Landon Donovan, Nat Borchers

Real Salt Lake ousts LA Galaxy, advances into Western Conference final

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Two Real Salt Lake men who don’t score a lot notched the goals of their lifetime Thursday as the measurably smaller-budget club from Utah took down the two-time defending MLS champion LA Galaxy.

Sebastian Velasquez’s first-half goal supplied a huge psychological lift to RSL, a header that held up for the 1-0 win over 90 minutes of the teams’ second leg in this Western Conference semifinal playoff series. That leveled the aggregate score at 1-1 and sent the game into a 30-minute extra time.

Chris Schuler’s second career goal, off a precision free kick from Javier Morales, made the score 2-0 on the night, handing Real Salt Lake the series and a date in the conference finals against Portland or Seattle.

The Galaxy was bidding to come Major League Soccer’s first team in 18 years to win three consecutive titles. It also broke a streak of six consecutive conference semifinal series wins for the Galaxy.

Real Salt Lake had to play the final 10 minutes of extra time a man down after striker Alvaro Saborio limped off. His hip flexor aggravation left the team short because manager Jason Kreis had already used all three substitutions.

Sean Franklin, who had scored the first-leg goal in Los Angeles, the big strike that had put so much pressure on Kreis team, had the Galaxy’s final chance. His stabbing header from close-range bounced just wide, another missed chance in 180 minutes that had so many of them for the champions.

(MORE: RSL Man of the Match, Javier Morales)

Velasquez, among RSL’s young stable of talent, scored the goal of his career (by a long way) when he was left free to head home Chris Wingert’s cross in the 35th minute.

It was such an important goal psychologically for RSL, with so much trouble scoring goals lately, and a team that had marched into the match on an alarmingly lengthy string of playoff minutes without finding net. It didn’t just level the score on aggregate, it vented the pressure from a team with an ugly history of being shut out in elimination matches at Rio Tinto.

Besides that, Real Salt Lake had won 10 of 12 matches this year when leading at the half.

The second half chances went almost exclusively to RSL, with Saborio banging one header off the cross bar and later hitting the post with a quick-release shot from just beyond the penalty area. Jaime Penedo had much more work in L.A. goal than his RSL counterpart Nick Rimando.

The series could have turned when a long, late free kick from Javier Morales whipped in quickly over everyone and bounded past Penedo into goal. RSL center back Nat Borchers had begun his run in an offside position but never really got close to the ball. Still, he was adjudged offside … or perhaps there was a foul. Either way, referee Baldomero Toledo immediately waved off the goal, controversially so.

The rain and a hard field (so says Bruce Arena, anyway) kept either team from gaining a steady rhythm of possession. Both teams seemed slightly nervous about it all, and the result was a cautious second half without much happening over long stretches.

Robbie Rogers, not doing too much but generating what little offense the visitors could muster, cut inside to force a classy double save from Nick Rimando. At the other end, Robbie Findley caused some trouble here and there, as when he wriggled from along the left and forced Penedo to save at the near post.

The 1-0 score held, so a 30-minute overtime decided the series.

Schuler, so good in defense over the two legs, got on the end of Morales’ free kick at the far post in the 102nd minute (12 minutes into the first extra period) to send his team through.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

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New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.

Men In Blazers podcast: Romelu Lukaku Pod Special

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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3 – 1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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