The first round of MLS playoffs has come to a close and while there were amazing performances all around, only 11 players can feature in the team of the round. Rounding out in a 3-4-3 formation, this team looks to highlight some of the most impressive performances in the first round that saw an exciting clash between the Columbus Crew and Atlanta United as well as the top seeded St. Louis City SC fall to Sporting Kansas City with so much more in between.
Check out our team of the round below:
Pedro Gallese, Orlando City SC: Picking a goalkeeper during playoffs is a tough task due to penalty shootouts but the Orlando City shot stopper made things easy by stopping Nashville SC in their tracks to secure back to back 1-0 victories. In only two games, Gallese had the most goals prevented of any keeper during the first round of MLS Cup Playoffs at 1.69 and also made seven saves for a perfect record stopping every shot on target that he faced. Already having face Hany Mukthar, if Orlando will make it out of the next round they’ll need more from Gallese to stop Cucho Hernandez and the Columbus Crew.
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Nathan Harriel, Philadelphia Union: One of the hardest things for an outside back is being able to deputize on both sides of defense and Harriel was able to do that while pusing the Union through the round by also scoring a goal. Starting the first game at right back, Harriel flipped to left back due to theand will likely stay on the left side against FC Cincinnati in the next round. Growing rapidly as a player, the 22-year-old is setting the stage for a breakout season with the Union next year.
Justen Glad, Real Salt Lake: While Real Salt Lake didn’t make it out of the round, it wasn’t due to lack of trying from Glad and the defense. Blocking the most shots with four and also winning 85 percent of his arial duels Glad was immense despite only playing in two of RSL’s matches. It’s also no coincidence that in the one match that he didn’t feature in was the only one that Houston won in regular time with the other clashes going to penalties.
Brooks Lennon, Atlanta United: Yes, Atlanta conceded a million goals but Lennon also assisted three to do his best to keep the Five Stripes in their exciting tie with he Columbus Crew. Lennon should maybe be counted with midfielders as he has become a defender in name only this season but when you assist three goals in three matches, that’s good enough for me.
Luciano Acosta, FC Cincinatti: Among the front runners for the league MVP award, what can’t Acosta do? Able to assist two goals and score another, Acosta created the fourth most chances among all midfielders with seven but he only needed two games to do it as FC Cincinatti left no doubt facing the New York Red Bulls in the first round.
Hector Herrera, Houston Dynamo: The heartbeat of the Dynamo, Ben Olsen spoke about how Herrera has the keys to the team and when it mattered, it showed. The Mexican international created nine chances, barely misplaced a pass in the final third, scored one goal and assisted another. All while taking the most touches of any midfielder in the first round by almost 100. There are few players more important to their team that Herrera who helps the Dynamo maintain a possession based attack that has enough defensive bite to get the ball when needed.
Aidan Morris, Columbus Crew: A metronome in midfield, Morris has been able to contribute in or out of possession, diving intro tackles, winning duels and turning defense into attack in what was a tough series to emerge with a victory in. Morris’ 25 recoveries were second most among midfielders as the 21-year-old was everywhere.
Albert Rusnak, Seattle Sounders: This midfield is very set-play heavy and for good reason because dead ball scenarios are critical in playoffs. Rusnak bagged two goals and created seven chances while rarely misplacing a pass for the Sounders as they passed FC Dallas. Moving on to face Los Angeles FC, there will be tough games ahead but this is a team that has already competed in the Club World Cup so no MLS team strikes fear into them.
Cucho Hernandez, Columbus Crew: It’s Cucho’s world and we’re just living in it as the Colombian forward bagged three goals and assisted another. The Crew attack runs on Cucho and he does such a good job of making it tick. The depth of forwards around MLS is impressive but none can reach the all-around impact that Cucho has on a game. He’s the main reason that the Crew can go all the way and win MLS Cup.
Alan Pulido, Sporting Kansas City: Knocking off the top team in the Western Conference, it would’ve been safe to assume that Pulido scored three goals across two games to help Sporting do it right? Nope, instead the danger man turned provider creating five chances and logging three assists to send Sporting to the next round. One of the most dangerous attackers in MLS, if Pulido is looking to find his teammates, they’re going to be a tough out.
Giorgos Giakoumakis, Atlanta United: Valiant in defeat, the reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year scored two gosls and assisted two more for the Five Stripes. Every Atlanta United game had attacking fireworks and having a forward that can create and finish like him helped with that. Add in that he’s also excellent in the air and it’s easy to see why only Cucho took more shots during the first round of play.