The MLS inched closer to a conclusion this weekend during matchday 26. Plenty of playoff hopefuls faced off in a bid to cement that they will be playing postseason football this season. Whereas some playoff contenders slipped up against division rivals and gave the teams below them hope of hopping into the playoffs before the season ends.
Two teams hovering around the Eastern Conference playoffs faced off during matchday 26 in Atlanta United and D.C. United. The two teams were separated by a point before they met at the Mercedes-Benz Arena this weekend and Atlanta United would get the better of their conference rival and take their place in the playoff positions.
The home team got off to the perfect start by opening the scoring inside 20 minutes. Argentinian forward Ezequiel Barco hammered home a sublime free-kick to give Atlanta the 1-0 lead and put the home side in control at halftime.
After the half, Venezuelan Josef Martinez doubled Atlanta United’s lead and it seemed that they had secured all three points with 30 minutes to go. However, on 75 minutes, Felipe Martins connected with a volley into the right corner to drag D.C. United back into the game.
The comeback wouldn’t last long. Full-back George Bello was on the end of a cross to the back post and put the ball into an empty net to make it 3-1 to Atlanta United with three minutes to play. D.C. did get one goal back before the final whistle but they couldn’t complete the comeback and were defeated 3-2 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
These two sides were at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference when they met at the weekend. Toronto sat bottom of the Eastern Conference, winning three games all season and sitting on 15 points (the lowest in either conference). As for Nashville, they sat second in the Eastern Conference behind New England Revolution and were six points clear of third before the fixture began.
However, Toronto shocked the MLS by defeating Nashville at BMO Field. Toronto netted the first goal of the game in the 18th minute through attacking midfielder Jacob Shaffelburg before being pegged back late in the game. In the 74th minute, C.J. Sapong appeared to have grabbed a point for Nashville as he equalized but the sides would be level for only five minutes. Centre-back Omar Gonzalez would grab the winner in the 79th minute for Toronto’s fourth league win and the shock result of the weekend.
Orlando City slumped to three straight defeats as they were beaten by conference rivals Philadelphia Union this weekend. Orlando was already missing Nani and Andres Pereira for this fixture, and their disciplinary problems continued as they ended their game in Philadelphia with ten men.
Before Antonio Carlos’ sending off in the 88th minute, Philadelphia Union already had the lead. Kai Wagner opened for the Union before halftime but Orlando managed to get level before the hour through Ruan - his second in as many games. A brace from Kasper Przybylko in the final half-hour gave Union all three points and catapulted them into seventh in the Eastern Conference after matchday 26.
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