13.11.2023 03:14 h

Columbus crush Atlanta to set up Eastern semi with Orlando

The Columbus Crew marched into the Eastern Conference semi-finals in Major League Soccer after an impressive 4-2 win over Atlanta United in Sunday's first round, game three.

The Crew, two-times MLS champions, will face Orlando City in for a place in the conference final with the other Eastern semi seeing top seed FC Cincinnati up against last year's runners-up the Philadelphia Union.

In a pulsating encounter, Darlington Nagbe fired the Crew ahead in the ninth minute, picking up a poor clearance before weaving into space and drilling low into the bottom corner.

It took just eight minutes for Columbus to double their advantage and it was in spectacular fashion with Danish defender Malte Amundsen thundering in a left foot drive from over 25 yards out.

The Crew were on fire and Romanian Alexandru Matan made it 3-0 in the 33rd when Diego Rossi found him on the right and he powered a diagonal drive past Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan.

But Atlanta, 2018 MLS champions, struck back two minutes later to give themselves a glimmer of hope for the second half, with Greek forward Giorgos Giakoumakis converting from close range after a smart ball across the box from Bryan Lennon.

But Columbus were quick out of the blocks again for the second half with Matan returning the favour to Rossi with a defence-splitting pass which the Uruguayan coolly converted.

Atlanta were not about to roll over though and they again responded with Portuguese winger Xande Silva providing the side-foot finish to another fine cross from Lennon.

But it was Columbus who looked the more dangerous in the remainder of the game with Cucho Hernandez rattling a free-kick against the bar in the final minutes.

The Western Conference semi-finals feature the Houston Dynamo, who beat Real Salt Lake on Saturday, up against Sporting Kansas City while the Seattle Sounders face defending champions Los Angeles FC.