Fabian Castillo highlights importance as FC Dallas see off Vancouver

The 2014 MLS playoffs got underway last night as FC Dallas played host to the Vancouver Whitecaps at Toyota Stadium, with Dallas progressing thanks to a 2-1 victory.

It was an intense game as expected, with 42 fouls over the course of the game resulting in seven yellow cards and one red, as Sebastian Fernandez was sent off after the final whistle for his actions towards referee Mark Geiger.

Tesho Akindele opened the scoring for the home side in the first-half, but Erik Hurtado’s deflected shot tied the game in the 63rd minute, before a controversial penalty was awarded to Dallas ten minutes from time.

Kendall Waston was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball, despite his arms being by his side, and Michel confidently tucked away the resulting spot-kick, much to the disbelief of the Whitecaps players and fans alike.

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That was enough to seal the win for Dallas, but the performance of winger Fabian Castillo is what was the most encouraging thing to take forward.

The 22-year-old was excellent all night and he attempted an impressive seven dribbles – some feat considering the team only attempted nine in total, including Castillo’s seven.

Fabian Castillo showcases dribbling ability against Vancouver Whitecaps (via MLS on YouTube)

The exciting Colombian ended the regular season with ten goals and three assists, and if he can find his best form in the playoffs, Dallas has a real chance of going all the way to the MLS Cup.

He had more shots than any other teammate last night with three, and is certainly the main threat in this strong FC Dallas team.

They now prepare to host the Seattle Sounders in the first-leg of the Western Conference semi-final on Sunday night.

How important is Fabian Castillo to FC Dallas?

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Seattle and Vancouver share spoils in exciting Cascadia Cup showdown

The Seattle Sounders grabbed a late penalty to ensure that the points were shared in the Cascadia Cup meeting against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place as an exciting game ended 2-2.

Inside the first 3 minutes, Gershon Koffie was already testing the Seattle goal but the effort was smartly dealt with at the near post by goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Koffie was at the heart of the action soon after, when he struck a long range effort against the crossbar following a storming run towards the Sounders goal.

But against the run of play in the 35th minute, the home fans were left stunned when a cross from Kenny Cooper found Chad Barrett, who was making his first start for the club, and he nodded in a beautiful header for his second of the season.

However the Sounders lead was short lived when Erik Hurtado intercepted the ball inside his own half, passing the ball to Bowen who then found Chilean Moralez with a wonderful first-time ball back into Hurtado who dazzled Osvaldo Alonso, not once but twice.

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Hurtado then blasted past Frei and into the Sounders net from a tight angle, drawing the home side level at the 38th minute mark.

The 60th minute saw Manneh break free again, but he was denied once more  by the rushing Frei.

But five minutes later the Whitecaps took the lead, as Frei’s clearance from near the touchline fell to Koffie who chested the ball down, allowing a bounce before taking it on and volleying into an empty Seattle net from over 30 yards, sending BC Place into raptures.

Inside the last ten minutes the Sounders got the chance to equalize after Jay Demerit was unfortunately penalised for bashing into the back of Cam Weaver in the air.

With regular Sounders penalty taker Clint Dempsey away with the USMNT, it was up to Mexican Gonzalo Pineda to take it under serious pressure.

Pineda stepped up and coolly put the ball into the net, making it look easy with his chipped finish, bringing Seattle level going into the last ten minutes.

The goal seemed to inspire the Sounders as Obafemi Martins came charging towards the  Vancouver goal before striking the post, in an effort which would of surely won the game for the Sounders.

Six minutes added time were added on at the end of an exciting game and Vancouver went close to snatching the game in the  92nd minute, but Koffie’s effort was straight at Frei.

Both sides now move on with the Whitecaps carrying on their battle for the Cascadia Cup next week against Portland Timbers, whilst a top of the table clash between Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake takes place next Saturday.

Highlights via MLS on YouTube:

Toronto need penalties to see off resolute Whitecaps

Toronto FC advanced to the Amway Canadian Championship final after beating the Vancouver Whitecaps 5-3 in a penalty shootout at BC Place last night.

The pair couldn’t be separated, with the aggregate score 3-3 after 210 minutes of action over the two legs, and penalties were needed to send Toronto through to face the Montreal Impact in the final.

Jermain Defoe didn’t feature as he watched on from the bench, as Luke Moore started his first game for the club alongside Brazilian striker Gilberto.

Vancouver trailed 2-1 from the first-leg, and their task got a lot more difficult inside the opening five minutes, as Toronto took an early lead through Doneil Henry.

Henry looked to be offside as he tapped in, following a Michael Bradley free-kick that was headed onto the bar by Whitecaps defender Nick Hagglund.

The early setback meant Vancouver had to attack Toronto, and they did just that, registering 25 shots during the game.

They got the equaliser just before halftime, as Erik Hurtado’s strike levelled it up following a great chip over the defence by Chilean midfielder Pedro Morales.

The Whitecaps pressed for the second goal that would tie the aggregate score and Kekuta Manneh had a good chance to do so, but for Reds goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who charged down the young Gambian.

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(Photo: Joe Bendik made some vital saves to keep Toronto in the game)

Vancouver eventually got the goal they desperately searched for, as Henry brought down Hurtado in the box to allow Morales to score from the penalty spot.

Toronto had the best chances to win the match in extra-time but neither side could get that elusive goal and penalties were needed to decide the tie.

The Reds scored all five of their penalties to advance, with Kekuta Manneh the unlucky Whitecap to miss, as Joe Bendik saved another one of his efforts.

Toronto will face Montreal in the two-legged final starting in two weeks as they aim to get their hands on their fifth Canadian Championship title against the current holders.

The Impact edged past FC Edmonton in the final seconds of the other semi-final, winning 4-2 on the night, with the winner coming from a controversial penalty in the 97th minute to send the MLS club through 5-4 on aggregate.