By Scott Adamson
The first leg of the conference finals are complete in Major League Soccer, and only the Seattle Sounders took a major step toward the MLS Cup.
The Sounders, who claimed the league title last season, defeated Houston 2-0 on Tuesday in the Western Conference championship.
In the Eastern Conference, Toronto FC and Columbus played to a 0-0 draw.
Seattle will try to secure its spot in the 2017 MLS Cup when it hosts Houston on Nov. 30, while FC and the Crew will settle the issue a day earlier in Toronto.
The MLS Cup is set for Dec. 9 at the site of the finalist with the best record.
In Seattle’s win, Gustav Svensson tallied the game-winner in the 11th minute and Will Bruin added insurance in the 42nd minute.
Houston was forced to play a man down from the 27th minute on when Dynamo right back Jalil Anibaba pulled down Joevin Jones in the penalty box and was sent off.
Tyler Miller had three saves in the shutout.
United Soccer League awards
Nine days after Louisville FC claimed the league title, the USL has handed out the last of its awards for the 2017 season.
Reno 1868 FC’s Dane Kelly on Wednesday was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Scoring 18 goals for the expansion club, Kelly entered the season as the USL’s modern-era leader with 48 regular-season goals. The Jamaican now has 66 regular-season goals in his professional career.
“A player like me, who has been playing in the league for such a long time, to be awarded the Golden Boot earlier in the season and then get the MVP award, it means so much to me,” said Kelly, who joined the USL in 2012. “I couldn’t have done any of this without the help of my Reno 1868 FC family, so I have to say kudos to them for helping me have such a good season.”
Real Monarchs SLC’s Mark Briggs is Coach of the Year, getting 41 percent of the vote to Louisville City FC’s James O’Connor’s 31 percent.
“It hasn’t really hit home because I’m preparing for next year where we’re already trying to bring in the players we want for next year and planning for another successful year,” Briggs said. “I loved every minute of this season, but I love what I do, I’m passionate about what I do and hopefully I can do it for a long time.”
San Antonio FC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo is the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year.
The netminder, in his first year with san Antonio, led the USL with 12 shutouts and finished second in the league with a 0.80 goals-against average.
“Obviously, I had a great team in front of me that completely helped me feel very comfortable and get me adjusted very quickly,” Restrepo said. “A lot of credit goes to them, and I knew I had the backing of the coaches and I just took it game by game, minute by minute, and that’s one thing I never take for granted.”
Restrepo teammate Sebastien Ibeagha is Defender of the Year.
Playing 2,700 minutes, Ibeagha was part of defense that allowed only 24 goals in 32 regular-season contests and led the league with 15 shutouts.
“It’s truly an honor to win this award, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention how big of a role the entire team played in this accomplishment,” Ibeagha said. “We had a great group this season, and without them, we would not have had such a great defensive record. I want to thank the USL for giving me this award, and I’m honored to be among the other finalists who had great seasons.”
Finally, Reno 1868 FC’s Chris Wehan is the USL’s Rookie of the Year.
He tied the USL single-season record for assists with 12.
“It was a great year – I think all of the stars aligned for me,” said Wehan. “I was on a really good team, I had a lot of good players around me which helped me personally. I had a chip on my shoulder a little bit after what I’d gone through with the draft and not finding a home at the very start, but I was super-fortunate this year to be part of the group.”