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Unyielding dominance: Jozy Altidore thunders TFC to MLS Cup Final

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Jozy Altidore took brash to the next level, in turn driving Toronto FC to its first MLS Cup final.

The American striker knew his team was down 3-2 after one leg. He also knew that Montreal’s defenders didn’t like his physical play in Quebec.

So he dug in.

[ MATCH RECAP: Toronto 5-2 (7-5 agg.) Montreal ]

Altidore told Montreal defender Victor Cabrera to “do more curls”, unapologetic for using his massive frame and electric athleticism to boss the Impact’s back line.

When play opened at a raucous BMO Field on Wednesday, Altidore delivered an irrepressible performance. From minute one, the 27-year-old USMNT striker was throwing his body around and daring someone to catch it.

This wasn’t the man who struggled to justify his $13 million price tag at Sunderland; It was the evolution of a man who bagged goals for fun at AZ Alkmaar and has a legit chance to chase down Landon Donovan as the USMNT’s all-time leading goal scorer.

There was Altidore, plowing his way through defenders to catch a ball near the end line and challenge goalkeeper Evan Bush. There he was again, going 100mph into a card-worthy collision with Hernan Bernardello.

And it wasn’t strictly enforcer business. Altidore scored a goal scorer’s goal with his header of a Sebastian Giovinco corner, then supplied an extra time assists as Tossaint Rickets put this one to bed.

Like he had done all season, Altidore celebrated with the fans and praised their fortitude following the win. TFC hadn’t just been bad for most of their existence; The Reds were awful. A passionate fan base had learned to expect very little from big name signings, at least until the past two seasons.

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) reacts after scoring against the Montreal Impact during the first half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

“It’s all for their fans. They suffered a long time. To deliver the type of season we had, it means a lot.”

And the fans had. They needed a bull to pull them through their struggles. While Toronto as a city likes to think of itself as the playmaking wizardry of Sebastian Giovinco, Altidore did it for the blue collar types.

For my Ontario hockey types, he rolled Wendel Clark, Mats Sundin, and Gary Roberts into one package, and spit out something Leafs fans haven’t seen since 1967: an appearance in a championship game.

TFC will be at home come Dec. 10, and the focus will be on electric imports Sebastian Giovinco (if he’s healthy) and Nicolas Lodeiro. Fans will bring up the names of Michael Bradley and Jordan Morris.

But it’s the big striker, on the heels of a roller coaster European adventure, who got them there. On Wednesday night in Canada, Josmer Volmy Altidore was an absolute monster.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”