MLS Round-Up: Playoffs Reach Final Four; Winners Claim 2017 Awards

The November international break does strange things to Major League Soccer.

The 2017 MLS playoffs paused this month, with the four remaining teams forced to wait two weeks between the Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals series due to the way its schedule overlaps FIFA’s. Although the soccer stopped for a while, the news cycle didn’t.

The coaching carousel spun, with new faces coming to Montreal and New England, and the transfer rumor mill continued to turn as a host of big names were linked with moves to and from MLS.

Let’s look at the latest MLS happenings in our weekly review.

Latest MLS Scores (home team listed first)
Conference semifinals, first leg
Vancouver Whitecaps 0, Seattle Sounders 0
New York Red Bulls 1, Toronto FC 2
Houston Dynamo 0, Portland Timbers 0
Columbus Crew 4, New York City FC 1

Conference semifinals, second leg
Seattle Sounders 2, Vancouver Whitecaps 0
Toronto FC 0, New York Red Bulls 1
Portland Timbers 1, Houston Dynamo 2
New York City FC 2, Columbus Crew 0

Key talking points
Columbus and Toronto progressed to the Eastern Conference Finals, while Seattle and Houston will meet in the Western Conference Finals.

Toronto’s Jozy Altidore and New York Red Bulls’ Sacha Kljestan were sent off for a wild tunnel brawl at halftime of the second leg of their series. MLS denied Altidore’s appeal, and the Toronto striker will be suspended for the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals.

The New England Revolution hired former U.S. and Premier League goalkeeper Brad Friedel as their head coach. He replaces Jay Heaps in his first job as head coach of a club.

The Montreal Impact appointed former Lyon and Aston Villa manager Remi Garde as head coach. Garde promises to bring an attacking style to Quebec and credits fellow Frenchman, ex-teammate and NYC FC coach Patrick Viera for convincing him to come to MLS.

It’s also MLS awards season, with a number of players and teams garnering 2017 honors for their regular-season performances:

  • Houston’s DaMarcus Beasley won the individual MLS Fair Play Award, while Seattle won the team Fair Play Award.
  • Kansas City’s Ike Opara was named Defender of the Year.
  • Atlanta’s Hector Villalba won Goal of the Year for his July 21 strike vs. Orlando City.
  • Atlanta’s Brad Guzan netted the Save of the Year Award for his Oct. 15 stop on New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips
  • Seattle’s Clint Dempsey won the Comeback Player of the Year Award after returning from 2016 heart surgery.

Finally, Andrea Pirlo and Robbie Rogers recently announced their retirements. Both impacted MLS on and off the field as role models for other players and fans alike.

MLS standings, playoffs bracket

MLS Rumors
Atlanta’s Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez have drawn transfer interest from unnamed European clubs, with the MLS club rejecting transfer offers worth $20 million to $25 million for the former and $10 million for hte latter, according to MLS Soccer’s Sam Stejskal. Atlanta coach Tata Martino assured fans Almiron won’t leave before the 2018 season.

Premier League clubs Everton, Leicester City and Brighton are considering trying to sign NYC FC forward Jack Harrison for around £6 million ($8 million), according to The Mail’s Simon Jones. The 21-year-old is English and recently was called up to his country’s U-21 national team and has enjoyed two fine MLS seasons.

Orlando City icon Kaka is leaving the club, which wants to replace him with former Brazil and Real Madrid striker Robinho, according to Yahoo! Brazil.

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets told radio station RAC1 he’s interested in testing himself in MLS when he ends his career with his boyhood club.

And Manchester City star Yaya Toure is in talks to join sister club NYC FC.

Finally, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and NYC are interested in trading for Minnesota winger Miguel Ibarra, who scored three goals and assisted on four in 26 games this season, according to Metro’s Kristian Dyer.

Upcoming MLS games (home team listed first)
Conference finals
Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC, Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 8 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders, Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 9:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew, Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo, Thursday, Nov. 30, at 10:30 p.m. ET

Thumbnail photo via Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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