Atlanta United added some more silverware to the trophy case on Sunday night, taking home the title in the eMLS Tournament Special presented by Coca-Cola and PlayStation. The pairing of Franco Escobar and the Five Stripes' eMLS pro, Paulo Neto, delivered a dominant 7-3 aggregate win over Sporting Kansas City to capture the top prize in this 16-team FIFA 20 tournament to support hunger relief.
It was Paulo Neto who delivered when it mattered most, dominating SKC's Alekzandur in the second leg of their final by a 5-1 scoreline. That followed a tight match between Escobar and Wan Kuzain, which found very little to separate two of the top FIFA 20 players in MLS.
Atlanta got to the final with a win over New York City FC, with Escobar playing the starring role with a first-leg win over Sean Johnson. Sporting KC, meanwhile, posted a comeback win in a thrilling series against LAFC that saw Alekzandur overcome a one-goal deficit against RemiMartinn after Adama Diomande's win over Wan Kuzain.
You can find results and highlights from all six games of Sunday's final episode of the eMLS Tournament Special below.
Semifinal 1: Sporting KC 3, LAFC 2
Adama Diomande (LAFC) 2, Wan Kuzain (SKC) 1: Wan Kuzain got the best looks of an otherwise-evenly matched first half, with LAFC's 'keeper coming up with two strong saves. There was no stopping the SKC man in stoppage time though, as he broke through with a terrific chipped finish.
Kuzain then started the second half by pinging a placed shot off the woodwork. Diomande immediately made him pay for missing, getting right back into the game as he took the ball back down the field on the counterattack and lashed home the equalizer with Carlos Vela. An intense match followed, and was decided by a moment of genius from Diomande, using himself no less, when flicked the ball over two LAFC defenders as he turned before finishing.
The goal extended Diomande's streak of scoring with himself in all of his eMLS Tournament Special matches, while also ending Wan Kuzain's two-game shutout streak and handing him his first loss of the tournament.
Alekzandur (SKC) 2, RemiMartinn (LAFC) 0: The series was even in the blink of an eye, with Alekzandur working his way down the field and finishing off an easy layoff to take the lead before 10 virtual minutes were up. It was more of the same at the end of the half after the SKC man finished off another stylish move to take the series lead.
RemiMartinn's halftime adjustments gave his team a more attacking bent in the second half, but had a great chance at an equalizer that was beaten away at the near post midway through the half. He would get an even better look with just minutes remaining, getting clear with Carlos Vela only to put his shot across the goal just wide, ensuring a comeback series win for SKC.
Semifinal 2: Atlanta United 3, New York City FC 1
Franco Escobar (ATL) 2, Sean Johnson (NYC) 0: The match between the two Eastern Conference rivals got off to a flying start, with Johnson dragging an early effort just wide before Escobar did him one better, showing some terrific skills to finish with Josef Martinez. Both players took turns forcing a great save out of the other's goalkeeper, as they went end to end throughout the half until Escobar netted another terrific goal, with a filthy one-on-one move opening up a chance that he buried for a two-goal lead just before halftime.
Johnson ramped up the pressure after a shaky start to the second half, but failed to put several great chances on frame as he looked to give his partner some room to work with, which gave Escobar's partner Paulo Neto a comfortable cushion for the second leg.
Didychrislito (NYC) 1, Paulo Neto (ATL) 1: Didychrislito had a lot of worked to do in what figured to be an evenly-matched game between two of eMLS's best players, but he got to it quickly, starting on the front foot and lashing home with Alexandru Mitrita to pull one back just before the half hour mark. He looked to have a great opportunity to level soon after, only to lose it after passing up the chance to shoot, and Paulo Neto made him pay with a terrific Josef Martinez finish on one of his only good looks of the half.
Didychrislito had the ball in the back of the net once again in the second half, but the goal was correctly waved off for offside after a sequence that featured several rebounds and a shot off the post. In the end, it wouldn't have been enough for NYCFC, who couldn't find another good chance in the half and fell by two goals to Atlanta.
Final: Atlanta United 7, Sporting KC 3
Franco Escobar (ATL) 2, Wan Kuzain (SKC) 2: Escobar got Atlanta off to a red-hot start, scoring twice within the first 20 minutes to put Wan Kuzain on his heels. The first came via a skill move, cross and header, while the second was a little more fortuitous as Escobar finished off an easy rebound. The Sporting midfielder wasn't going to go down easy though, and after missing a great chance midway through the half, he got one back with a powerful finish from Gerso. He almost had the equalizer minutes later, too, but for an amazing point-blank save from the virtual Brad Guzan.
Kuzain continued to push forward to start the second half, and finally got his equalizer when he got one-on-one with Guzan and once again scored with Gerso after getting around the 'keeper. It meant there was nothing to separate two of the top FIFA 20 players in MLS, leaving everything to play for in the second leg of the final between the two eMLS players.
Paulo Neto (ATL) 5, Alekzandur (SKC) 1: The trend of fast starts continue between the two eMLS players, but this time it was Sporting KC taking the lead. It was a familiar face scoring, though, as once again the virtual Gerso lashed home a shot that sparked animated celebrations from the SKC crew. Neto would not just find the equalizer before the half, but took the lead thanks to a powerful finish from Josef Martinez and a tidy finish from Jake Mulraney at the near post, handing Alekzandur his first goals conceded of the eMLS Tournament Special.
The hurt just kept coming for SKC when the half restarted, as Escobar took advantage of some slack defending to put Atlanta on course for the title.
If the championship wasn't beyond doubt yet, Neto put Alekzandur to the sword as the SKC man pushed forward desperately, adding two more goal to make it a four-goal win in the game and in the series and hand Atlanta an emphatic victory in the eMLS Tournament Special.