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Major League Soccer

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER

November 30, 2016
MLS PLAYOFF ROUNDUP
Toronto wins East in extra time, will host MLS Cup


Eastern Conference Finals, 2nd Leg
TORONTO FC 5, MONTREAL IMPACT 2 (Toronto advances 7-5 on aggregate)

TORONTO--Toronto FC scored on three of their four corner kicks in regulation, but needed overtime goals by Benoit Cheyrou and Tosaint Ricketts to pull away from the Montreal Impact and win Wednesday's second-leg Eastern Conference Final at packed and rainswept BMO Field.

The Reds won Wednesday's match 5-2, giving them a 7-5 aggregate victory in the series, the highest-scoring two-game playoff set in MLS history. They will host Seattle Sounders FC in the MLS Cup final Saturday, December 10.

Cheyrou's clincher came moments after he entered the match for Toronto offensive linchpin Sebastian Giovinco, who went down with cramping in his right leg in the 96th minute. The little-used Frenchman made the most of his brief appearance, diving past defender Hassoun Camara to head Steven Beitashour's pass into the right side of the net in the 98th and give Toronto a 6-5 aggregate lead.

Ricketts, a 62nd-minute sub for Will Johnson, buried the capper just two minutes later, off Jozy Altidore's set-up pass. Altidore bulled his way past defender Victor Cabrera deep into the right side of the penalty area before squaring the ball into the six-yard box for Ricketts.

Toronto entered the match trailing 3-2 on aggregate but with a tiebreaker advantage of two road goals. They dominated the early minutes and nearly got on the board in the seventh minute, but were thwarted by defender Marco Donadel's perfectly-timed tackle to poke the ball away from Giovinco just before the Atomic Ant could tee up his close-in shot.

Another golden Toronto opportunity backfired spectacularly in the 24th minute. Justin Morrow tried to pass the ball through traffic into the goal area, but the ball was intercepted and cleared upfield, sparking an end-to-end attack that finished with Dominic Oduro sliding the ball under netminder Clint Irwin to out the Impact up 1-0 and 4-2 on aggregate.

The Reds rallied before the intermission, however. After a 37th minute corner kick, Armando Cooper got a foot on the rebound of Nick Haggelund's blocked shot to put Toronto on the board. And in the 45th, Giovinco served the ball from the left corner flag to the near post, where Altidore darted in to smack the ball past 'keeper Evan Bush and lift Toronto into a 4-4 aggregate draw and become the only player in MLS history to score in five straight postseason games in the same season.

Montreal got back on the front foot in the 53rd minute, when an off-balance Ignacio Piatti sent a rolling shot into the lower left corner, not only tilting the seesawing aggregate score the Impact's way (5-4), but neutralizing Toronto's road goal tiebreaker advantage.

Haggelund sent the series to extra time with a 68th-minute header off a short corner, soaring over Camara to send the ball into the right side of the net for a 5-5 aggregate score.

Irwin preserved the win for Toronto with a pair of late saves, blocking away Didier Drogba's wickedly dipping free kick in the 116th minute and picking off Johan Venegas's long rising shot in the closing seconds.




   
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