Decision Day puts RSL, Minnesota and Orlando in the playoffs

With a number of playoff berths still up for grabs on the final day of Major League Soccer’s regular season, rowdiness reigned on Sunday as teams raced to qualify for the playoffs.

Known traditionally as Decision Day, all Eastern Conference teams kicked off simultaneously, followed by all Western Conference teams less than three hours later.

In the end, FC Cincinnati secured a playoff spot for the first time. Real Salt Lake, Orlando City and Minnesota United also grabbed berths. The Portland Timbers, who went to the MLS Cup final last season, were eliminated. And Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar won the Golden Boot.

The stakes were high for Columbus Crew’s game at Orlando City, with the two teams battling it out for the playoffs. The Lions came from behind to defeat the Crew 2-1 and advance.

Brenner scored a hat trick before halftime and FC Cincinnati beat DC United 5-2 on decision day. The Brazilian striker has three hat-tricks and 18 goals this season.

Cincinnati finished fifth in the East, ahead of Inter Miami and Orlando for the final two playoff spots. With the loss, Columbus finished just below the line.

“We’re going to try to take advantage of it because these players and the staff have worked so hard to get to this point,” Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said. “Our goal was not just to get here and hopefully do something special. ”

Like Cincinnati, Miami will make its first playoff appearance despite losing 3-1 to Montreal on Decision Day. David Beckham’s side joined the league in 2020.

“I guess it’s the sum of the parts that’s most important to us,” Miami coach Phil Neville said. “We have built a football team, not just a team of individuals. There are probably teams in this league that have better individuals than us, but they don’t have a better team in terms of spirit. These guys love being together. They love coming to work every morning.

The scandal-ridden Timbers needed a win or a draw at Real Salt Lake to qualify for the playoffs. But RSL emerged 3-1 winners to claim a playoff spot.

The Timbers share ownership with the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League. Earlier this week an investigation was released which details the misconduct in the NWSL. In the fallout, the club fired two executives and owner Merritt Paulson walked away from the teams’ day-to-day operations.

Minnesota United clinched one of the last spots in the West with a 2-0 win over Vancouver. The Whitecaps were eliminated.

A record 19,941 fans watched the Loons clinch at Allianz Field.

“I knew they would show up, I just wanted to make sure we would,” Minnesota coach Adrian Health said of the fans.

GOLDEN BOOT

Nashville’s Mukhtar led the league in scoring with 23 goals to win the Golden Boot award. Austin FC’s Sebastián Driussi and Philadelphia Union’s Dániel Gazdag finished with 22.

Mukhtar is the first German-born player to win the MLS award. He accounted for 44.2% of Nashville’s goals.

Brandon Vasquez and Jesus Ferreira were America’s top scorers, among four players with 18 goals.

TABLE TOPS

Daniel Gazdag scored three goals and the Philadelphia Union beat Toronto 4-0 on Sunday to secure first place in the Eastern standings. Their 19 wins are a club record.

In the West, LAFC had already won the Supporters Shield for the league’s best regular season record. This is the second time in four seasons that LAFC has won this honor.

FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS:

As the top team in the East, Philadelphia gets a first-round bye. Union will face the winner of the game between the fourth-seeded Red Bulls and No. 5 Cincinnati. No. 7 Montreal hosts No. 7 Orlando and No. 3 NYCFC, MLS Cup champions last year, take on Miami.

LAFC has the West’s first-round bye and will face the winner of the game between fourth-seeded LA Galaxy and No. 5 Nashville. Second-seeded Austin will host No. 7 Salt Lake and No. 3 Dallas will host No. 6 Minnesota.

MADE FOR THE YEAR

Teams that were knocked out of the playoffs this season included Charlotte, New England, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto, DC United, Colorado, Seattle, San Jose, Kansas City, Houston, Columbus, Portland and Vancouver.

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AP Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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