Washington (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Los Angeles Galaxy beat Minnesota United 2-1 on Sunday to book a blockbuster Major League Soccer playoff clash with Los Angeles FC.
Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan dos Santos scored to give the Galaxy a 2-0 lead that proved enough despite a late goal from the Loons in St. Paul Minnesota.
Ibrahimovic’s dazzling regular-season campaign that included 30 goals in 29 games has given rise to speculation he could be headed away from MLS, with Premier League and Serie A clubs circling.
But the former Manchester United and Paris St. Germain star’s North American campaign isn’t over yet and although he didn’t score Ibrahimovic will get a post-season shot at LAFC and Carlos Vela — who set the single-season goal scoring record with 34.
After a disjointed first half, Galaxy opened the scoring in the 71st when Ibrahimovic’s close range shot deflected off Michael Boxall and Lletget was there to fire in the rebound.
Four minutes later, dos Santos fired one past Vito Mannone to make it 2-0.
Jan Gregus gave Minnesota hope with an 87th-minute strike, but the hosts ended up the only team to lose in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs.
The Galaxy, five-time winners of the MLS Cup, will take on their cross-town rivals on Thursday in the latest edition of the El Trafico rivalry.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Lletget said of the clash with LAFC, who won the Supporters’ Shield as the team with the best regular-season record. “Game of the season for me.”
The winners will take on the winners of Wednesday’s match between the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final.
– Philadelphia first –
In Philadelphia, Mexican midfielder Marco Fabian scored the winning goal in extra time as the Union edged the New York Red Bulls 4-3.
Philadelphia notched their first MLS Cup playoff win to book an Eastern Conference semi-final on Thursday against defending champions Atlanta United.
The winners of that match will play either Toronto or New York City FC for a spot in the MLS Cup Final.
Fabian, a former standout for Guadalajara and Eintracht Frankfurt before joining the Union this season, entered in the 103rd minute for Brazilian forward Sergio Santos and found the net in stoppage time just after the 105th minute in the first of two 15-minute extra sessions.
Fabian’s crossing pass nicked a defender and curled into the far upper side of the goal, giving the Union their first lead in five MLS Cup playoff appearances.
The Red Bulls became the first team to squander a two-goal lead and lose in the MLS playoffs since Columbus fell to Real Salt Lake in 2009.
New York seized the lead when Josh Sims, an English winger on loan from Southampton, scored in the sixth minute and the Red Bulls made it 2-0 on Tim Parker’s 24th-minute goal.
Alejandro Bedoya answered for the Union in the 30th minute but a blunder just before half-time gave the Red Bulls a 3-1 edge at the break.
Union goalkeeper Andre Blake ran into a defender trying to grab a centering pass and the ball deflected to New York’s Tom Barlow, who kicked it into an open net in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time.
But Philadelphia responded on Scotsman Jack Elliott’s header into the back of the net in the 52nd minute and equalized in the 78th minute on Fabrice-Jean Picault’s header off a Santos centering pass to force extra time.
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