NYCFC, Portland march on in MLS Cup playoffs

Ira L. Black - Corbis / Getty Images Sport / Getty

New York, Nov 22, 2021 (AFP) - New York City FC punched their ticket to the MLS Cup Eastern Conference semi-finals on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Atlanta United at Yankee Stadium.

Argentinian striker Valentin Castellanos, who led MLS with 19 regular-season goals, put New York ahead in the 49th minute and Alexander Callens struck in the 53rd to seal the victory.

Another Argentinian played a key role in Portland, midfielder Sebastian Blanco scoring twice in the Timbers' 3-1 victory over Minnesota United.

Atlanta had the better of possession in the first half, but as both teams stepped up the intensity each created scoring chances shortly before the interval only to come up empty.

New York finally broke through on a shot by Castellanos, who was unmarked at the back post on a corner kick and volleyed a shot that hit the pitch and bounced over Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan.

"I think it was a very, very high intensity game during 90 minutes," New York coach Ronny Deila said. "Atlanta's a really good football team but I'm so proud of the boys today.

"The intensity we had in our pressure was unbelievable. They almost didn't create anything and we attacked them over and over again in their half and we should have created more chances in the end. But you can't say anything negative when you win 2-0."

Callens double the score with a header and New York advanced to face Eastern Conference top seeds New England in the conference semi-finals on November 30.

"I think we really wore them down and took advantage of the second half," said midfielder James Sands.

The Revolution, who won their first Supporters' Shield as the team topping the regular-season table, enjoyed a first-round bye.

Portland booked a meeting with the West's top-seeded Colorado Rapids on November 25.

Franco Fragapane sent visiting Minnesota ahead early, but the Timbers responded with three goals, starting with Larrys Mabiala's equalizer.

Mabiala knotted the score minutes before halftime, rising to head Claudio Bravo's corner kick past Minnesota keeper Dayne St. Clair.

Blanco grabbed the go-ahead goal two minutes into the second half, seizing upon a loose ball after Minnesota failed to clear a cross and belting a shot inside the far post.

Blanco struck again in the 66th with a thunderous goal from outside the penalty area past a diving St. Clair.

The league will see a new MLS Cup champion crowned this season after 2020 champions Columbus failed to make the playoffs.

NYCFC, Portland march on in MLS Cup playoffs
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