Toronto FC are returning to their third MLS Cup Final in four years, after defeating Atlanta United 2-1 in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Toronto, MLS Cup winner in 2017, were the highest seed (No. 4) left alive in the playoffs this season and came back from an early deficit to end Atlanta's reign as MLS Cup champion, winning their second consecutive playoff road game in the process.
Atlanta United got down to business quickly, as a perfectly-executed counterattack led by Pity Martinez led to an easy tap-in by Julian Gressel just four minutes in. A few minutes later, Pity Martinez drew a penalty by Michael Bradley, but Josef Martinez's spot kick was saved by TFC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.
That save proved consequential, as Toronto tied up the game in the 14th minute, Nicolas Benezet's curling effort proving unstoppable.
After the eventful opening 15 minutes, the teams settled down and the game became much more cagey. It took until the 78th minute for the deadlock to be broken, as TFC substitute Nick DeLeon hit a dagger from distance, his fifth career playoff goal.
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$6,000 was contributed to the Audi Goals Drive Progress fund.
- THE BIG PICTURE: It wasn't an exact replica, but Wednesday's clash unfolded in similar fashion to Tuesday's Western Conference Final – home team takes the lead early, but the road team comes roaring back to win it. Remarkably, the winners, Toronto and Seattle, will square off in their third MLS Cup Final in four years, the teams splitting the first two title games.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: DeLeon's winner was obviously vital, but Westberg's penalty save provided an early momentum-killer for Atlanta and kept Toronto in the match.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Bradley conceded the early penalty, a contentious call, but he settled in to unbalance Atlanta and put out fires all night to keep TFC in the game.
- ATL: End of season
- TOR: Nov. 10 vs. Seattle Sounders (ABC, Univision, TUDN, TVAS, TSN) | Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, MLS Cup Final