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Atlanta beats Toronto 2-0 in matchup of last 2 MLS champs

May 9, 2019
Atlanta United's Hector Villalba reacts after scoring against Toronto FC during the first half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Zarrilli)
Atlanta United's Hector Villalba reacts after scoring against Toronto FC during the first half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Zarrilli)

ATLANTA (AP) — Hector Villalba and Julian Gressel scored to lead Atlanta United to its third victory in a row, 2-0 over Toronto FC in a matchup of the last two MLS Cup champions Wednesday night.

After a sluggish start under new coach Frank de Boer, United (4-3-2) suddenly looks like the team that won the league championship last year in just its second season. Atlanta dominated the stat sheet, piling up a 19-8 advantage in shots, knocking two attempts off the post and preventing Toronto from putting any balls on net.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan extended his scoreless streak to three games without much effort, giving Atlanta its first victory over Toronto FC.

After Josef Martinez was denied on a couple of chances in close, Atlanta broke through in the 17th minute. The play was set up by Ashtone Morgan’s hard foul on Gressel just outside the box, giving United a dangerous free kick. Pity Martinez launched one over the wall, only to have Alex Bono make a brilliant save diving to his left. But Josef Martinez hustled after the rebound, sending the ball back in front where Villalba flicked it past the keeper for his first goal of the season.

Gressel scored in the 67th. Again, it was set up by Martinez, the reigning MLS goals king who spent this night delivering for his teammates. Getting the ball just inside the area, he dumped off a pass to Gressel, who cut inside the deliver a booming left-footed shot that deflected off a defender’s foot and skipped past Bono for the German’s second goal of the season.

Toronto (5-31) played its fourth straight game without top scorer Jozy Altidore as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

CREW 3, GALAXY 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Federico Higuaín broke Columbus’ career assist record in the first half and added a goal in the second in the Crew’s victory over Los Angeles.

Columbus (5-6-1) snapped a five-game losing streak, avoiding tying the club record. Los Angeles (7-3-1) lost back-to-back games for the first time since last September. It hasn’t won in Columbus since 2011.

Higuaín, in his eighth season with Columbus, got his 62nd assist on a long pass to Robinho, who sent it across goal for a redirection from Gyasi Zardes in the 27th minute. Early in the second half, Higuaín connected with Zardes on a give-and-go for his first goal in 11 games.

Héctor Jiménez made it 3-0 in the 66th minute. Daniel Steres scored for Los Angeles in the 87th.

FIRE 5, REVOLUTION 0

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) — Nemanja Nikolic had two goals in the first half and Chicago scored three goals in a late 11-minute span to rout New England.

Chicago (3-4-4) hadn’t scored since a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids on April 20. New England (2-8-2), which was coming off a 6-1 loss at Philadelphia, has allowed 18 goals in its last four games — without a win.

Chicago ended a 300-plus minute scoreless stretch midway through the first half when Nikolic headed home Nicolás Gaitán’s free kick at the back post for his fourth goal of the season. Nikolic made it 2-0 in the 40th with another header for the Fire’s first goal off a corner kick this season.

Brandt Bronico scored on a curling shot in the 78th, and Gaitán and Przemyslaw Frankowski scored on breakaways four minutes apart.

IMPACT 2, RED BULLS 1

HARRISON, N.J. (AP) — Zakaria Diallo and Maximiliano Urruti scored 15 minutes apart in the second half and Montreal rallied to beat New York.

Montreal (6-4-2) won for the first time in nine regular-season games at Red Bull Arena to move into a three-way tie for first place in the Eastern Conference. New York (3-5-2), which had its two-game winning streak snapped, entered with a 28-8 scoring advantage at home against Montreal.

Diallo, who missed the entire 2018 season due to injury, scored his first MLS goal in the 64th minute to tie it at 1. Urruti gave Montreal the lead in the 79th on the Impact’s first penalty-kick attempt of the season.

New York’s Aaron Long headed home Marc Rzatkowski’s free kick in the 36th.

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