Sylvae MLS News

30Nov/150

Tactical Alterations, Strong Road Form Propel Portland to MLS Cup

At the start of the 2015 Major League Soccer season, very few pundits and fans believed the Portland Timbers would make the playoffs, let alone earn a berth in the MLS Cup.  The Timbers surprised plenty of people across the league on Sunday, when they held off a late surge from FC Dallas to win the Western Conference Final 5-3 on aggregate.  "This is a great moment for this club," manager Caleb Porter said, per the club's website. "It's our first trophy, but we want the biggest trophy and we have one more game still to achieve that.” Although many are still shocked the Timbers advanced to the final match of the postseason, the little details suggest Portland is more deserving than any team in the Western Conference. The Timbers were the best road team in the league this season and a formation tweak by manager Caleb Porter late in the year was the final adjustment needed to make a run into December.  Winning on the road is one of the most difficult things to do in MLS, but the Timbers managed to perfect earning results on their travels over the final three months of the regular season. Since their 0-0 draw at Avaya ...
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30Nov/150

Battle-Tested Columbus Downs Red Bulls to Advance to MLS Cup

HARRISON, N.J. — There is no doubt the Columbus Crew will enjoy their Eastern Conference championship over the next 24 hours, but as manager Gregg Berhalter admitted after the game, there's still one key match ahead in the club's future.  “I want the guys to enjoy it, but we have bigger fish to fry," Berhalter said in his postmatch press conference. "I wanted them to enjoy it on the podium. I wanted them to enjoy the trophy, but I told them they’re going to be remembered for the trophy they win next week. Not the one they win this week."  Berhalter is 100 percent right. No one will remember who wins the conference championships years from now, but everyone will recall who hoisted the MLS Cup to conclude the 2015 season.  Columbus earned its spot in next Sunday's final with a 2-1 aggregate victory over two legs against the New York Red Bulls, who won the Supporters' Shield for the league's best regular-season record.  A victory over two legs and a home match to close out the postseason looked all but locked up for the Crew as second-half stoppage time approached, but one hiccup led to the most dramatic, and final, three minutes of the ...
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30Nov/150

MLS Cup Playoffs 2015: Timbers vs. Crew Schedule After Conference Finals

And then there were two. The MLS Cup Final is set, and it'll be the Columbus Crew taking on the Portland Timbers on Dec. 6 in Mapfre Stadium. The site of the game was supposed to be whichever team had the best regular-season record, but the Crew and Timbers finished the regular season with the same record of 15-11-8. However, because of a better goal differential, Columbus will host Portland in Ohio for the top prize in MLS. Here's a complete rundown of the schedule:       2015 MLS Cup Final Schedule Who: Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew Where: Mapre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio When: Dec. 6 at 4 p.m. ET TV: ESPN   How did we get here? The Timbers' road to get to the final game did not come easy. They advanced to the final after beating FC Dallas 5-3 on aggregate, but it almost wasn't this way. Fanendo Adi scored the first goal of the second leg in the 54th minute to put Portland up 4-1 on aggregate, but as FC Dallas did in the quarterfinals against the Seattle Sounders, it stormed back to add drama to the match. Two goals within a three-minute span from Mauro Diaz and Blas Perez gave Dallas a 2-1 lead, and it trailed only 4-3 in aggregate. ...
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27Nov/150

Didier Drogba Compares Level of Competition Between MLS, Premier League

Montreal Impact star and former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba believes MLS is on its way to becoming one of the top leagues in the world and believes the rough travel schedule makes it a more difficult league to play in than the Premier League.Speaking to Tony Jimenez of Reuters, the 37-year-old striker heaped praise on MLS: It's a different challenge (in the U.S.). People think it's easy to play there. Believe me, it's more difficult than playing in the Premier League because of the travel. You can stay at an airport for three or four hours if you miss your flight, so that is what is really leveling the game. There are not a lot of away wins because when the teams arrive they are tired. There are also some very good players in the league. It's a growing league and I think it's going to be one of the most important and decisive leagues in the world in a few years. Drogba scored an impressive 12 goals in 14 matches during his first season with Montreal after joining the team from Chelsea at the end of the 2014-15 campaign. The Impact qualified for the MLS play-offs and beat rivals Toronto FC in the knockout ...
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27Nov/150

Ultimate Guide to MLS Weekend: Can Top Seeds Recover from Deficits?

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 ...
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25Nov/150

MLS: Why the Current Playoff System Has to Change

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 ...
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23Nov/150

MLS Team of the Week: Meram, Kamara, Nagbe Star in Conference Final 1st Legs

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
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23Nov/150

Portland Establishes Favorite Status After Western Conference Final 1st Leg

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 ...
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23Nov/150

Columbus Sets Tone in MLS Eastern Conference Championship with Strong Showing

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 ...
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23Nov/150

MLS Cup Playoffs 2015: Conference Finals Scores, Reaction and Updated Schedule

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 ...
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