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.

MLS Snapshot: POR carve up 9-man ORL, keep pace with VAN, SKC

Pete Christopher//The Oregonian via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): All of a sudden, the Western Conference has sprung to life as the 2017 regular season winds down — Vancouver Whitecaps, winners of five of their last seven games (unbeaten); Portland Timbers, winners of four of their last six following Sunday’s 3-0 victory over 10-man nine-man Orlando City SC at Providence Park; Sporting Kansas City, losers of just two of their last 15 games; Seattle Sounders, who had their 13-game unbeaten run snapped on Saturday; and Real Salt Lake, winners of four of their last five. With fewer than a handful of games remaining, Vancouver’s lead on Portland and Sporting KC remains one point after all three sides won this weekend; RSL and Seattle are separated by just three points, three points back of second and third. As for Saturday’s game, Diego Valeri is now a top-two candidate for MVP after scoring two more goals (his 19th and 20th, to go with 9 assists) against 10-man Orlando.

[ MORE: TFC’s Shield celebration delayed | RSL end Seattle’s run at 13 ]

Three moments that mattered

15′ — Valeri extends his streak, makes it 1-0 — The last time Valeri failed to score in a game, the date was July 23.

29′ — Mattocks taps it home after Asprilla’s cross — Huge credit to Diego Chara for the through ball to spring Dairon Asprilla into acres of space. The ball to Mattocks was simple, and he got it right.

59′ — Valeri gets no. 20, makes it 3-0 — Joe Bendik managed to deny Mattocks’ initial effort, but Valeri followed up when everyone in white had already quit on the play.

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

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (15′ – PK, 59′), Mattocks (29′)

The 2 Robbies: City Sparkle, Chelsea Shine, Liverpool Hold On

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe take a look at some of the weekend’s biggest storylines, including Liverpool’s thrilling victory over Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur’s frantic win away to West Ham United and Manchester City’s demolition of Crystal Palace.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Ederson harbors no ill will after Mane’s personal apology

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As far as Ederson is concerned, Sadio Mane‘s studs-to-face assault is a thing of the past — save for, the elongated scar he’ll likely wear on the left side of his face for the rest of his life, of course.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Goals galore on a wild Saturday ]

The Manchester City goalkeeper, who was forced from his side’s 5-0 victory over Liverpool on Sept. 9 after his face was raked by the studs of the Reds’ star attacker, revealed this weekend that he received — and accepted — Mane’s personal apology in the days immediately thereafter — quotes from Goal.com:

“Yes, I had contact with him, he sent me a message. I told him to stay calm, those things happen inside the pitch, it could happen anytime. I told him to not worry and wished him a good season.”

“I ended up having a hard hit in the face, but in the same week, I was ready to play in Champions League. I felt a strong kick, but I was always conscious. I knew it had been a long cut. I wanted to keep playing but, for medical issues, I couldn’t keep playing.

“But I was always conscious, even if I had my face a little bit swollen. But after a week it was normal again. In the same week, I was ready to play in Champions League. I faced that game full of confidence again, without any fear and happy for the result we achieved.”

Bundesliga: Leverkusen throttle HSV; Hannover remain unbeaten

Marius Becker/dpa via AP
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BERLIN (AP) Three days after being cleared to play by FIFA, Argentine striker Lucas Alario scored one goal and set up another on his debut for Bayer Leverkusen to beat Hamburger SV 3-0 in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Alario struck midway through the first half, converting a cross from Leon Bailey, who also set up Kevin Volland’s opening goal just three minutes before.

A moment of class from Julian Brandt sent Alario through with less than 10 minutes remaining, and the Argentine had the awareness to spot the better-positioned Volland to seal the win.

Alario went off moments later to warm applause from fans.

“The goal is the cream on top. He played very well, scored the goal and combined with others. He worked well coming back and his first goal wasn’t so easy to score,” Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich said.

Alario’s first appearance for Leverkusen was held up when previous club River Plate objected to his transfer through the Argentine soccer association (AFA), which denied his playing rights.

The Buenos Aires-based club contended that Alario’s transfer was invalid as Leverkusen paid his release clause of $28.6 million on Aug. 31, after the Argentine season began, which it said was against FIFA rules.

Leverkusen then took the case to FIFA, which ruled in its favor on Thursday.

Leverkusen’s second win in six games eased the pressure on new coach Herrlich after a difficult start.

Counterpart Markus Gisdol remains in need of a change in fortune, however, after four straight defeats. Hamburg next faces Werder Bremen, Mainz and Bayern Munich.


Cologne fought its way to its first point in a 0-0 draw at promoted Hannover after starting the Bundesliga with five straight defeats.

Now the last-place side hopes it can build on the point.

“The luck will come back and the chances we had today will go in,” Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn said. “We’ll start winning the games again. But the precondition was this performance that we delivered today.”

Peter Stoeger’s side, which has scored only one goal all season, hasn’t netted in its last four league games. That highlighted the extent to which Cologne relied on French striker Anthony Modeste, sold in the offseason in a big-money move to Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian.

Modeste scored 25 Bundesliga goals for Cologne last season. His replacement, former Mainz striker Jhon Cordoba, is yet to score in six games.

“We all have to be satisfied with the draw,” said Hannover general manager Horst Heldt, whose fourth-place side remains one of three unbeaten in the Bundesliga this season.

Hannover coach Andre Breitenreiter remained unbeaten in 15 games across two divisions.