Stalemate at BC Place: A case for ending MLS's two-leg playoffs

Vancouver put five goals past San Jose on Wednesday night but didn't put a shot on target against Seattle. Then again, the Sounders only managed one shot on goal as in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinals series ended in a 0-0 tie.

The cautious play of two teams wanting to have everything to play for in Thursday's second leg was a downer for Vancouver's largest crowd of the season and made the case for abandoning the two-leg format for the conference semifinals and finals.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC.

1. Depleted Sounders hold their own.

The Sounders were without Clint Dempsey (red-card suspension), Jordan Morris (out since early September with a hamstring injury) and Victor Rodriguez (also injured) while Ozzie Alonso and Gustav Svensson, both nursing injuries, began the game on the bench.

But a patchwork squad did enough to stymie the 'Caps. The big surprise was Martinique international Jordy Delem, who made only his second start in three months and was inserted in central midfield in Alonso's place alongside Cristian Roldan.

“[Delem] did great," said Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer. "It shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s a good player." 

2. Seattle denied by crossbar on best chance.

The best chance of the game came in the first half when Joevin Jones played a ball into the area that Vancouver defender Kendall Waston ripped off his crossbar. The only shot on goal was Chad Marshall's header in the 48th minute

Schmetzer's only regret was that the Sounders did not press the issue and get an away goal they could take back home.

“I thought there were opportunities in the second half," he said, "and even the one opportunity we had in the first half where we were able to get behind their defence and actually create some problems."

3. Whitecaps content to not concede at home.

Vancouver came into the game with injury issues of its own. Yordy Reyna and Cristian Techera, two key pieces in the attack, began the game on the bench. In their place, Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson started Brek Shea and gave Nigerian Nosa just his second start of the season.

But the cautious play of the Whitecaps put a damper on the match that drew 27,837 fans at BC Place, the their largest crowd of the season.

"It was important we didn't concede today," Robinson said. "In two-legged ties, conceding at home is a no-no. I learned that years ago. That was the mindset."

Photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC.

Oct. 29 in Vancouver
Vancouver 0 Seattle 0.
Vancouver -- Marinovic; Nerwinski, de Jong, Parker, Waston; Bolanos (Techera 76), Shea (Mezquida 89), Nosa (Reyna 62), Tchani, Ghazal; Montero.
Seattle -- Frei; Marshall (Neagle 78), Leerdam, Nouhou, Torres; Lodeiro, Delem (Svensson 64), Jones, Shipp (Alonso 74), Roldan; Bruin.
Att.: 27,837.

16 comments about "Stalemate at BC Place: A case for ending MLS's two-leg playoffs".
  1. Andrew Kear, October 30, 2017 at 7:32 a.m.

    Now that the USMNT sucks again it is hard to get interested in the MLS. America now has an established professional league along with a lousy national team.

  2. Scott Johnson replied, October 30, 2017 at 11:54 a.m.

    Yet you were interested enough to tell us this.

    I congratulate you on your superior level of soccer fandom.  Obviously, you are a far more keen student of the game then us mere mortals and plebes who do watch the MLS, utterly unaware that the soccer isn't as good as the Prem or La Liga.  Thank you for imparting your sage wisdom on us knuckle-draggers.

  3. Kenneth Cabral replied, October 30, 2017 at 12:46 p.m.

    So what's your argument against the two leg format? Agreed that these teams did not give it their all, but that is not an indictment of the two leg format.  It's an indictment of the coaches for coaching a laclkuster game.

  4. Gus Ortiz, October 30, 2017 at 11:06 a.m.

    I absolutely agree with doing away with two leg play-offs.  Not only would MLS not have to rush  matches thus giving teams more time to sell tickets and create hype, we would not have to watch teams sit back and not get scored upon which seams to be the most important thinking for home teams especially for the first match.  MLS will do better with only one match play-offs no doubt about it.

  5. Scott Johnson, October 30, 2017 at 11:52 a.m.

    Is the problem the two-legged playoffs, or the away-goals rule?

    The reason for the away goals rule is understandable--reduce the chance of a series being decided by a shootout.  But much like the "golden goal" was proposed, implemented, and later withdrawn for the same reason: it was hoped it would eliminate shootouts, instead it brought more of them as coaches refused to attack less they be beaten oun a counter.

    The problem, fundamentally, is that soccer is a low-scoring game, thus overtime is an unreliable way to break ties (unlike a 5-minute overtime in hoops or extra innings in baseball).  If you change the rules to make certain goals count more than others, you change the game.  Do things to make the game more offensive (taking players off the field, or eliminating keepers), you change and cheapen the game.  (American football's rules for breaking ties, both NCAA and NFL, are downright horrible).

    I don't mind penalty shootouts, actually.  Anbody think that the Columbus/Atlanta game last week--a scoreless tie that went into a shootout--was boring?  If and when games are boring, it's when both teams park their respective buses neither side makes any serious attempt to score.

  6. beautiful game, October 30, 2017 at 12:21 p.m.

    Knock out is best in play-offs. Let teams fight it out in an all or nothing scenario. 

  7. Joseph Hope, October 30, 2017 at 12:59 p.m.

    The most neagtive rule in soccer is the Offside Rule.

    If Offside is restricted from the edge of the Penalty Area to the Goal line the game would be more entertaining. and lots more goals would be scored.

  8. beautiful game replied, October 30, 2017 at 5:54 p.m.

    Joe, you would "hope" that more goals would be scored from your "reinvented off-side rule". not in the MLS amigo where mediocrity rules. The current off-side rule benefits both the offense and defense, and its for the latter to figure out how to take advantage away from the opponent. It's balanced, and you want to unbalance it.

  9. Allan Lindh, October 30, 2017 at 4:54 p.m.

    All of these complaints are secondary to so many of the playoff matches being played on third rate, worn out plastic rugs.  Time to set a moratorium on turf.  Have a real grass field, or no home matches in the playoffs.  I know there are a million excuses, but they all boil down to being willing to field a grossly inferior product.

  10. beautiful game replied, October 30, 2017 at 5:58 p.m.

    Thank you A.L.; most bloggers see what they want to see and don't consider the center of gravity in the game.

  11. :: SilverRey :: replied, October 31, 2017 at 10:51 a.m.

    I sincerely wish MLS had put out a mandate long ago stipulating natural grass fields for every stadium. I don't care how 'modern' their field turf is, there isn't a plastic field out there that makes soccer better.

  12. Scott Johnson replied, October 31, 2017 at 12:38 p.m.

    If we do that--we also must stipulate minimum acceptable conditions for grounds.  The field conditions in Houston last night were terrible--I'd rather see the game played on a reasonable-quality turf than played on that. 

    Maintaining grass in a hostile climate is hard, of course, which is why some teams (especially in the cold and wet North) use turf, and other teams (ahem Dynamo) simply let their field conditions deteriorate.  But if MLS is to be a first-class league, teams should be willing and able to spend money on a competent grounds crew.  After all, that's not limited by the salary cap; no TAM needs be spent on the guy who drives the Deere around.

  13. Jim Ngo, October 30, 2017 at 8:22 p.m.

    Here's a counter idea:  Put enough talent in the MLS to have the confidence to win the match.

  14. beautiful game replied, October 31, 2017 at 3:34 p.m.

    Jim N; you da man who speaks volumes about the mediocre MLS talent...well put in so few words.

  15. Scott Johnson replied, October 31, 2017 at 6:04 p.m.

    What does this have, specifically, to do with MLS?

    Two-legged fixtures with an away-goals tiebreaker have been used in professional soccer for more than fifty years.  This rule predates red and yellow cards, after all.  Any criticism offered on the effect of the tiebreaking rules on the style of play, has little to do with Major League Soccer.

    If it is the contention that MLS offenses are sufficiently anemic as to make attacking play risky; I'd counter that MLS defense are equally flawed, and the risk is thereby mitigated.  In the case of the Sounders, they had one of their best offensive players out on suspension.  

  16. R2 Dad, November 2, 2017 at 11:25 a.m.

    A single match, played on grass. Superior record should decide who hosts. If the host doesn't have a grass field, the match should be played on the nearest grass field to be determined by the host. Unfortunately the current season format does not support teams in cold climates, so MLS should realign with what the scandanavian teams (and many other leagues)have--a fall season and spring season. Compacting the current playoff schedule by reducing 2 matches to 1 will also enable an earlier final when weather is better. December final is a joke to the soccer people--another reason why the money guys need to have less say in how soccer issues are run in this country.

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