MLS has full slate of games at the same time on Decision Day
By ANNE M. PETETRSON
Oct. 23, 2017
Decision Day did not disappoint.
The chaotic final day of Major League Soccer's regular season — with all 11 matches played at the same time — featured goodbyes to both a historic stadium and a beloved player, a record crowd in Atlanta, and plenty of jockeying for postseason position.
Chicago forward Nemanja Nikolic won the season's Golden Boot award for most goals this season with 24, a single-season record for the Fire.
The expansion Atlanta United set the MLS record for attendance for a stand-alone game with 71,874 on hand for the season finale against Toronto. With the 2-2 draw, Toronto finished atop the Eastern Conference at 20-5-9, and set an MLS season record with 69 points.
D.C. United fell to the New York Red Bulls 2-1 in the final MLS match at RFK Stadium. After 22 seasons, United is moving to Audi Field next year.
Toronto, which won the Supporters Shield, and second-place finisher NYCFC get byes until the two-legged conference semifinals. The Fire will host the Red Bulls, while Atlanta hosts the Columbus Crew in knockout games this week.
In the Western Conference, the Portland Timbers beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 for the first-place finish in the standings as well as the Cascadia Cup Trophy.
Kendall Watson scored in the 29th minute to put the Whitecaps up first, but the Timbers answered with defender Liam Ridgewell's goal in the 32nd. The Timbers took the lead on Darren Mattocks' goal in the 48th minute and held on for the win.
"The regular season is done and now comes the most important part, the games that give you a trophy. We all know that, we will rest and prepare for the next game," said Portland's Diego Valeri, who finished with 21 goals and 11 assists. "We don't know yet who we are going to play, but for sure now starts another tournament."
The Timbers and the rival Seattle Sounders get the byes in the West, with the Whitecaps hosting the Earthquakes, and Sporting Kansas City at the Houston Dynamo this week for knockout games.
There was only one playoff spot up for grabs in the West at the beginning of the day, with San Jose, Dallas and Salt Lake vying for the final playoff berth.
The Earthquakes had the clearest path to the postseason, needing a win over Minnesota United. But United wasn't going to go home quietly: After San Jose took the early lead on Danny Hoesen's goal, United defender Jerome Thiesson scored the equalizer in the 36th minute.
Chris Wondolowski put the Quakes back in front with a goal in the 55th minute. That gives him 134 for his career, tied for second on the all-time MLS list with Jeff Cunningham.
Francisco Calvo's header pulled United even until Marcos Urena's stoppage-time goal gave the Quakes the dramatic 3-2 win for their first playoff berth in five seasons.
In Seattle, Clint Dempsey was handed a red card in the 24th minute of the Sounders' game against the Colorado Rapids. Seattle already had a 1-0 lead thanks to Will Bruins' goal in the ninth minute and won 3-0 despite being shorthanded.
Philadelphia was already out of the playoffs, but the team made a season-ending statement by jumping out to an early 4-0 lead over Orlando City. C.J. Sapong scored his 15th goal, breaking the single-season record for the Union in the 6-1 victory.
It was an emotional day in Montreal with veteran Patrice Bernier playing his final match for the Impact. Bernier scored on a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time but the Impact lost 3-2 to the New England Revolution. He plans to coach for the team's academy.
The regular season also ended with uncertainty surrounding the future of the Columbus Crew beyond 2018.
Anthony Precourt, whose Precourt Sports Ventures has owned the Major League Soccer club since 2013, said this week the team is no longer sustainable and will move to Austin, Texas, unless a new, privately-financed stadium is built in downtown Columbus.
Precourt says the team needs more fan and financial support to compete in the growing league, and a move to a stadium in an urban center is the only way to accomplish that goal. He says the team will stay in Columbus next season, but its future beyond that is unknown.