The Fort Worth Press - Austin join holders New York in MLS Cup conference finals

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Austin join holders New York in MLS Cup conference finals
Austin join holders New York in MLS Cup conference finals / Photo: © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

Austin join holders New York in MLS Cup conference finals

Reigning MLS Cup champions New York City FC and second-season club Austin FC booked their places in the playoff conference finals with victories on Sunday.

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New York City produced a clinical masterclass in a 3-1 victory over CF Montreal with goals from Maxi Moralez, Heber and Talles Magno.

In an-all Texan affair, Austin held on for a 2-1 win over FC Dallas in front of a passionate crowd with first-half goals from Moussa Djitte and Sebastian Driussi enough despite Alan Velasco pulling one back in the 65th minute.

New York will face the Philadelphia Union next weekend for a place in Major League Soccer's championship game in a repeat of last season's Eastern Conference final.

Austin will travel to California to face top seed Los Angeles FC in the Western Conference final.

New York's victory was no less than interim manager Nick Cushing's well-organized side deserved in front of Montreal's expectant Stade Saputo home crowd.

City got off to a dream start with a cleverly worked goal through Argentinian midfield veteran Moralez on six minutes.

Brazilian winger Gabriel Pereira worked a clever one-two down the right flank and whipped in a low cross, which Moralez controlled before calmly burying into the roof of the net.

Montreal were thwarted on promising openings by a string of saves from New York goalkeeper and captain Sean Johnson, who dove low in the 10th minute to deny a firm header by Montreal striker Kei Kamara.

That near miss came at a cost for New York, with centre-back Maxime Chanot forced to leave the field after appearing to injure his groin as he stretched to challenge Kamara.

New York did well to absorb the pressure without conceding and on the stroke of half-time doubled their lead with a counter-attack launched deep inside their own half by Santiago Rodriguez.

Rodriguez surged forward before picking out Heber with a perfectly weighted pass which the Brazilian forward tucked away to make it 2-0.

New York effectively sealed victory midway through the second half when Montreal goalkeeper James Pantemis rushed off his line and brought down Pereira.

Substitute Talles Magno stepped up to coolly roll in the spot-kick to leave New York City firmly in control.

Djordje Mihailovic grabbed a consolation for Montreal in the 85th minute but it was too little too late.

- Austin dumps Dallas -

In Austin, the home side were fast out of the traps and quickly exposed a shaky Dallas back line, taking the lead in the 26th mintue when a corner was allowed to fall to Djitte at the back post and the Senegalese forward drove home.

Within three minutes, the lead was doubled thanks to a fine solo goal from the impressive Argentine Driussi, who picked up a loose ball in midfield, ran at the Dallas defence and then veered right before drilling a low shot into the far, bottom corner.

Dallas had struggled to get a foothold in the game but they reorganised at the break and pulled a goal back when Velasco smashed home after an exchange inside the box with Franco Jara.

Austin responded well and went in search of a third but Dallas' Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Paes was in inspired form keeping out a fierce strike from Diego Fagundez and a firm header from Driussi.

But at the other end, Austin had their 'keeper, Brad Sturver, to thank for keeping their lead intact. He showed brilliant reactions to keep out a close-range header from Jader Obrian with his feet in the latter stages.

Although Austin face an LAFC team that had the league's best regular-season record, the Texas club do so with the confidence of knowing they beat the Los Angeles side at home and away.

N.Patterson--TFWP