The 2017 MLS Cup playoffs resumed with something far short of a bang but much more than a whimper.
The four remaining teams returned to action Tuesday night in the first-leg games of the Conference Championship series. Both were cagey affairs, as many predicted, but only the Western Conference showdown between the Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo produced goals and an early advantage.
The two-week FIFA international break probably bears responsibility for the apparent lack of sharpness, as does the ramped-up pressure that accompanies the latter stages of playoffs. The teams will play the return legs next week, and fans should expect increases in quality, drama and surprises.
But first, let’s review the past week’s action and news in our weekly MLS review:
Latest MLS Scores (home team listed first)
Conference Championship, first leg
Columbus Crew 0, Toronto FC 0
Houston Dynamo 0, Seattle Sounders 2
Key talking points
In what’s likely their final home game of the season, the Crew failed to match the frenzied energy the fans provided at MAPFRE Stadium. Toronto contained and frustrated the home team, holding Columbus to just three shots on goal.
To make matters worse for the Crew, they’ll be without midfielder Artur for the second leg due to yellow-card accumulation.
Houston’s home outing was more disastrous, as the Dynamo conceded goals early and late in the first half and lost the services of defender Jalil Anibaba to a red card. Joe Willis’ penalty-kick save was the lone bright spot for the hosts, who face an uphill battle for their postseason lives.
Off the field, MLS announced two more award winners for the 2017 season:
— Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron was named MLS Newcomer of the Year.
— Sporting Kansas City’s Tim Melia was voted MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
MLS standings, playoffs bracket
Orlando City is pursuing Uruguayan playmaker Giorgian De Arrascaeta, who plays for Brazilian club Cruzeiro, according to Goal.com. Cruzeiro rejected the Lions’ $7 million transfer offer for de Arrascaeta, but Orlando could return with a higher offer.
Upcoming MLS games (home team listed first)
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
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