Tim Cahill 2

New York’s second half surge helps Red Bulls claim first major honor, end Chicago’s season


Mike Petke’s team was even going into halftime, but the New York head coach was far from happy. One of the keys he’d tried to emphasis this week — the need to keep track of Chicago star Mike Magee — had failed to set in, with the Fire forward opening the game’s scoring with his league-leading 21st goal. Thierry Henry had pulled New York even before the break, but the intensity Petke took into the locker room made it clear. His team was about to get an attitude adjustment.

Four minutes into the second half, Ibrahim Sekagya gave New York the lead. Then came Lloyd Sam’s goal. Erik Alexander got behind the defense in the 77th minute, and Jonny Steele piled on six minutes from time, before Quincy Amarikwa consolation.. In the span of 45 minutes, a 1-1 game that was set to cost New York the Supporters’ Shield had turned into a rout, the Red Bulls’ 5-2 victory not only ending the Fire’s season but giving the New York club their first major honor.

The team had made it to one MLS Cup final, losing in 2008. They’d won the East two other times (2000, 2010) but failed to claim silverware. In 2003, they made it to the U.S. Open Cup final. Before Sunday, the most significant honors New York had ever won were regional (Atlantic Cups) or exhibitions (Emirates Cup). Yet after running Chicago out of Red Bull Arena in today’s second half, New York has claimed the 2013 Supporters’ Shield.

With that honor comes home field advantage throughout the playoffs, an achievement that’s particularly noteworthy when you consider the field New York’s had to hold off. Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers, and Real Salt Lake would all be worthy winners under other circumstances, and late in the season, the two-time defending champions (LA Galaxy) made a late push. But unbeaten in eight to close their campaign, New York surged to this honor, outscoring their opponents 8-2 over the season’s final eight days.

Petke deserves a huge amount of credit, and given the authority with which New York’s closed the season, expect the first-year boss to garner a lot of votes for Coach of the Year. Although he seems to be an underdog in that race (to Caleb Porter), the changes he’s instilled deserve just as much attention. Whereas in the Henry era New York has been a consistently good team that’s failed to reach its potential, Petke has the Red Bulls performing best when the results matter most, whether you’re looking at last month’s hamstrung draw in Seattle or today’s Shield-clinching performance. The young coach’s focus, passion, and intensity are evident throughout this team.

Jamison Olave’s come in to marshall the defense, Dax McCarty continues to be a rock in midfield, while Thierry Henry still reminds us that he’s the best player in Major League Soccer on those occasions that he wants to be. It will be Petke’s job to make sure Henry’s sees this year’s playoffs as his chance to cement his MLS legacy.

But more and more, Tim Cahill seems like the heartbeat of this team, with the Australia international playing a crucial role on the Sekagya goal that claimed today’s lead for good. At midseason, while Petke was working through issues with Henry, Cahill started producing, tossing aside concerns about his lack of production. The 34-year-old finished the season with 11 goals. Like his coach, Cahill will get some late consideration for postseason honors.

But after today, the honor that matters most to New York is MLS Cup, their dreams of claiming silverware having been fulfilled with today’s rout in Harrison. After 17 years with an empty trophy case, New York has finally claimed their first major honor, and while some time to enjoy the achievement has been earned, the quest for trophy number two starts next weekend. The Red Bulls will be the top seed in MLS’s playoffs.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Sporting KC (video)

Seattle Sounders defender Roman Torres, right, exchanges words with Sporting Kansas City's Kevin Ellis, left, and Soni Mustivar, center, after Sounders' midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (not shown) was given a yellow card for a foul against midfielder Roger Espinoza in the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There’s a ton to unpack here, so we’ll dive right in. The Seattle Sounders topped Sporting Kansas City in the final knockout-round game of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Nelson Valdez scored the game’s only goal, an 88th-minute header, but not without supreme controversy. For starters, Valdez was offside as Joevin Jones played the ball into the box, just as Matt Besler was on a free kick for Sporting earlier in the second half. Besler’s goal was ruled out for offside, Valdez’s was allowed to stand. Benny Feilhaber, perhaps in his final game for Sporting, played like a man possessed and so nearly singlehandedly won the game for Sporting at multiple points on the night. Stefan Frei stood on his head and refused to allow such an occurrence. Osvaldo Alonso could have been sent off twice on the night — once on a straight red; once on a second yellow — but finished the game with just a single caution. Up next, the Sounders will take on Supporters’ Shield-winning FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

10′ — Zusi hits the post with a strike through traffic — Benny Feilhaber’s through ball to set up this double-chance for Sporting in sumptuous, and fully deserving of a proper finish.

53′ — Besler heads home, but he’s offside — This is about as close an onside/offside decisions get.

79′ — Frei denies Feilhaber after a spectacular run — Feilhaber’s run was mesmerizing, but Stefan Frei’s save was the tiniest bit better.

88′ — Valdez heads home the late winner — If Besler was offside, Valdez was offside. An unfitting end to a thrilling game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Benny Feilhaber

Goalscorers: Valdez (88′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.