Wasteful Sporting Kansas City bombs out of MLS playoffs

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Sometimes it certainly is possible to set a tempo a little too high. Sporting Kansas City showed us how it can happen.

The Eastern Conference champions, definitely the better team Wednesday at Livestrong Sporting Park, gave the Houston Dynamo all the helter-skelter, hell-bent, high-pressure soccer the visitors could handle in the back half of their conference semifinal.

SKC had everything in the performance – except, that is, a little composure near goal.

They needed two in order to match Houston’s pair of goals from Sunday’s opener in the series. They got just one – but, oh, did they miss a bundle.

Kansas City won, 1-0, but fell to the Dynamo on total goal aggregate over the two-game series, 2-1.

Considering the amount of possession and the number of quality chances created (the home team out-shot Houston 20-3), it’s fair to say that SKC’s season is ending prematurely because of some terribly wasteful finishing.

It looked like one of those games from the earliest minutes. Let’s go through the list that will haunt SKC fans

  • In the early minutes, striker C.J. Sapong broke free just to the right of goal but shot directly at Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall from 18 yards.
  • Not long after, Kei Kamara arranged a nice little something for Graham Zusi from the right, but the U.S. international got under the ball and left his shot from about 12 yards well high.
  • A few minutes after that, Kamara was in the middle for a shot with lots of potential, but saw that one that blocked from about 14 yards.
  • On a quality, headed layoff from Kamara, Sapong failed to connect solidly from point blank range, just outside the six-yard box. The “shot” rolled harmlessly to Hall. (You’re going to keep seeing Sapong’s name on this list.)
  • Sapong got loose for a first-half stoppage time header off a sharp corner kick delivery from Zusi, but that effort went well wide. Zusi, by the way, was all over the place, doing his part and then some to help his team dominate possession and create some of these chances.
  • None of that, by the way, is even considering Kamara’s snapped header, down low toward the far post, on another of Zusi’s precision free kick deliveries. That one went wide, too. Kamara was called offside, but the point is all the same. It was more haphazard finishing.
  • In the second half, Sapong, on a cross from Myers, got over Houston center back Andrew Hainault but watched his header fly well high.
  • Peterson Joseph shook free and, with time and the ball on his favored right foot, went way wide from about 15 yards wide.
  • Sapong had a chance to redirect a Kamara shot but failed to push it toward goal from 12 yards in the 66th minute.
  • Shortly after that, Sapong squeezed in between Houston’s two center backs and Hall, but squandered another one, blowing his shot from 12 yards into the stands, high of goal.
  • Oriol Rosell had time to line up a long-range effort but sprayed his effort from 22 yards harmlessly wide to the left.
  • Finally, center back Matt Besler – in fairness, he isn’t paid to score goals – lifted his right leg high and twisted somewhat awkwardly to volley over goal from close range.

There were a couple of others that were crisply hit, but right toward Hall.

In fact, what you’ll see there, or more accurately will not see there, are a bunch of stretching, diving, heroic saves from Hall. Houston’s No. 1 had another solid match, getting off his line quickly and confidently to snatch the balls that needed snatching.

But SKC will rue all those chances to test the visiting goalkeeper, at very least.

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

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Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.