Columbus and Portland win first legs, in prime position to advance to MLS decider

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus' Justin Meram scored after just nine seconds and the Crew went on to beat the New York Red Bulls 2-0 on Sunday in the first leg of the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference finals.

The fastest goal in MLS playoff history put the Crew in a strong position to advance to the league decider.

In the Western Conference finals first leg, Portland recorded a 3-1 win at home against Dallas.

Meram's goal came from a long ball forward. Kei Kamara had a glancing header, Ethan Finlay got to the ball but lost control between two defenders and Iraq international Meram was in the right spot to knock in the loose ball.

New York kept the deficit to one goal and in an advantageous position going into their home leg, until Kamara scored in the 85th minute. Cedrick used individual skill to beat three defenders in the box and sent a difficult-angled shot off the hand of goalkeeper Luis Robles. Kamara was left alone at the far post for an easy tap in.

It was the first time the Red Bulls had been held scoreless since May 24.

The second game is next Sunday in Harrison, New Jersey.

Portland's Liam Ridgewell, Dairon Asprilla and Nat Borchers all scored as the Timbers beat Dallas 3-1.

With a 2-0 deficit, David Texeira scored in the 61st minute to narrow it for Dallas, the West's top seed in the playoffs. But Borchers added a goal for Portland at the 90-minute mark.

Ridgewell, the former Aston Villa, Birmingham and West Bromwich Albion defender, barreled in on a diving goalkeeper for his first goal of the season in the 23rd minute.

Asprilla's long shot came from outside the penalty area, and sailed beyond the keeper's reach.

Dallas scored what could prove to be an important away goal when David Texeira chipped in a shot in the 61st minute, moments after Ridgewell had limped off injured.

Borchers' goal came in stoppage time when a number of Timbers scrambled to push in Paparatto's header.

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