Toronto FC and Montreal Impact will clash in an all-Canadian Eastern conference final after sending both the New York teams packing from the Major League Soccer playoffs on Sunday. The Western final will match Colorado Rapids against Seattle Sounders.
Italy international Sebastian Giovinco scored a hat-trick as Toronto hammered star-laden New York City FC 5-0 at Yankee Stadium to win the two-leg conference semi-final by a staggering 7-0 aggregate score.
Montreal also advanced in style, with Argentine Ignacio Piatti scoring twice as the Impact beat New York Red Bulls 2-1 for a 3-1 aggregate total.
The match-up for the Eastern final, to be played over two legs on November 22 and 30, ensures a Canadian team will play in the MLS Cup final for the first time.
Out West, the Rapids, trailing 1-0 after the first leg against Los Angeles Galaxy, won the second leg by the same margin at home thanks to a 37-yard strike by Swiss midfielder Shkelzen Gashi.
Colorado then won the penalty shootout 3-1 as ‘keeper Tim Howard, acquired this season from English Premier League club Everton, came up big, with Giovani dos Santos, Ashley Cole and Jeff Larentowicz failing to convert from the spot for the Galaxy.
Howard, signed as a “designated player” on a $2.6 million salary that does not count against the team’s salary cap, said he was not in Colorado simply to pad his retirement account.
“You have two types of DPs,” said Howard, who was named Sunday on the 26-man U.S. squad for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico.
“There’s the guys who come here to collect checks — and there’s been a lot of them — and you have a bunch of guys who put teams on their back and want to be a part of an organisation. That’s kind of where I am.”
The match was probably the final Galaxy appearance for former England captain Steven Gerrard, the only Los Angeles player to score in the penalty shootout. In Texas, Seattle had the cushion of a 3-0 first leg lead over FC Dallas.
The Sounders lost the second leg 2-1, but won 4-2 on aggregate to eliminate the team that had the best record in the MLS regular season.