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MONTREAL, Oct 30, (AFP): Former Chelsea star Didier Drogba kept up his incredible scoring record as Montreal Impact cruised past Toronto FC 3-0 to advance in the MLS Cup playoffs on Thursday.
The Ivory Coast international bagged his 12th goal in 12 games since signing for Montreal in July after finally calling time on his career with Chelsea in the English Premier League.
The 37-year-old scored the home side’s third with a straightforward tap-in at the far post on 39 minutes to effectively seal victory in the all-Canada clash.
It capped a superb week for Drogba, who on Wednesday was named the MLS Player of the Month for a second straight time in recognition of his goalscoring form for Impact, whose fortunes have been transformed since his arrival.
Montreal had been battling for a playoff berth when Drogba arrived but made it into the post-season thanks to the Ivorian’s goals.
He scored twice against Toronto on Sunday, ensuring Montreal finished third seeds in the Eastern Conference.
On Thursday Montreal wasted no time in asserting their superiority over Toronto once more, taking the lead on 18 minutes after a superbly worked counterattack.
Ignacio Piatti burst clear from deep before releasing Patrice Bernier, who timed his run to perfection to go through on goal.
The veteran Canadian international picked his spot before calmly finishing beneath advancing Toronto goalkeeper Chris Konopka.
Piatti doubled the Montreal lead on 33 minutes, gathering the ball on the edge of the area, holding off his marker and firing a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.
Victory was all but assured six minutes before halftime when Drogba scored, sweeping home at the back post after Bernier crossed from the right flank. Montreal advanced to an Eastern Conference semi-final clash with Columbus.
In Western Conference action, the Portland Timbers sneaked through 7-6 on penalties after playing to a 2-2 draw after extra time with Sporting Kansas City.
Goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey was the hero for Portland with three saves in the shoot-out as well as the decisive conversion from the spot against Kansas City substitute goalkeeper Jon Kempin.
Kempin had come on in the 84th minute when keeper Tim Melia reluctantly exited 14 minutes after taking a blow to the head.
After Portland’s Rodney Wallace opened the scoring in the 57th minute, Kevin Ellis equalized in the 87th to force extra time.
Krisztian Nemeth put Sporting up 2-1 early in extra time before Maximiliano Urruti scored in the 118th minute to force the shoot-out.
Portland will face Vancouver in the Western Conference semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard called for the Los Angeles Galaxy to toughen up their defence after his debut season in Major League Soccer was brought to an abrupt end with a 3-2 defeat to the Seattle Sounders.
The star-studded defending champions — whose $19.5 million payroll is the second highest in MLS history — were bundled out of the playoffs on Wednesday after an error-strewn performance at CenturyLink Field.
Former Liverpool and England captain Gerrard said the Galaxy’s season had come unstuck through a tendency to give away cheap goals to the opposition, placing too high a burden on the team’s potent attack.
“For us it just seems like we’ve got to score three or four goals to get over the line to win games, and that’s what we’ve got to analyse over the winter,” said Gerrard, a high-profile signing for the Galaxy in July.
“I know (coach) Bruce (Arena) quite well now having got used to him and I’m sure that’s where he’ll be analysing.
“We’ve got to stop this team conceding goals because we know we’re capable of scoring anywhere in the league.
“I’ve been in this game long enough to know that if you’re going to be successful you can’t keep conceding goals.”
All three of Seattle’s goals on Wednesday came from defensive blunders by the Galaxy, leaving Arena seething with anger after the match.
“Our play in front of our goal defensively was atrocious,” the former United States coach said. “We just giftwrapped those three goals. Give them credit — they jumped on the mistakes, but we were shockingly poor. “If you’re going to give away goals like that, you don’t deserve to win, that’s for sure.”