Timbers edge Sounders, Atlanta tops NYCFC in first legs of MLS conference semifinals

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Craig Mitchelldyer
Goals from Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco led Portland while NYCFC was topped by the Five Stripes at Yankee Stadium

The first leg of the highly-anticipated Cacadia playoff clash had big goals, big fouls, big injuries and big moments but, when the dust settled, the Portland Timbers emerged victorious on home turf.

Goals from Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco led the Timbers to a 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders to open the Western Conference semifinal on Sunday.

The Sounders struck first with a highly-coveted away goal as Raul Ruidiaz scored his 11th goal in 15 matches. However, just moments later, the Sounders were back in the match as Ebobisse beat the offside trap to level the score at one apiece.

Blanco then scored what ended up as the winner, pouncing following a mazy Diego Valeri run through the Sounders backline.

Adding to the Sounders woes were a pair of key injuries as Cristian Roldan and Chad Marshall were both forced out of the match, calling into question their statuses for the second leg.

That match will take place at CenturyLink Field on Friday with the Sounders still very much alive thanks to their away goal.

Atlanta United also benefited from an away goal, but Tata Martino's powerhouse maintained a clean sheet against New York City FC in a 1-0 win at Yankee Stadium.

The visitors appeared to have scored early on a bouncing finish from Miguel Almiron, making his first appearance since October 6. However, the Paraguayan star was ruled offside on the initial corner kick.

However, Atlanta did get their goal as Eric Remedi scored on a scramble on a corner kick in the 37th minute. The finish was the midfielder's first of his professional career after previously featuring for Argentine side Banfield.

With the win, Atlanta heads home with a 1-0 advantage, even though Almiron was only able to play 45 minutes on Sunday evening.

After outlasting D.C. United in a penalty shootout midweek, the Columbus Crew were able to edge the Supporters' Shield winners at home to open the conference semifinal round of the MLS playoffs.

Federico Higuain set up Gyasi Zardes for the game-winning goal, leading the Crew to a 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium.

Following a fairly tepid first half, the Crew finally found their breakthrough in the second half thanks to a brilliant piece of skill from Higuain.

The Argentinian star did not start Sunday's match after playing all 120 minutes midweek, but Higuain provided the key assist after being introduced for Patrick Mullins at halftime.

A Higuain flick played Zardes in all alone in the 61st minute, and the U.S. national team forward made no mistake with his first-time finish, beating Luis Robles to give the Crew the lead.

The Red Bulls' best look of the first half came in the 27th minute with Tim Parker's header hitting both goalkeeper Zack Steffen and the post before bouncing away from goal.

In stoppage time, Steffen made the save of the night, stopping Bradley Wright-Phillips on the doorstep in the 93rd minute to seal the Crew's win.

In the day's final match, Sporting KC scored a valuable away goal in a 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake. 

Following a tepid first half, RSL opened the scoring in the 51st minute in stunning fashion as Albert Rusnak unleashed a brilliant volleyed finish to push the hosts ahead.

Sporting KC bounced back just nine minutes later, though, as Diego Rubio fired a long-range goal less than a minute after coming into the match.

Rubio's goal gives Sporting KC a vital away goal, and the slight advantage that comes with it, heading into Sunday's rematch at Children's Mercy Park.

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