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MLS Cup Playoffs First Round, Mexicans Abroad: What we learned

MLS: MLS Cup Playoffs-Round One-LA Galaxy at Minnesota United FC Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs officially got underway this weekend, and what a weekend it was. Marco Fabian made a heroic late appearance, while Jonathan dos Santos sent the LA Galaxy through to the Western Conference Semifinals with a banger. Here is what we learned from the First Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Marco Fabian the super sub?(!)

The Philadelphia Union made history on Sunday, winning their first ever MLS Cup Playoff match thanks to a 4-3 win over the New York Red Bulls. This was a wild one in Philadelphia, and it went all the way to extra time after the hosts came from 3-1 down to level the score with 12 minutes to go in the match. The hero and author of the game-winning goal was none other than Marco Fabian, who initially started the match on the bench and didn’t come on until the 103rd minute.

It’s fair to say Fabian has had a tumultuous first year in Major League Soccer, and as evidenced by Sunday’s match, he hasn’t always been of the liking of manager Jim Curtin. But Fabian came up big when it mattered the most and scored arguably the most important goal in Philadelphia Union history.

Fabian’s place in the starting XI might well continue to be up in the air, but thanks to this goal his name will forever be written in Philadelphia Union folklore. In a more immediate sense, however, his goal helped build even more momentum for the Union’s already memorable season, something they will definitely need in the next round against the defending champion Atlanta United.

This is the thing about the Playoffs (and you see this often in the Liga MX Liguilla as well). Atlanta might have the more refined style of play, but at the end of the day, momentum can make or break your campaign. The Union right now are riding a big blue wave, and who would want to count them out of potentially surprising Atlanta United at home?

Jonathan dos Santos shows his worth in big Galaxy win

Thank you Taylor Twellman. We have been saying it all season. Outside of perhaps Zlatan Ibrahimovic there hasn’t been a more important player in the LA Galaxy roster this season than Jonathan dos Santos. What a way for the 29-year-old Mexico international to send his team through to the next round. With the score 1-0 in favor of the Galaxy, JDS scored a rocket past Vito Mannone to essentially seal the win for the five-time MLS Cup champs.

Again, it’s not just this goal that should highlight JDS’s importance to this team. He has been massive in just about every aspect of the field. You can tell in the way he presses for the ball and the way he gets involved in every Galaxy build up that we are talking about a player with a considerable amount of talent over those around him. That’s not to knock on Major League Soccer or anything, it is just often when foreign players come this league they tend to struggle to make use of that difference in talent, especially when it comes to a position like Jonathan’s. Naturally, it is easy for somebody like Carlos Vela to score 30+ goals as a forward and get all the recognition, but a midfielder’s job is often overlooked.

Well, there is no reason to overlook Jonathan dos Santos now. He is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in all of MLS, and like against Minnesota United, he is sure to play big a role on Thursday against rivals LAFC.

We get another headlining “El Trafico” in the Playoffs

Following LAFC’s last regular season home match against the Colorado Rapids, somebody within LAFC’s front office called a potential LAFC/Galaxy matchup in the playoffs as the biggest game in Major League Soccer history. That may be a bit of a stretch, but there is no denying this is as big as a game as it gets in Major League Soccer.

Understandably, the big talking point in the lead-up to this match is probably going to be LAFC’s inability to beat their crosstown rivals. But this would be ignoring the fact that we are actually getting a really nice matchup between two teams with two completely different styles of play and two completely different ways of seeing the game. If there is anything LAFC have prided themselves in doing this season is playing good football. The Galaxy are more of the kind of team that don’t care about these things. In addition to being the more tactical side, they just want to win.

Beyond these two factors, of course, there is also the Carlos Vela/Zlatan Ibrahimovic dynamic. These are arguably the two biggest superstars in the league and what better advert for the league than a single-match elimination game between the goal king Vela and the Swedish lion.