Atlanta United falls in the Eastern Conference finals

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Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019

ATLANTA (AP) -- Nick DeLeon scored the tiebreaking goal in the 78th minute, Quentin Westberg stuffed a penalty kick and Toronto FC advanced to the MLS Cup title game with a 2-1 victory over defending champion Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference final Wednesday night.

Nicolas Benezet also scored for Toronto, which knocked off the top teams in the East -- New York City FC and Atlanta -- to earn a shot at the championship Nov. 10 at Seattle. The Sounders upset Supporters' Shield winner Los Angeles FC 3-1 in the Western final Tuesday night.

Atlanta jumped ahead just four minutes into the game on Julian Gressel's goal and had a chance to increase the margin on a penalty. But Westberg got a hand on Josef Martinez's kick for the spot, which kept Toronto in the game.

DeLeon won it with a brilliant shot from 25 yards out. Surrounded by Atlanta defenders, he found just enough room to unleash a right-footed blast from 25 yards that beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the top left corner.

Toronto FC returns to the title game just two seasons after winning the title with one of the greatest years in MLS history. The Canadian team slumped badly in 2018, missing the playoffs, but now finds itself playing for another championship after two straight impressive road victories.

One more will be required to take the cup.

It was a bitter ending for Atlanta, which would have host the MLS Cup title game for the second year in a row with a victory. United won the Campeones Cup and the U.S. Cup, but this was the title they really wanted -- especially in the final season for captain Michael Parkhurst, who is retiring. The longtime MLS stalwart came up two wins short of another title.