If there was any doubt as to who's the top competitor on the eMLS circuit right now, it should be put to rest following Sunday's climax of eMLS League Series Two presented by Coca-Cola. NYCFC's Didychrislito emerged victorious once again after a hard-fought and drama-filled final against D.C. United's King CJO.
Didychrislito had to work for every bit of it against a worth adversary, but eventually prevailed by a 6-5 aggregate scoreline to take home the League Series Two title, making him a back-to-back champion after his victory in League Series One last month. The final wasn't without contention, as there was a lengthy delay in the second half of Leg 2 after KingCJO scored a goal that Didychrislito contended was the result of the game freezing. After it was ruled that the goal would stand, the NYCFC rep still managed to see out the victory.
KingCJO got to the final on the strength of a penalty kick shootout for the ages against FC Dallas' AlanAvi, while Didychrislito won a hard-fought battle against one of the other favorites in Austin FC's xbLeU . Check out the full recap of a wild day of action below.
It was a battle of wits in the final, as neither side managed to score a goal in the first half of the first leg. Going against a favored opponent, KingCJO finally broke through just after second-half kickoff to take an unexpected lead. But Didychrislito would take advantage of a defensive mishap on the other end to slot home the equalizer and send the sides into Leg 2 in a 1-1 deadlock.
The attacking fireworks really got started in the second leg, as KingCJO went back in front with an early goal, only to see Didychrislito strike back for an equalizer again. KingCJO would keep the pressure on, striking for another inside the opening 20 minutes to take a 3-2 aggregate advantage to give himself a chance at the upset. But Didychrislito once again managed to come through in a clutch moment, hitting another leveler in the 31st minute and then added the go-ahead finish on the stroke of halftime to put himself back in front.
Didychrislito found another in the 63rd minute, lashing home a laser finish to give himself a 5-3 aggregate advantage. That's when controversy struck, as Didychrislito contended that a subsequent finish from KingCJO to cut the lead to 5-4 came as the result of a glitch in the game that prevented him from defending the pass leading up to the shot. But after a review and lengthy delay, the goal stood and Didychrislito had his lead cut to one goal as the match hit its home stretch. After the restart, KingCJO struck for another goal almost immediately to level the contest at 5-5 and send it to extra time.
It didn't take long for Didychrislito to find the first goal of extra time, as he netted the go-ahead goal in the 102nd minute, which the NYCFC man would manage to see out to seal his League Series 2 championship.
KingCJO (D.C. United) 4 (6), AlanAvi 4 (5) (FC Dallas)
The first series of the day got off to a thrilling start, as extra time and penalty kicks were required to decide the first finalist, with both competitors coming up with huge goals in clutch moments. The theatrics started early, as the sides swapped goals in the first 30 minutes, before KingCJO pounced for a 37th-minute go-ahead finish to put himself in the driver's seat. But AlanAvi would find a clutch leveler in the 74th to make it 2-2 on aggregate headed in to the second leg.
The second leg was a nervy one, as both competitors bared down defensively, keeping it 2-2 all the way until the stroke of halftime. That's when AlanAvi broke through with a go-ahead finish to take a 3-2 aggregate lead into the break — an advantage AlanAvi would be able to hold until 10 minutes from full time, when KingCJO struck for a dramatic equalizer that forced the first extra-time match of the tournament.
AlanAvi came up with the huge go-ahead goal just after the start of extra time, showing great composure in the box to slot home the finish that gave him a 4-3 aggregate advantage and put KingCJO's aspirations on the line. But the D.C. United man wouldn't go down that easily, striking back for yet another equalizer just minutes later to tie it back at 4-4 and force an epic penalty-kick shootout that saw KingCJO eventually prevail 6-5 following a wild series of back-and-forth saves and conversions.
Didychrislito (New York City FC) 8, xbLeU (Austin FC) 2
In a heavyweight semifinal bout between two top-tier competitors, Didychrislito put in a dominant performance in the semifinals with a straightforward 8-2 dispatching of xbLeU. It was actually xbLeU who struck first, jumping on top 1-0 with the opener in just the fourth minute. But Didychrislito would show why he came in as the tournament favorite, striking back for three of his own before the first leg was over, starting with a 32nd-minute equalizer before the go-ahead goal in the 52nd. Another late finish ensured that the NYCFC man would take a commanding 3-1 advantage heading into Leg 2.
xbLeU wouldn't go down without a fight, striking for an early goal in the second leg, hacking the aggregate deficit to 3-2 and putting himself right back in contention. But Didychrislito once again struck right back with a 36th-minute finish at the end of a gorgeous sequence of gameplay to extend the lead back to 4-2 before adding the dagger just minutes later to take a three-goal advantage. Didychrislito would add another three before it was over to take a comfortable 8-2 aggregate victory and set up the final matchup with KingCJO.