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Seattle on brink of MLS final as Houston crash

Los Angeles (AFP) – Defending champions Seattle Sounders put one foot in the final of the MLS Cup on Tuesday after outclassing Houston Dynamo 2-0 in the first leg of their Western Conference Championship game.

First half goals from Gustav Svensson and Will Bruin sealed a clinical win for the Sounders as Houston’s raucous home crowd was silenced.

A deserved win for Seattle could have been even more emphatic had it not been for a missed penalty from playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro on the half hour mark.

Houston were also forced to play most of the match with only 10 men after Jalil Anibaba was dismissed for hauling down Joevin Jones with the Seattle player bearing down on goal.

Seattle took the lead after only 11 minutes, with Swedish midfielder Svensson leaping high to meet Lodeiro’s corner from the left.

Houston got a reprieve when Lodeiro saw his spot-kick turned away by Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis, but Seattle remained on top.

Three minutes before half-time, Jones found space on the left and swung in a pinpoint cross that Bruin met with a header that wrongfooted Willis to make it 2-0. 

Seattle substitute Victor Rodriguez might have killed off the tie but his injury-time shot rattled the crossbar.

The result leaves Houston needing a miraculous turnaround in next week’s second leg in Seattle if they are to deny the Sounders a second straight appearance in the MLS Cup championships game.

The winner from the Western Conference will play either Toronto FC or Columbus Crew in the final. Toronto and Columbus played out a 0-0 draw in their first leg in Ohio on Tuesday.

Toronto arrived in Ohio with strikers Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco both suspended. 

The lack of an attacking outlet saw Toronto content to sit back for much of the contest with Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen not required to make a single save all night. 

At the other end, Toronto goalkeeper Alexander Bono rescued his team five minutes from time, denying a close-range effort from Harrison Afful with a superb reflex save. 

Crew had also threatened early in the second half, when Pedro Santos went down after dribbling around Bono. 

Ola Kamara latched onto the loose ball and shot at goal, but his effort was blocked by Toronto defender Drew Moor. 

Santos — who had appealed for a penalty after Bono raced off his line to dive at the striker’s feet — was booked for diving.

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