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MLS Decision East 5-7: Cincy clinch, Columbus Crew miss out

columbus crew miss

EDITORIAL – The MLS regular season concluded on Sunday with Decision Day 2022. It was chaos and goals for the teams that were competing for seeds 5-7 in the Eastern Conference. FC Cincinnati played at D.C. United for a chance to make the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in their history. Orlando City hosted a de facto play in game, as . Elsewhere, Inter Miami had already clinched a playoff birth but had a chance to improve their seeding against a top seeded CF Montreal team.

MLS Decision East 5-7: Cincy clinch, Columbus Crew miss out

Click here for Last Word’s review of the Easter Conference seeds 1-4.

Orlando City 2-1 Columbus Crew

The most consequential game of the day. Two teams in seventh and eight in the conference. Effectively a play-in game. Columbus were the better team in the first half. Pedro Gallese made a great save off the post on Cucho Hernandez. Crew scored in the 38th when Zelarayan backheeled the ball past four defenders to find Derrick Etienne who scored. Orlando came out with more energy in the second. Júnior Urso equalized in the 56th with a great spin move to shake a defender. The game and the fate of both teams hung in the balance. Orlando won a penalty on a handball by Milos Degenek on a bang-bang play off a corner. Facundo Torres buried the spot kick and Orlando held on to break Black and Gold hearts.

Inter Miami 1-3 CF Montreal

Miami looked nothing like the team that blew out Orlando midweek to clinch the playoffs. They weren’t engaged defensively from the opening minutes. Goalkeeper Drake Callender gave up the ball in his own box in the 5th minute for an easy goal for Djordje Mihailovic. Their defense let Montreal to go right through them for two more goals before halftime. Lassi Lappalainen got a tap in while Kei Kamara strolled forward unchallenged to make it 3-0. Gonzalo Higuaín was subbed out in the 58th for a precautionary injury. Inter got on the board with a poor own goal by Joel Watterman in the 85th minute.

D.C. United 2-5 FC Cincinnati

Cincinnati controlled their destiny going into Decision Day. Win and they make the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history, no matter what else happens. They got out to a flying start. A quick counter attack saw Lucho Acosta score six minutes in. Brenner recorded a hattrick by the 37th minute, emphatically celebrating the second two goals. Ravel Morrison scored with a rocket in the 26th to make it 3-1 at the time. Kristian Fletcher make it 4-2 in the opening minutes of the second half. Brandon Vazquez scored off the press minutes later to quell the comeback. Cincy cruised to victory and the postseason.

Last Word: What it means for each team

What a season for FCC, who ended up fifth. They’re scoring goals for fun. They’ve got a three headed monster up top. They controlled their destiny and didn’t blow it. Their defense is too leaky for them to win MLS Cup. But in a one-off goal fest, they can compete with anyone. Pat Noonan righted the ship in turning this Wooden Spoon contender into a playoff team. Every Cincy fan deserves this joy. They play New York Red Bulls in the first round, with all the pressure on RBNY.

Inter Miami end up sixth. Similar to Cincinnati, the coaching staff and players have improved massively on 2022 in making the postseason. That said, this week showed what they are. They can beat bad teams, but they’re non-competitive against the top teams. Higuaín going off for an injury is a concern. They are at New York City FC for the first round. Make mistakes, and City will tear them apart just like Montreal did.

Orlando City are the last team in. It was a rousing second half performance that did it, just like in the Open Cup final. CF Montreal on the road will not be easy. They’ll have to rely on Gallese defensively. Facundo Torres has been their difference maker. If Montreal can keep him in check, it will be tough for Orlando. This season’s already a success with the Open Cup trophy.

Columbus Crew miss out on the playoffs. They are the “Ah ****, here we go again” meme in real life. They were the better team in the first half. They scored first. Then a critical mistake in the final minutes cost them. They’ve set records for points dropped from a winning position and losses from a winning position. It was a fitting and horrible way for them to finish eighth. Hard to see Caleb Porter keeping his job given the talent and how they went out.

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