SEATTLE – Nicolas Lodeiro scored on a penalty kick in the 61st minute and the Seattle Sounders beat the Colorado Rapids 2-1 on Tuesday night in the first-leg of the MLS Western Conference finals.
Seattle will take an important one-goal advantage into the second match of the two-game series on Sunday in Colorado. But the Rapids picked up an important road goal which could serve as the tiebreaker if the aggregate-goal series finishes tied. A win or a tie by Seattle on Sunday would put the Sounders in the MLS Cup final for the first time.
Lodeiro caused issues all over the field for Colorado before drawing the penalty 15 minutes into the second half. A deflected ball rolled to Lodeiro in the penalty area and he was taken down by Marc Burch. Lodeiro sent goalkeeper Zac MacMath the wrong direction and scored his fourth goal of the playoffs.
After a 16-day layoff due to a break for international competition, what was expected to be a defensive struggle was instead a lively showcase that featured chances on both ends.
Kevin Doyle gave Colorado an early advantage when his shot in the 13th minute deflected off Seattle defender Chad Marshall and past goalkeeper Stefan Frei, stunning the 42,774 in attendance for the Sounders’ third appearance in the conference finals. Doyle was able to get free thanks to a smart decision by Shkelzen Gashi letting the pass from Jermaine Jones run through.
Seattle responded almost immediately with Jordan Morris pulling the Sounders even in the 19th minute jumping on the rebound of Cristian Roldan’s shot that beat MacMath but ricocheted off the post. Seattle was unsure if Morris would play after suffering an hamstring injury in the second-game of its semifinal win over FC Dallas. The injury kept Morris from joining the U.S. national team for its qualifying matches against Mexico and Costa Rica.
MacMath did his part making his first start since Sept. 3 with Tim Howard out for the year after undergoing surgery for an adductor injury suffered with the U.S. during the loss to Mexico. MacMath made four saves, none better than a sequence midway through the first half where he pushed aside a header from Lodeiro and off the ensuing corner kick smothered Nelson Valdez’s shot at the back post.
Impact hold off Toronto FC following groundskeeping delay
MONTREAL – Dominic Oduro scored the first of three straight Montreal goals and the Impact held on for a 3-2 victory over Toronto FC on Tuesday night in a wild opening game to their Eastern Conference final.
The match was delayed 30 minutes by a groundskeeping error, but then Oduro, Matteo Mancosu and Ambroise Oyongo put Montreal in front in the opening 53 minutes. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley answered back before a roaring sellout crowd of 61,004 at Olympic Stadium.
While Montreal will take a lead into the second leg of the two-game, total goals series, Toronto picked up two all-important away goals that can serve as the tiebreaker. A 1-0 or 2-1 TFC win in the second leg at home would win Toronto the series.
Montreal looked well on its way to crushing TFC in a playoff match for a second year in a row, having beaten their closest rival 3-0 in the single-game knockout round in October 2015 – a result Toronto players vowed to avenge.
The match got off to an embarrassing start for the home side as the lines for the 18-yard boxes were too narrow and had to be repainted. Fans cheered as each new line was drawn.
They got louder as Montreal used two quick attacks against the flat-looking TFC to take the lead.
In the 10th minute, Hassoun Camara fed the ball ahead to Patrice Bernier, who slipped it past defender Nick Hagglund to send Oduro in alone on the right side. Oduro fired a low shot inside the far post for his first of the playoffs.
Two minutes later, Oduro intercepted Steven Beitashour’s pass and lofted it to Ignacio Piatti on the left wing. The Argentine put a hard pass into the box, where Mancosu stepped in front of a defender to redirect the ball past goalie Clint Irwin.
In the 53rd, Oyongo striped the ball from Sebastian Giovinco near the halfway line and took it in on a solo run to the edge of the Toronto box, cut left and shot across his body inside the right post.
With Montreal still in control a few minutes later, TFC coach Greg Vanney substituted midfielders Jonathan Osario and Armando Cooper with forward Tosaint Ricketts and midfielder Will Johnson. It looked to give his side a spark.
In the 69th, Tosaint put a ball off the post, but Beitashour got it to Altidore for a header from close range.
Four minutes later TFC was again buzzing inside the Montreal box. Altidore looked to push defender Victor Cabrera to the ground to open up space to slip a pass to Ricketts, who fed Bradley for a shot from directly in front.
Toronto reached the conference final with a convincing 7-0 aggregate win over second-place New York City, while Montreal upset the top-seeded New York Red Bulls 3-1. Both are farther into the playoffs than they’ve ever been before.
With last week’s FIFA international break, it had been 16 days since either team last played a match.
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