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Portland take MLS top spot, Dempsey sees red


Los Angeles (AFP) – Jamaican international Darren Mattocks scored a second-half winner as the Portland Timbers defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 to seal top spot in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference on Sunday.

Mattocks tapped in on 48 minutes to give Portland the lead after Liam Ridgewell had equalised for the Timbers following Kendall Waston’s opener.

The win helped Portland vault to the top of the Western Conference on the final day of the regular season, giving them a crucial bye in the opening round of the playoffs.

Portland’s first place finish completes a roller-coaster few years for the Oregon club, who won the MLS Cup in 2015 but then failed to make the playoffs last season.

The defeat was costly for Vancouver, who dropped down to third place and must now face a one-off first round play-off against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday.

San Jose meanwhile scraped into the post-season for the first time in five years with a thrilling 3-2 win over minnows Minnesota United on Sunday.

A goal by Costa Rican international Marco Urena three minutes into stoppage time gave San Jose the victory at the Avaya Stadium and saw the California team reach the playoffs in sixth place, ahed of seventh-placed FC Dallas, who completed their season with a 5-1 thrashing of Los Angeles Galaxy.

The other Western Conference first round playoff will see Houston Dynamo take on Sporting Kansas City.

The Seattle Sounders received a bye into the Western Conference semi-finals after securing second spot with a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids.

But the win for Seattle came at a cost, with veteran US international Clint Dempsey sent off, leaving the striker facing a suspension expected to rule him out of at least one playoff game.

In the East, meanwhile, Spain international striker David Villa scored twice as New York City FC drew 2-2 with Columbus Crew to clinch second place to advance directly to the conference semi-finals.

Columbus needed a win to finish second and secure a first round bye.

But Villa’s two goals were enough to give New York a share of the points. Villa also had a chance to win the game in injury time but saw his penalty saved by Zack Steffen.

Elsewhere, Toronto FC broke an MLS record with a 2-2 draw against Atlanta United in Georgia. 

The Canadians had already been assured of top spot but Sunday’s draw saw them finish with a regular season record 69 points, surpassing Los Angeles Galaxy’s 1998 record points tally of 68.

The game also witnessed an MLS record crowd of 71,874. Atlanta now face Columbus this week in the opening round of the playoffs.

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