Paulo Nagamura, Claudio Bieler

Claudio Bieler’s 113th minute goal puts Sporting Kansas City into the Eastern Conference final


He didn’t even make the traveling squad for Saturday’s first leg in Foxborough, but after 113 minutes on Wednesday, Claudio Beiler made his impact on the series. Beating Matt Reis with a one-timer from 12 yards out, the Argentine Designated Player put Sporting Kansas City into the Eastern Conference final, their 3-1, extra time win over New England allowing them to advance on aggregate, 4-3.

Bieler’s goal came after an ill-advised throw from Reis was intercepted along Sporting’s right by Benny Feilhaber, the former U.S. international carrying the ball deep down the flank for rolling a cross toward the penalty spot. With the defense still reacting to the unexpected turnover, Bieler was unmarked in front of goal, his right-footed finish into the left of the net giving Reis no chance to make up for his game-changing error.

Kansas City had reached halftime on the back of goals from two defenders, with Aurélien Collin opening the scoring in the 42nd minute. After Dimitry Imbongo’s second half goal had reclaimed New England’s lead before Seth Sinovic scored in the 79th minute, setting the stage for Bieler’s extra time winner.

The win puts Sporting in their second conference final in three years. There they will meet the Houston Dynamo, a team that has become their nemesis. Dom Kinnear’s side has seen Sporting out of the last two playoffs, and with their win tonight, the Dynamo will face Kansas City for a chance to play in a third straight MLS Cup final.

Kansas City generated the match’s first good chance in the 17th minute with a cross from Sinovic attacking the right post. A nice run from wide from C.J. Sapong drew both right back Darius Barnes and central defender Jose Goncalves, allowing Dom Dwyer to fan out into space. The KC striker’s header from eight yards out went down toward Reis’s line, but a quick reaction from the Revolution keeper saw the veteran to make a diving save.

Sapong’s influence would be felt throughout the half, losing Barnes on a 33rd minute corner headed into Reis’s hands before playing a part in the opening goal. In the 41st minute, a cross from the right from Chance Myers targeted Sapong in the middle of the box. The chaos he caused saw the ball fly over challenging defenders and onto the thigh of an unsuspecting Andrew Farrell. When the resulting ball fell to Collin, the Kansas City defender had his second goal of the series.

It was culmination of Kansas City’s dominant half, one that rarely allowed New England possession in their attacking half. Sporting outshot their visitors 11-2 over the first 45 minutes, putting four shots on target without allowing the Revolution to test Jimmy Nielsen. They had 72 percent of the half’s possession while limiting New England to 58 percent passing.

Moments after the second half’s kickoff, Sporting nearly doubled their lead, with a movement down the right flank creating a chance for Dwyer near the spot. Reis would swallow that chance and also deny the English forward 10 minutes later, when his header starting a two-chance sequence that ended with a diving save on Feilhaber.

By that time, however, New England had asserted more control of the match. The introduction of defensive midfielder Scott Caldwell (at Andy Dorman’s expense) helped the Revolution create more turnovers in the middle of the park, while improved play higher up the pitch mean New England had started to generate chances.

Their efforts paid off in the 70th minute, with two Matt Besler mistakes helping the visitors regain their lead. The U.S. international had fouled Juan Agudelo along New England’s right ahead of a Kelyn Rowe restart – a cross to the edge of the six that saw Imbongo outmuscle Besler to volley home a go-ahead goal.

The Revolution’s 3-2 lead wouldn’t last long. Nine minutes later, shortly after Imbongo was subbed off, Sinovic beat Chad Barrett to a Graham Zusi flick. Although the Kansas City defender has never scored in the regular season, his finish bent the far side netting, pulled the home side even.

In the 85th minute, an aerial challenge lost by Collin left Besler exposed at the back, with Diego Fagundez bearing down. The Revolution attacker elected to shoot from just outside the penalty area, his right footed curler grazing the cross bar as it went out for a goal kick.

In extra time, with Sporting controlling play, the Revolution had another chance to secure the upset, with Juan Agedulo beating Besler to go in on goal in the 109th minute. A quick read allowed Nielsen to get off his line and cut off Agudelo’s options.

Four minutes later, Sporting Kansas City had their winner. After a poor outlet throw from Reis, Feilhaber intercepted the ball on the right. With a surprised defense collapsing toward the edge of their six-yard box, an unmarked Bieler had plenty of time to redirect the ball into the left side of goal, giving Kansas City a 4-3 lead.

Sporting Park’s explosion at Matt Grieger’s final whistle may as well have been a sight of relief, one that transcends the roller coast nature of their Eastern Conference semifinal. With much-discussed failures of the last two postseason brought back into focus by Saturday’s performance, Kansas City was not only had defeat the Revolution but also their recent history.

Thanks to Sinovic’s equalizer and Bieler’s winner, Kansas City get another chance to put their recent past behind them. A conference final against Houston gives them a chance at redemption.


Sporting Kansas City: 41′ Aurélien Collin, 79′ Seth Sinovic, 113′ Claudio Bieler

New England Revolution: 70′ Dmitry Imbongo


Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen; Chance Myers, Aurélien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Oriel Rosell, Paolo Nagamura (97′ Soony Saad); Benny Feilhaber (115′ Ike Opara); Graham Zusi, C.J. Sapong, Dom Dwyer (84′ Claudio Bieler)

Unused subs: Eric Kronberg, Jacob Petersen, Teal Bunbury, Mechak Jerome

New England Revolution: Matt Reis ; Andrew Farrell, A.J. Soares, Jose Goncalves, Darius Barnes (115; Jerry Bengtson); Andy Dorman (46′ Scott Caldwell); Dimitry Imbongo (78′ Chad Barrett), Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez; Juan Agudelo

Unused subs: Clyde Simms, Bobby Stuttleworth, Stephen McCarthy,  Donald Smith

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

Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans celebrates after Sounders' Nelson Haedo Valdez scored a goal against Sporting Kansas City in the second half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0. (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.