The MLS Cup playoffs are always pretty tough to navigate through, and they’re also pretty tough to predict. While there may be teams that are considered to be clear favourites as a result of how they performed during the regular season, it doesn’t always necessarily work out the way you’d think or expect.
Either way, regardless of how the outcome goes, one thing that cannot be denied is just how good the playoffs are when it comes to entertainment value. This was especially true at the weekend when Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls put on quite the show as the two Eastern Conference sides battled it out for a place in the next round.
Philadelphia put in one of their best campaigns ever during the regular season, settling down in third place to give themselves a great shot of succeeding in the playoffs. The Red Bulls finished in sixth, but in the end, they were probably just happy to be there.
The game was about as chaotic as you’d expect, and to be blunt, we’re not sure that we would have it any other way. The Red Bulls knew that they needs to come and gain the respect of Philly immediately, because let’s face it, this is hostile territory that we’re talking about here.
There is no love lost between the two cities and it was always going to be a little bit physical, but to be honest, we were just pleasantly surprised to see that there were no red cards when it was all said and done.
Within just six minutes of the game kicking off we had our first major talking point as Josh Sims put NYRB into the lead. Just 18 minutes later Tim Parker was able to make it too, and thankfully for the Union, Alejandro Bedoya raised the spirits of the home faithful by making it 2-1.
A huge statement
However, just before the break Tom Barlow put a sting in the tail by restoring the visitors’ two-goal advantage with just seconds left until the half time whistle blew.
Instead of collapsing within themselves, though, Philly dug deep and found that grit and determination which got them to this point in the first place. Jack Elliott made it 3-2, and then with 12 minutes remaining, the patient Philadelphia were able to grab the equaliser they’d been seeking through Fafa Picault.
It went through to extra time, and in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of the first 15 minutes, Marco Fabian scored what would prove to be the winner for the Union.
In many ways you could argue they’ve already won as they were able to surprise a lot of people by clawing their way back from the brink of defeat. However, they’re going to need to summon that courage all over again as they prepare to face reigning champions Atlanta United in the next round.