Sporting Kansas City and the Vancouver Whitecaps both won decisive third games to reach the Round of 16 at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Fla.
But the teams, who will meet Sunday night, advanced in much different ways.
After blowing a lead in second-half stoppage time, in part because of an own goal, Kansas City lost its tournament opener 2-1 to Minnesota United. But SKC (2-1-0, six points in the group stage) rebounded with a 3-2 victory against Colorado and a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake to claim first place in Group D.
"I thought that we were in much better form at the start of the season," said SKC coach Peter Vermes, referring to the pandemic-delayed MLS campaign. "This second restart has been a lot more difficult. The good thing is we have gotten better from one game to another in these last three games. And that part's important.
"But we have a long way to go. We really do. We've got to get back in the rhythm of our play. There's a lot of pieces in our game that need to get sharper."
Vancouver (1-2-0, three points) blew a two-goal lead against San Jose to lose its tournament opener 4-3, then was blanked by rival Seattle 3-0.
The Whitecaps defeated Chicago 2-0 in their final group match, as Yordy Reyna had a goal and an assist after a lengthy lightning delay, to earn a wild-card berth into the Round of 16. Goalkeeper Thomas Hasal, playing for the injured Maxime Crepeau, made four saves in his first MLS start for the shutout.
"We didn't put our heads down. We used those games to grow and to become better," Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos said. "What happened in the last 30 minutes against Chicago definitely boosted the confidence of the guys, and now there's a belief that even with everything that happened ... we could still have a chance of moving forward."
SKC hold a 10-3-4 lead in the all-time series against Vancouver, including 3-1 road victory in the MLS regular-season opener this spring.
--Field Level Media