Advantage: Toronto FC.
Big advantage: Seattle Sounders.
MLS moved one step closer to a championship rematch Tuesday as the Supporters’ Shield winners from Canada earned a 0-0 draw at Columbus and the defending champions from the Pacific Northwest claimed a 2-0 away victory against 10-man Houston.
In the second legs, Toronto will be back at full strength next Wednesday at BMO Field with the return of suspended stars Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, while the Sounders will take comfort playing next Thursday in a venue where they’ve lost once this year.
“Zero-zero is not a perfect result,” Toronto Coach Greg Vanney said. “We’d like to get a road goal, but at the end of the day, we have to go back to Toronto and win the game. We’ll be at home, in front of our fans, in our stadium.”
Playing in front of a Save-the-Crew chanting sellout crowd, Columbus generated only a few quality scoring opportunities. Now it will need to get a result — a draw involving goals would do it because of the away-goal rule — in a place where TFC collected 42 of a possible 51 points in the regular season. (Toronto did, however, lose to the Red Bulls in the previous playoff round, though advanced on goal differential.)
“We’ve gone on the road before and got a result,” Crew defender Josh Williams said, “so this isn’t something that’s new to us.”
Toronto captain Michael Bradley’s take on the Columbus relocation situation will not endear him to the Crew faithful or, for that matter, to supporters around the league who are fighting to keep an MLS founding team in place. Here’s Michael Arace’s column in the Columbus Dispatch.
In the Western Conference, Swede midfielder Gustav Svensson scored in the 11th minute, Houston’s Jalil Anibaba was sent off in the 28th and, despite a failed penalty kick, the Sounders extended the lead before halftime on a goal by former Dynamo standout Will Bruin. Tyler Miller, who made one regular season appearance, manned the net for Seattle in place of Stefan Frei, who injured a hamstring in training Sunday.
Seattle had not won in nine previous visits to Houston. And now the Dynamo will have to win by two goals in a place where it has never earned three points. Besides Anibaba, Houston will be without 10-goal scorer Alberth Elis (yellow card suspension).
“Can we win? Yes,” Dynamo Coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “We’re going to take risks because that’s the only option. We need to prepare ourselves for those 90 minutes or it’s going to be the last 90 minutes for us. Or it’s going to be some kind of miracle.”
Regardless of the second-leg results, the Toronto-Columbus winner will host MLS Cup on May 9. Both clubs finished with more regular season points than the Western Conference finalists.
Anibaba’s red card:
Joe Willis’s save:
>> Los Angeles FC, a 2018 MLS expansion side, acquired Egyptian defender-midfielder Omar Gaber on loan from Swiss club Basel. He reunites with LAFC Coach Bob Bradley, the former Egyptian national team boss. Gaber, 25, is the second Egyptian in MLS history, joining current Vancouver defender Ali Ghazal.
LAFC previously signed Mexican forward Carlos Vela from Real Sociedad and Argentine forward Rodrigo Pacheco on loan from Lanus.
>> Americans abroad:
Christian Pulisic missed his second consecutive match with a muscle injury as Borussia Dortmund lost at home to Tottenham Hotspur, 2-1, in the UEFA Champions League. BVB (two points in five group matches) will head to the Europa League, if it can finish ahead of APOEL (two points) for third place in Group H. Pulisic resumed training Wednesday and might play in the Revierderby on Saturday against Schalke, which includes another 19-year-old American, Weston McKennie. FS1 will carry the match, starting at 9:30 a.m. ET.
Omar Gonzalez scored on a fifth-minute header as Pachuca defeated Atlante, 2-0, in the Copa MX semifinals. Los Tuzos will face Monterrey in the final.
Fulham’s Tim Ream played 90 and Sheffield United’s Cameron Carter-Vickers went 58 as Fulham claimed a 5-4 away victory.
Terrible moment for CCV:
Left back Eric Lichaj went 90 in Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 victory over Norwich City.
Midfielder Lynden Gooch logged 63 in Sunderland’s 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa.
Left back Antonee Robinson played 90 in Bolton’s 2-2 draw with Reading.
In the UEFA Youth League, Tottenham U-19 goalkeeper Brandon Austin conceded a soft goal, but Spurs won at Dortmund, 3-1.
Tim Weah played 71 minutes in PSG U-19s’ 2-0 victory over Celtic in UEFA Youth League
Will Yarbrough and Leon vs. Jose Torres and Tigres (10:30 p.m., Univision Deportes)