MLS Cup Playoffs: Zusi, Blanco star; KC, Timbers, NYC, Union win (video)

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Major League Soccer’s home field advantage is alive and well in the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, even when the travel doesn’t cover great distances.

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Portland, NYCFC, Sporting KC, and Philadelphia all won their Round One matches as the MLS postseason kicked off Saturday and Sunday in the United States.

There were clean sheet wins in the Eastern Conference and 3-1 wins out West, with two more Round One matches set up for Tuesday in Seattle and Nashville.

New York City FC 2-0 Atlanta United

Valentin Castellanos and Alexander Callens each scored early in the second half as Ronny Deila’s NYCFC lived up to their advanced stats billing with a 2-0 win on the postage stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium.

NYCFC will face Bruce Arena’s New England in the conference semis.

For those of you who’ve played wall ball, remember how that funny bounce always made for an infuriating return attempt?

Castellanos’ goal has a lot of that in it.

 

Sporting KC 3-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

76-year-old Graham Zusi (we kid) showed that class is permanent with a goal and an assist to join Khiry Shelton and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin on the score sheet of a big win.

Zusi also had three tackles and three interceptions as the 35-year-old (we don’t kid) looks prepared for another run at glory.

Peter Vermes and his crew allowed an equalizer from the spot but reclaimed the lead before halftime and Zusi scored in the 58th minute to send KC into the next round.

Philadelphia Union 1-0 (aet) New York Red Bulls

Jakob Glesnes played all 120 minutes of this one, where his eight clearances meant a lot for Jim Curtin’s Union but his stoppage-time winner was the real MVP.

Portland Timbers 3-1 Minnesota United

An early Loons goal did not last as Sebastian Blanco scored two remarkable goals to lift the host Timbers into the next round.

Larrys Mabiala tied the game after Franco Frangapane put Minnesota on top after 11 minutes, and Gio Savarese’s men move on to the next.