seven on target. New York City keeper Sean Johnson had to make just one save, with two of Toronto’s 12 shots landing on target.
Toronto squeaked one through in the 87th minute, as Patrick Mullins scored after passed from Jozy Altidore and Jacob Shaffelburg. But this came after New York City had extended their lead to 3-0 on a Maximiliano Moralez goal.
Toronto took more total shots and held the ball longer, but both failed to create optimal offensive opportunities and also allowed defensive lapses that NYCFC took advantage of.
New York City will face off against Portland in the next round.
Sporting Kansas City Advances on Penalty Kicks, Eliminates Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Sporting Kansas City won Group D, with two wins and one loss, along with a +2 goal differential. Vancouver Whitecaps FC squeaked into the bracket with just one win, two losses, and a -2 goal differential, finishing third in Group B.
Sporting Kansas City dominated the match, and while they ultimately won the scoreless bout on penalty kicks, it’s an anomaly they didn’t win in regulation.
To say Kansas City was aggressive would be an understatement: the club ripped off 37 shots in the game, with eight on target. Vancouver attempted just eight shots, with five on target, and held the ball for just 37.1% of the game.
It was goal keeper Thomas Hasal that kept Vancouver’s hopes alive, recording eight saves.
The match would end with Sporting Kansas City converting three penalty kicks to Vancouver FC’s one.
Playing goalie for Sporting Kansas City, Tim Melia was instrumental in emerging victorious, making a patented penalty save.
Beyond the Box Score presented @CompassCrops breaks down Melia's unmatched dominance.
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) July 27, 2020
Kansas City has won three of their four matches now in the MLS is Back Tournament, but they face a formidable opponent in the quarter-finals that can make the same claim: the Philadelphia Union.
San Jose Earthquakes Down Real Salt Lake 5-2, Game Closer Than Score Suggests
The San Jose Earthquakes were one of the most dominant teams in the group stage. With two wins and a draw, along with a third-best in the league +3 goal difference, San Jose won Group B over the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Real Salt Lake played some tough matches in Group D against Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United, but qualified as a third place finisher with a 1-1-1 record.
After some low-scoring and even non-scoring games to begin the Round of 16, San Jose and Real Salt Lake treated MLS fans to a high-scoring affair on Monday night. Despite the lop-sided look of San Jose’s 5-2 victory, the game was close and fun throughout. The Earthquakes final two goals came after the 86th minute.
Cristian Espinoza opened the scoring, creating separation from his defenders and drilling a shot towards the far post after passes from Valeri Qazaishvili and Magnus Eriksson.
— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) July 28, 2020
But Real Salt Lake would answer a mere minute later with an incredibly nifty goal to even the score. A Corey Baird outlet pass with a little backspin bounced perfectly passed a San Jose defender and right to the feet of Douglas Martinez, who finished with an impressive shot.
What a response, what a finish. pic.twitter.com/pra3J0EF95
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) July 28, 2020
San Jose would turn the 1-1 halftime score into a 3-1 lead by the 62nd minute, off a penalty kick conversion by Magnus Eriksson and a goal by Valeri Qazaishvili.
Real Salt Lake would inch closer in the 75th minute, on a Damir Kreilach goal, and stayed in the game until the end. But a somewhat lucky goal bouncing off the leg of Chris Wondolowski gave the Earthquakes a 4-2 lead in the 86th minute. Luck or not, it was Wondolowski’s third goal in as many games, all coming from off the bench.
Magnus Eriksson would convert his second penalty kick of the game in the sixth minute of game-ending stoppage time. This would create the final 5-2 score, although Real Salt Lake gave a much better fight than the tally suggests.
Real Salt Lake did lose a man in the 84th minute, as Marcelo Silva was called for a red card after an overly aggressive tackle. Kyle Beckerman would also receive a red card in the seventh minute of stoppage time, for violent conduct, acting out of desperation. The match would end with nine Real Salt Lake players on the field.
Though the game was close, the right time won. San Jose took 19 shots, with eight on target, and held the ball for 60.2% of the game. Real Salt Lake managed 11 shots, with five on target and a 39.8% time of possession. San Jose committed nine fouls with one yellow card, while Real Salt Lake was called for 19 fouls, three yellow cards, and two red cards.
The Earthquakes will next bring their high-scoring attack to face a tough Minnesota United FC.
Rossi Scores 7th MLS is Back Goal, LAFC Eliminates Defending MLS Cup Champions with 4-1 Win
It took the defending MLS Cup Champions three games to secure a victory, but the Seattle Sounders qualified for the Round of 16 after finishing group play with a 1-1-1 record. This was actually good for second place in Group B, but it still felt like an underachievement for a team of Seattle’s caliber.
Los Angeles FC had some ups and downs in the group stage, but didn’t lose any games, finishing with a 1-2-0 record. They also held a solid +4 goal differential, coming as a result of their explosive 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy.
But to follow up a disappointing group stage effort, Seattle dropped the ball in the Round of 16 as well.
LAFC took a 1-0 lead on a Diego Rossi penalty kick in the 14th minute. Los Angeles scored again in the 39th minute, as Latif Blessing delivered a rocket shot that doinked off the arm of Seattle’s Shane O’Neill and into the goal.
— LAFC (@LAFC) July 28, 2020
Seattle would cut LAFC’s lead to 2-1 in the 75th minute on a Will Bruin goal, but Los Angeles added two goals in the final ten minutes of regulation to ice the game.
Rossi scored his second goal of the game in the 82nd minute for his seventh score of the tournament. Only one other team has scored more goals in the MLS is Back Tournament (San Jose: 11,) than the seven goals Rossi has put in the back of the net over four games.
(@OptaJack) July 28, 2020
Seattle held the ball longer (59.6% of the game,) and completed more crosses and passes, while committing less fouls than Los Angeles. From a fundamental standpoint, the Sounders played decent offense. But to keep up with LAFC, you have to be more than decent on offense, and you certainly can’t make mistakes on defense.
LAFC ripped 23 shots, with eight on target. Sounders goalie Stefan Frei made a good effort to record four saves, but also let four goals in. Seattle took 11 shots, with four on target, as Los Angeles keeper Kenneth Vermeer saved three shots.
LAFC will advance to face a hot Orlando City SC squad on Friday. The winner of that match will face the winner between the San Jose Earthquakes and Minnesota United FC.
Minnesota United FC Goes 5-For-5 on Penalty Kicks, Eliminates Previously Undefeated Columbus Crew SC After 1-1 Draw
A couple of teams had a +3 goal differential in the group stage of the tournament. LAFC had the second-best mark at +4. But Columbus Crew SC outscored their opponents by a whopping seven goals, while also finishing with the only perfect 3-0-0 record in the tournament. While Group E didn’t feature the stiffest competition (FC Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls, Atlanta United,) both accomplishments were still impressive heading into the knockout stage.
Minnesota United FC came into the tournament favored to make some noise. They finished without a loss, winning against Sporting Kansas City and drawing against Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids.
This match was played to a 1-1 draw in regulation, needing penalty kicks to decide who would advance in the bracket.
Minnesota scored first on an impressive effort from Robin Lod, basically assisting himself on the score. Lod bounced a pass to José Aja via his head, before getting the ball back and finishing on Columbus goalie Andrew Tarbell.
Lody Lody pic.twitter.com/uH2ZxqZCYi
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) July 29, 2020
Columbus Crew SC would even the score in the 79th minute, after Gyasi Zardes attempted a penalty kick that keeper Tyler Miller saved, but Zardes scored off the rebound for his fourth goal of the MLS is Back Tournament.
The match would end as a 1-1 draw, and on penalty kicks, Minnesota advanced to the next round. Minnesota converted all five of their shootout attempts, with Columbus connecting on three of theirs.
While soccer isn’t a sport of pure statistics, the raw numbers favored Columbus during regulation. They took 20 shots to Minnesota’s 12, and held the ball for 64.5% of the game.
Minnesota, which has now earned two wins and two draws with no losses, will face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
Portland-Cincinnati 10:30 PM
FC Cincinnati wasn’t the likeliest of teams to advance past the group stage of the tournament. But the rebuilding team found ways to secure victories over the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United to earn a spot in the Round of 16, finishing second in Group E behind Columbus Crew SC.
The Portland Timbers won the Group of Death (Group F: Los Angeles FC, Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Galaxy) by virtue of two victories and a draw.
FC Cincinnati nearly continued their Cinderella run, playing Portland to a tight 1-1 draw in the second match of the night that would end on penalty kicks.
Cincinnati keeper Przemyslaw Tyton did all he could to keep his squad in the game, saving seven of the eight shots that Portland landed on target. The one that squeaked through came off the foot of Jarerk Niezgoda in the 67th minute, on a Seba Blanco service pass. Leaving skilled offensive players unmarked six feet in front of the goal isn’t a winning formula, though it was Blanco’s attack angle that likely opened up Cincinnati’s defense.
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) July 29, 2020
FC Cincinnati would tie the game in the 81st minute on a Jürgen Locadia penalty kick conversion.
After the match ended in a 1-1 draw, Portland would advance in the tournament after converting four penalty kicks to Cincinnati’s two.
The Timbers controlled the pace of the match, holding the ball 55.6% of the time, delivering 40 crosses and 10 corner kicks, and taking 19 shots. Tyton and the Cincinnati defense did an incredible job allowing just one goal under these circumstances. Cincinnati had 12 shots, five on goal, with six crosses and no corner kicks, limiting their offensive opportunities.
Portland will go on to play New York City FC in the final match of the quarterfinals.
Upcoming Games and Bracket
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐐𝐔𝐀𝐑𝐓𝐄𝐑𝐅𝐈𝐍𝐀𝐋𝐒 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐭!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 29, 2020
Thursday, July 30 at 8:00 PM ET: Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City
Friday, July 31 at 7:30 PM ET: Orlando City SC vs. Los Angeles FC
Saturday, August 1 at 8:00 PM ET: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota United FC
Saturday, August 1 at 10:30 PM ET: New York City FC vs. Portland Timbers