With at least 90 minutes left to play in the MLS Eastern and Western Conference finals, both of the top seeds are facing deficits.
FC Dallas, who earned the No. 1 seed in the West, scored a key away goal in the first leg, but they are down 3-1 to the Portland Timbers. The New York Red Bulls, who are the No. 1 seed in the East, failed to find the back of the net on their travels and conceded twice to the Columbus Crew. Now with two spots in the MLS Cup final and the potential to host the championship match on the line, both top seeds must find a way to rebound from the first leg.
The formula seems simple for FC Dallas in the first match on Sunday since they are the owners of the best regular-season home record. However, Portland tied for the league lead in road wins and hasn't lost on the road since August.
In order to reach the club's first MLS Cup final since 2010, Oscar Pareja's side must receive more out of the attack-minded players in the starting XI.
Mauro Diaz shone a bit in the first leg, but when he had chances to finish off ...
The MLS playoffs resumed last Sunday after a two-week break and, due to the international window, the postseason was lost in the shuffle.
Abruptly pausing during the playoffs is probably why the buzz faded, and it's one of many reasons why the current MLS playoff system has to change.
The conference finals were exciting, but both FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls looked very rusty. They were the two best teams in the regular season, yet they both have to overcome two-goal deficits in the return legs.
Dallas and New York each played 34 regular-season games to claim the top seeds in their conferences. Their rewards consist of starting a two-legged series on the road with an away-goals tiebreaker.
Using this rule is absurd in a seeded tournament. The home team has to be more careful because goals are almost twice as valuable for the road side.
Even some European clubs want to abolish this method in the UEFA Champions League, where there's no numerical seeding in the knockout stage.
It was introduced to encourage the away teams to attack, but it's just made the matches more cautious and tedious.
MLS began enforcing the rule in 2014. An average of 2.76 goals per game were scored ...
The first legs of the Eastern and Western Conference finals produced a pair of surprising results as Columbus and Portland came out on top at home in their respective games.
Columbus used the fastest goal in MLS postseason history to jump on top of the New York Red Bulls. The early strike stunned the Supporters' Shield winners, and it allowed the Crew to dominate the match.
Over in Portland, the Timbers came out of the gates with the same attacking vigor, but they didn't find the back of the net until the 23rd minute. Although they conceded an away goal to FC Dallas in the second half, the Timbers scored three goals to take a two-goal advantage into the second leg.
Since Columbus and Portland were easily the better sides on Sunday, the majority of our MLS Team of the Week is comprised of players from those two teams.
Continue reading to see who made the best 11 from the conference final first legs. Begin Slideshow
The Portland Timbers established themselves as the favorites to be the Western Conference representative at the MLS Cup with a 3-1 win over FC Dallas on Sunday at Providence Park.
The Timbers jumped into the driver's seat of the match in the first minute as they almost replicated Columbus' early goal in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final earlier on Sunday.
Before FC Dallas could even settle into the match, Fanendo Adi and Darlington Nagbe put their back four under pressure with a surging move forward. Nagbe dished the ball over to Lucas Melano, whose shot was kept out by 20-year-old goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez.
Portland continued to press for its first strike for the first part of the opening stanza, and it finally was rewarded for its efforts in the 23rd minute, when Liam Ridgewell scored on a corner.
The Timbers kept pushing for their second for the rest of the first half, but they were unlucky not to find the back of the net. The main reason the Timbers were able to relentlessly move forward was the play of the defense. Diego Chara, Jorge Villafana and Alvas Powell did their best to limit the chances created by Mauro Diaz, Fabian Castillo ...
The start was ideal. The performance that followed was fantastic. And the 2-0 result after 90 minutes was a perfect start to the Eastern Conference Championship for the Columbus Crew.
Thanks to their stellar all-around showing in front of the home fans at Mapfre Stadium, the Crew left the Eastern Conference Championship first leg with a two-goal advantage over the New York Red Bulls heading into next Sunday's second leg at Red Bull Arena.
Columbus shocked the Supporters' Shield winners with a goal nine seconds into the match. Off the opening kickoff, a long ball was played onto the head of Kei Kamara, who headed the ball down to Ethan Finlay. Finlay dished an assist over to Justin Meram and the Iraq international finished off the fastest goal in MLS postseason history.
Meram's early tally mesmerized everyone, as no one expected the reliable Red Bulls back line to break down on the first attack of the match. From that point on, the tone of the match was set. Columbus threatened on countless occasions before Kamara's 85th-minute goal handed Columbus a critical two-goal advantage.
Not only did the Columbus attack thrive throughout the majority of the match, its defense also shut down the Red Bulls ...
The race for the MLS Cup is underway.
The first leg of the MLS Conference Finals began Sunday with the Eastern Conference Finals, as the Columbus Crew hosted the New York Red Bulls followed by the Portland Timbers playing host to top seed FC Dallas in the Western Conference Finals.
Columbus is the only team in this field of four that knows what it's like to win a championship. As irony would have it, the Crew beat the Red Bulls back in 2008 to win their first MLS Cup. The Red Bulls haven't made it to the Finals since.
On the West side, FC Dallas hasn't been to the MLS Cup since 2010, when it fell to the Colorado Rapids in extra time thanks to an own goal. The four-year-old Timbers franchise is looking for its first-ever trip to the MLS Cup Finals.
Here's a rundown of Sunday's first-leg action.
Eastern Conference Finals
Columbus 2, New York 0
It didn't take long for the Crew to put their stamp on the Eastern Conference Finals. In fact, it took all but nine seconds.
Justin Meram scored the fastest goal in MLS playoffs history, nine seconds in, to put Columbus up 1-0. From there on, the Crew dictated the pace ...
The Major League Soccer postseason returns to the pitch on Sunday as four teams continue their respective quests to hoist the MLS Cup on December 6.
Each of the remaining quartet advanced to the conference final round in a different way, but all four are more than deserving of their spots in the final four.
Sunday's two-game slate starts at a sold-out Mapfre Stadium, where the Columbus Crew host the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final.
The visiting Red Bulls impressed for the majority of the regular season, but they struggled to finish off D.C. United in the semifinal round, as they needed a late Bradley Wright-Phillips goal in the second leg to secure passage into the next stage of the playoffs.
Jesse Marsch's side must perform better on Sunday in order to take an advantage back to Red Bull Arena for the second leg on Nov. 29. In order to achieve success on the road, the Red Bulls need yet another big game out of captain Dax McCarty, who will be locked in a head-to-head battle with Columbus playmaker Federico Higuain.
The play of the back line will also be critical to the success of the Supporters' ...
And then there were four.
The New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew, FC Dallas and Portland Timbers advanced to the MLS Conference finals. The former two will square off in the East, with the latter two battling in the West.
Columbus and Dallas overcame deficits from the first leg before progressing. As a result, both sides have catapulted into the top three of the power rankings this week.
As always, the eight conference semifinalists will be graded based on the following criteria:
Quality of opponent and performance.
Recent form beyond the previous match.
Here are the latest MLS playoff power rankings.Begin Slideshow
The most exciting start to a Major League Soccer postseason in recent memory left us wanting more and then some after Sunday's slate of four matches concluded.
In those four conference semifinal showdowns, plenty of star players delivered standout performances that earned them a good amount of accolades.
Although we aren't handing out any postseason hardware yet, we do have a good idea who the 10 best players of the postseason to date are.
Due to the small sample size on which we based the MLS Playoff Power Rankings, there was plenty of movement in the 10 positions this week. The stars closest to the top of the list were the most consistent over the last two weekends of play.
Continue reading on to see which player stood out among the pack and earned the top spot in our MLS Playoff Power Rankings. Begin Slideshow
Former Arsenal midfielder and Manchester City reserve manager Patrick Vieira has been appointed as New York City FC's new head coach, signing a three-year contract with the MLS franchise on Monday.
The team confirmed the news on its official website. Club president Tom Glick expressed his delight at bringing the former France international into the club:
The open position of head coach at New York City FC has prompted significant interest and I have no doubt that in Patrick, we have one of the most impressive young coaches I have encountered. Patrick’s ability, vision and the respect in which he is held by everyone who works with him, speaks volumes for his character and capacity to succeed. I am excited to work with him and I know the energy he will bring to the role will have a hugely positive impact across the Club.
As reported by Mark Booth for City's official website, Vieira is excited to get started:
I am delighted to take up the role of Head Coach of New York City FC. To work with this squad, with Claudio Reyna and Rob Vartughian and the fantastic support team that is in place is an exciting prospect for any coach.
I would ...