FRISCO -- Tesho Akindele and Michel kicked off the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T, with a bang, bagging goals on either side of halftime to give FC Dallas a 2-1 victory Wednesday night over the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Western Conference Knockout Round at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
But not before they got perhaps a little help from head referee Mark Geiger.
He whistled Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston for a handball in the box late in the second half, after Vancouver equalized on a second-half Erik Hurtado goal, leading to the game-winning penalty kick from Michel.
FC Dallas, making their first playoff appearance since 2011, advance for the first time since 2010 and now face a conference semifinal matchup with Supporters’ Shield champion Seattle Sounders, starting Sunday at Toyota Stadium.
Vancouver, who nabbed the fifth and final seed in the West thanks to a win in their season finale Saturday, are eliminated after making their first playoff appearance since 2012.
Coming off their regular-season finales Saturday and with ‘Caps midfielder Russell Teibert absent from the XI for the first time since Aug. 10, it took some time for the teams to feel each other out.
But after a choppy first 25 minutes, the Whitecaps found the first major chance of the game in the 27th minute. Hurtado laid off 10 yards outside the box for Pedro Morales, who let fly from distance. It took some work, but FCD goalkeeper Chris Seitz eventually gobbled up the shot.
Two minutes later, FCD got on the front foot by way of an impressive run from Fabian Castillo, who skirted past two defenders on a pacey run up the right wing. His cross to Blas Perez in the box, however, was ultimately cleared after some tense moments for Vancouver.
FCD broke through five minutes before the half when Mauro Diaz took a long throw in near midfield, broke free on a goalward run before playing ahead to a charging Akindele, who coolly finished across the goal to the far post with the help of a slight deflection off the foot of Vancouver defender Andy O’Brien.
Vancouver nearly found the equalizer just two minutes after the break when Rosales hit a bending free kick from just outside the area that banged off the goalpost.
Vancouver came out of the break flying, buzzing the FCD goal with several attempts before a shot from second-half substitute Kekuta Manneh was gobbled up by Seitz.
But they finally found the back of the net in the 64th minute when Hurtado finished off a rebound from a blocked Manneh shot, all stemming from a long Rosales free kick.
The decisive goal came when Waston, so dominant in central defense for Vancouver since his signing late in the season, was caught on a handball in the box in the 82nd minute while attempting to clear a long FCD throw-in.
A last-ditch effort from outside the box on a Rosales free kick in stoppage time came close, but missed to the right for Vancouver’s best chance to equalize.