Dominic Oduro

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MLS (afternoon) roundup: NYCFC dominate, disappoint; ATL keep rolling

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The third MLS Saturday of 2017 is one-third of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New York City FC 1-1 Montreal Impact

To reiterate: Rodney Wallace is a heavy for to be named under-the-radar signing of the season. After a year in Brazil, Wallace is back in MLS (he was one of Portland Timbers’ best players during their 2015 MLS Cup run), and looking every bit the perfect complement to David Villa and Maxi Moralez in NYCFC’s trident of attacking terror. On Saturday, Wallace bagged his second goal in as many games (to go with an assist last week as well), in the process putting the home side 1-0 up just before halftime. A lot like Wallace leading up to his loose-ball finish, NYCFC are absolutely relentless along all levels of the field when playing on the tiny Yankee Stadium field.

That relentlessness has revealed an old problem (figuratively and literally) turned new problem: Andrea Pirlo is exposed and left for dead anytime an opponent breaks the high press. They’re also still really suspect at the back, which was best exhibited when Dominic Oduro pulled Montreal back to level terms with just over 20 minutes left to play.

It’s extremely clear, just 37 games into his NYCFC tenure that 1) Patrick Vieira is a very, very good coach; 2) he’s not long for MLS, as a number of forward-thinking European clubs will come calling sooner rather than later.

[ MORE: Five things to watch in MLS — Week 3 ]

Atlanta United 4-0 Chicago Fire

Here’s the thing about Atlanta: you think you know, but you have no idea whether or not they’re #actually good. Just hear me out. Yes, they’ve scored 11 goals in their first three MLS games (conceded just three), and that’s really good. We’ve also seem them capitulate in the final 20 minutes while protecting a 1-0 lead, and lose 2-1. Last week, their 6-1 thrashing of Minnesota United, who look every bit the worst team in MLS history, was played in a literal blizzard. On Saturday, Gerardo Martino’s side walloped the Chicago Fire at Bobby Dodd Stadium, to the tune of 4-0, but did so with a man advantage for 79 minutes. In terms of sheer entertainment value, they’re the best team in MLS.

Anyway, here’s the (awesome) goals, scored by Josef Martinez (two) and Hector Villalba, on Saturday, which is what you’re really here to see.

[ MORE: Arena names 24 to senior roster ahead of WCQs next week ]

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-2 Toronto FC

A summation Toronto FC’s opening three games of 2017: I have no thoughts. A 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake saw next to nothing happen for 90 minutes; last week’s 2-2 draw with the Philadelphia Union was back-and-forth with so little time between the sides trading goals that neither side stood out in any way; Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Vancouver was impressive in that winning on the road is always an accomplishment in MLS, though Brek Shea‘s 70th-minute red card was the beginning of the end for the home side. Victor Vazquez and Jozy Altidore bagged goals four minutes apart not long after Shea departed.

TFC were without Sebastian Giovinco, it should be said, so any points won should be largely considered a bonus come the end of the season.

An all-timer: Toronto onto MLS Cup Final, outlasting Montreal in thriller

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The game in (more than) 100 words: The thrills didn’t relent over 90 minutes in Toronto, and they had no choice but to give the fans more.

In front of a rambunctious BMO Field crowd, Toronto and Montreal took the 3-2 first leg in Quebec and flipped it on its ear in regulation.

Jozy Altidore backed up his big words, bulling his way around the field, clobbering Impact players in both legal and illegal fashion.

Ignacio Piatti was effective even when he stumbled for the visitors, keeping pace with his MVP-caliber season.

[ MORE: Sounders win the West ]

The first chance of overtime fell to Piatti, and Clint Irwin stopped the cross from reaching substitute Didier Drogba. The next twist came via withdrawal, as Sebastian Giovinco had to be substituted in the first period of extra time.

With names like Drogba, Bradley, Piatti, Altidore, and Giovinco, of course you had Steven Beitashour and Benoit Cheyrou teaming up for the winner, right? Right?

The leg ended 5-2. The match? 7-5. Seattle, you’re coming to Toronto.

Seven moments that mattered

24′ — Piatti opens up TFC back line for Oduro — Ignacio Piatti was one of the best players in MLS this season, and the electric Argentine carried a Montreal counter deep into Toronto territory before sliding a pass onto the path of Oduro. Goalkeeper Clint Irwin could only get a piece of the ex-TFC man’s shot, and it was 4-2 on aggregate.

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38′ — Cooper cleans up the trash — Nick Hagglund’s header off a corner kick was cleared off the line by Hernan Bernardello, but the rebound kicked off Hagglund into the path of Cooper, who scored his first TFC goal to level the tie and put the Reds back within a goal of advancing to the final.

44′ — Jozy does it (again) — Another set piece, another goal for TFC. Sebastian Giovinco’s near post corner kick was turned just inside the pipe by the head of Jozy Altidore, who put Toronto in front.

53′ — Piatti flips the script — Piatti got one of his own to put Montreal back on the plane to Seattle, as Johan Venegas slipped him through and the Argentine’s mishit shot fooled Clint Irwin and trickled over the line.

68′ — Hagglund makes amends — The Xavier alum was partially at fault for Montreal going ahead, but Hagglund rose high to hammer a header home to put extra time back in play. More set piece woes for Montreal, but no one said this was an advertisement for defense.

98′ — Guess who? Cheyrou! — Reigning MVP Sebastian Giovinco had to be subbed off in the first period of stoppage time, and his substitute scored moments later. Steven Beitashour swept a cross right into the thick of the box, and Cheyrou rose high to bury a header.

Man of the match: Altidore

Goalscorers: Oduro (24′), Cooper (37′), Altidore (45′), Piatti (53′), Hagglund (68′), Cheyrou (98′), Ricketts (100′)

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MLS Cup Playoffs: Montreal Impact 3-2 Toronto FC

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Montreal Impact were in total control of the Eastern Conference final, just 90 straightforward minutes away from MLS Cup 2016, after delivering a series of haymakers to their 401 derby rivals, Toronto FC, over the first hour of the first leg inside Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday. Montreal were irresistible and deadly on the counter, TFC’s midfield and defense disorganized and shredded time after time. Dominic Oduro bagged the opener inside 10 minutes, and Matteo Mancosu made it 2-0 before the eerie echoes of the North Star bell had finished reverberating around the cavernous arena jam-packed with more than 61,000 north of the border. With the deficit just 2-0, TFC had every opportunity to regroup at halftime and grab a vital away goal to make next Wednesday’s second leg more most interesting at 2-1, but the second half started worse for TFC than the first: Ambroise Oyongo made it 3-0 after eight minutes. Then, things got very MLS-y. Jozy Altidore pulled one back for TFC in the 68th minute, and Michael Bradley grabbed a second away goal five minutes later. From dead rubber, to must-see TV, the second leg can’t possibly kick off soon enough. Fun fact: kickoff was delayed nearly 30 minutes, because the penalty areas on each end of the field were painted roughly three feet too narrow on either side. Major League Soccer, indeed!

[ MORE: Klinsmann out | Arena back in as USMNT boss ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

10′ — Oduro slots past Irwin for 1-0 — Nick Hagglund stepped into no man’s land, Patrice Bernier applied the perfect touch on the through ball, and Oduro did what he does best — run really fast — and not quite the best — finish — to give the Impact an early 1-0 lead.

12′ — Mancosu hammers home a cross for 2-0 — Still reeling from the opener, Steven Beitashour and the rest of the TFC defense reacted just as poorly to Oduro’s through ball and Ignacio Piatti’s cross, as Mancosu made it 2-0 with ease.

53′ — Oyongo gallops through midfield, makes it 3-0 — Oyongo took eight touches, covering 40 yards, straight up the center of the field, without a single challenge made against him. Clint Irwin also failed to challenge the slow-rolling shot.

68′ — Altidore heads home Giovinco’s delicate chip — Sebastian Giovinco, worth his weight (plus some) in gold.

73′ — Bradley sweeps home to make things really interesting — So much of what TFC did well against New York City FC was to get the ball in the box, and to simply allow their opponents to capitulate on the clearance. If it ain’t broke…

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Man of the match: Dominic Oduro

Goalscorers: Oduro (10′), Mancosu (12′), Oyongo (53′), Altidore (68′), Bradley (73′)

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Montreal Impact (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): With the final spots in the Eastern Conference firmly up for grabs, the Montreal Impact came up with a massive win over Orlando City on Sunday afternoon, creating a five-point gap between themselves and the seventh-place New England Revolution. Dominic Oduro’s second-half finish was enough to give the Impact the road victory, while also propelling Mauro Biello’s squad up to fourth in the Eastern Conference with two games to play. Orlando City will miss out on the postseason for the second straight season following Sunday’s loss.

[ MORE: McCarty header pushes Red Bulls past Union; go atop East ]

Three moments that mattered

‘ — Kaka appeals for a penalty — The ref was in a good position to make the call but the Brazilian didn’t get the call he and his side wanted.

56′ — Impact take lead courtesy of Oduro — The initial pass took a bit of an unfortunate deflection for Orlando but this finish is too classy to not count.

62′ — Bush makes huge save to deny Larin — Most keepers can’t keep Cyle Larin off the scoresheet with two hands. Evan Bush broke that trend with a huge stop with his left arm on Sunday.

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Man of the match: 

Goalscorers: Dominic Oduro (56′)

MLS Snapshots: Crew SC 4-4 Impact; Toronto FC 1-0 FC Dallas

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The game in 100 words (or less): After two months of sputtering out of the starting blocks, Columbus Crew SC are without a doubt back to their old selves following a 4-4 draw with the Montreal Impact at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday. Not only were the Black and Gold a counter-attacking terror through last year’s scorer of 22 goals, Kei Kamara (two goals), but they were an all-too-familiar disaster defensively, shipping a 4-1 lead in favor of the all-fours final scoreline. After the game, Kamara went nuclear on his team and his teammates (and continued and continued) after he was denied the opportunity to complete his first career hat trick from the penalty spot. As for Montreal, the Didier Drogba-Ignacio Piatti partnership is simply delightful and a big reason why L’Impact remain and will continue to reside at or near the top of the Eastern Conference all season long.

[ MORE: Previewing the weekend in MLS ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

16′ — Kamara finishes the alley-oop with ease — At his very best (and with proper service), there’s perhaps no force in MLS more unstoppable than Kamara.

26′ — Piatti curls a beauty far post — Oh. Oh, my.

45+1′ — Kamara powers through Cabrera for 2-1 — See the above comment about Kamara’s physical advantage, again. It’s not just leaping ability, it’s also power and it’s speed as well.

58′ — Piatti dances through the box, cuts it to 4-3 — Piatti is basically a video game at this point. So effortless, and so smooth.

90+3′ — Oduro bags the late equalizer against (one of) his former team(s) — Good for you, Dom Oduro, celebrating a late equalizer like you just don’t care. To be fair, more than a third of the league’s teams are his former teams, so…

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Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Kamara (16′, 45+1′), Piatti (26′, 58′), Higuain (48′, 52′ – PK), Drogba (57′ – PK), Oduro (90+3′)

The game in 100 words (or less): Toronto FC survived their eight-game road trip to start the 2016 season, passing the test with flying colors (11 points from eight games). On Saturday night, the Reds christened the new BMO Field with a home-opening victory over one of the favorites to take the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup this season, FC Dallas. Tsubasa Endoh scored the game’s only goal (assist courtesy of Sebastian Giovinco, but you probably already knew that). As for FCD, that’s three straight losses for Oscar Pareja’s side, dropping the former Western Conference leaders off the top spot. The victory sees TFC move to within a point of Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Impact (who have played a game more, and played at home before this weekend). The East’s road to MLS Cup runs through Canada, no doubt about it.

[ MORE: Previewing the weekend in MLS ]

Three moments that mattered

26′ — Giovinco smashes the crossbar from 30 yards — Giovinco had no business having a go from 30 yards out at such an angle, but then again Giovinco should always have a go no matter where he’s at on the field.

28′ — Endoh takes it down, slots past Gonzalez for 1-0 — Endoh did it all on the game’s opening goal, collecting a brilliant ball over the top from Giovinco and picking his spot inside the far post oh so well.

66′ — Irwin saves Castillo’s one-on-one effort — You’d expect a player of Fabian Castillo’s caliber to put a chance like this away, but Clint Irwin has quietly been on of the best goalkeepers in MLS this season.

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Man of the match: Michael Bradley

Goalscorers: Endoh (28′)