On a packed day of action on Day 1 of the 2021 eMLS Cup presented by Coca Cola, it was a pair of familiar faces that wound up punching their tickets to the semifinals.
New York City FC rep Didychrislito, in pursuit of the second-ever eMLS treble following his victories in eMLS League Series One and League Series Two, put on an absolute clinic in an explosive victory over AlanAvi of FC Dallas to clinch one of those semifinals spots. RBNY's Adamou, the defending eMLS Cup champion, got everything he could handle in a grind-it-out series with Nashville SC's Doolsta, but also finds himself in the semis along with his crosstown rival.
Those quarterfinal matchups came at the end of the Knockout Round, which saw AlanAvi pick up an impressive victory over Toronto FC's PhilB and Doolsta top Chicago Fire FC''s Kid M3mito. Sporting Kansas City's Alekzandur also picked up an emphatic victory, exploding for a 7-4 aggregate triumph over a tough adversary in FC Cincinnati's Fiddle, while the LA Galaxy's Godfather got arguably the most heart-pounding victory of the day with his triumph over Philadelphia's CisseSZN.
Check out the full recap and highlights of the whole day's action below and be sure to tune in for the rest of the 2021 eMLS Cup tomorrow, which starts at 3pm ET and will be streaming live on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and MLSsoccer.com.
AlanAvi (FC Dallas) 5, PhilB94 (Toronto FC) 2
The action kicked off with a big upset as FC Dallas' AlanAvi got the better of Toronto FC's PhilB with a commanding performance where he never trailed throughout the two-leg series. AlanAvi was on the front foot from the jump, striking for the first goal of the afternoon in the 19th minute and never looking back. The FC Dallas man, who made it into eMLS Cup as the winner of the Last Chance Qualifier, then put himself in the driver's seat to score the upset with another tally that doubled the lead to 2-0 in the 41st minute.
PhilB pressed hard for an equalizer to start the second half, but AlanAvi managed to strike again with a huge 68th-minute breakaway goal to take a 3-0 advantage. That turned out to be insurmountable, as AlanAvi would add another insurance goal in the 77th minute to round off a dominant 4-0 result in the first leg.
He picked up right where he left off in Leg 2, making it a 5-0 aggregate lead with another goal just after kickoff that all but put the contest to bed. PhilB briefly made it interesting, getting his first goal of the series in the 19th minute and cutting the aggregate deficit to 5-2 with another tally shortly after second-half kickoff, but it wouldn't be enough as AlanAvi managed to bare down and see out the 5-2 victory.
Doolsta (Nashville SC) 3, Kid M3mito (Chicago Fire FC) 1
It was the underdog striking first again in the second series of the day, as Nashville SC's Doolsta found an all-important opener in his matchup with Chicago Fire FC's Kid M3mito, jumping on top with the first goal of the match in the 53rd minute. He then found a second in the 64th minute for a 2-0 advantage.
Doolsta looked primed to take that lead into the second leg, but Kid M3mito struck for a huge goal just before the final whistle to cut the aggregate deficit to 2-1 and turning it into anyone's game going into Leg 2.
Doolsta showed his composure under pressure again, scoring a huge goal in the 21st minute of Leg 2 to extend his aggregate advantage to 3-1. It was a tense and nervy finish, but Doolsta put on a master-class in defending, keeping Kid M3mito off the scoresheet for the rest of the match to take the 3-1 victory and advance.
Alekzandur (Sporting Kansas City) 7, Fiddle (FC Cincinnati) 4
In a matchup between two of the strongest competitors in the bracket, Alekzandur put on a clinic in ruthless attacking efficiency, cruising to a 7-4 aggregate victory. The Sporting KC man got out on the front foot early, striking for a pair of early goals in the 13th and 34th minutes, despite Fiddle generating a flurry of solid chances of his own at the other end that he just couldn't quite convert. Alekzandur then scored one of the best goals of the day with a perfectly weighted chipped shot that sailed over the goalkeeper and into the net in the 58th minute, pushing the aggregate lead to 3-0.
It looked like Alekzandur would make it to Leg 2 with the three-goal advantage, but Fiddle managed to get an important first goal just a few minutes from the final whistle to pull himself within 3-1 headed into the second leg.
The sides traded blows to start off the second leg as Alekzandur got off to a roaring start with another goal just five minutes into the contest, only to see Fiddle strike back with a tally of his own in the 14th minute. The SKC rep just wouldn't be denied, though, extending the aggregate lead to 5-2 with another class finish just before the half-hour mark and adding two more insurance goals after that, one of which was another sublime chip to make it 6-2 in the 37th minute and a final insurance tally that came off a highlight-reel sequence.
Godfather (LA Galaxy) 3, CisseSZN (Philadelphia Union) 2
It wasn't the highest-scoring match of the day, but the bout between CisseSZN and Godfather just might have been the most entertaining, featuring chances galore, a crucial missed penalty kick and an extra-time game-winner. CisseSZN got on the board first in the 36th minute with a breakaway finish, only to see Godfather fiund the equalizer right on the stroke of halftime. CisseSZN jumped back out in front in the 62nd minute, though, cashing home a point-blank finish to take a 2-1 aggregate lead that he would take into Leg 2.
CisseSZN had a golden opportunity to extend the league in the first half of the second leg after he was awarded a penalty kick, only to see his look from the spot go wide. It proved to be a consequential miss, as Godfather found a huge leveler just after second-half kickoff, setting up a nervy finish. Neither player would be able to find the winner and the contest would head to extra time.
It was Godfather who found the dramatic winner, striking for the go-ahead tally in the 114th minute to take the 3-2 aggregate lead that would stand as the final score.
Adamou (New York Red Bulls) 2, Doolsta (Nashville SC) 1
In a hotly contested, well-played series in the first quarterfinals matchup, Adamou got the job done with a 2-1 aggregate victory thanks to a game-winner in the second half of Leg 2. The RBNY rep struck first, lashing home the opener just on the stroke of halftime of Leg 1, only to see the Nashville rep come up big in another crucial moment with a 63rd-minute equalizer that would keep the series level at 1-1 headed into Leg 2.
The second leg was a gritty, defensive affair, as neither side managed to strike for a goal until the 64th minute. That's when Adamou scored a massive go-ahead tally to take a 2-1 aggregate lead, which wound up punching his ticket to the semifinals.
Didychrislito (NYCFC) 11, AlanAvi (FC Dallas) 3
Coming in as the tournament favorite in pursuit of a treble, Didychrislito was given everything he could handle in the first leg of his series with AlanAvi, but pulled away with a dominant showing in Leg 2. The NYCFC rep got an early gift, winning and converting a penalty kick just seven minutes into the contest. That gave him some early momentum, which he parlayed into a goal to double the advantage just minutes later and another to make it 3-0 just minutes after that.
AlanAvi wouldn't go down without a fight, however, striking twice unanswered in the second half to pull himself within 3-2 ahead of the second leg.
But it was all Didy in Leg 2, as he exploded for eight goals to solidify the most lopsided result of the day with an 11-3 aggregate triumph, maintaining his status as the odds-on favorite going into Sunday's semifinals. It was a truly phenomenal display, as the League Series One and League Series Two champ rattled off a highlight-reel display of goal after goal, scoring seemingly at will.