Real Salt Lake Man of the Match: Javier Morales

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There were lots of great, potential Man of the Match choices around the park for Real Salt Lake, which took a nice, long stride in the direction of the 2013 MLS Cup final with its commanding performance over a potentially staggered Portland Timbers.

But when Javier Morales put his head on a late corner kick, supplying Real Salt Lake with a crucial fourth goal in the opener of this highly attractive first-leg Western Conference final, the veteran Argentine playmaker sealed the deal.

It looked like Morales had bequeathed his team a seriously intimidating three-goal advantage in the series, although Freddie Piquionne’s late, bullet header for Portland changes things a bit as this one reaches “halftime.”

Still, Morales had so very much to say about an enormous night at Rio Tinto Stadium, one that started with a surprising nervousness, but unfolded about as well as it possibly could from there for Jason Kreis’ team. Morales had a goal and two assists, but his equally important imprint was in helping the home team rule the midfield.

RSL had just 36 percent of the possession over the game’s first few minutes, a really shocking number considering how strong RSL generally is in possession, especially at Rio Tinto.

But there was Morales to calm the choppy waters. When the team’s younger midfielders in the RSL diamond, Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez, settled down – and they were both very good in two-way work over 90 minutes – Portland had very little going.

Morales didn’t just assist his team in retaining possession; his passes almost always kept the team moving forward. And that kept Portland pinned in for long stretches. When Portland tried to press, Morales was there to help RSL reliably break the pressure. And when Portland sat back, Morales guided his team in picking apart the visitors’ scrambling back line, spraying timely balls out wide to be pinged back in front of Timbers’ goal.

Morales’ early corner kick found Chris Schuler for the critical equalizer. Later, Morales helped spring Robbie Findley as RSL rookie Devon Sandoval got into the scoring act. And finally, that deflected header that gave Portland is fourth.

And this part was less noticed on Morales’ big night of attacking and steely ball handling:

On RSL’s other goal, who was it chasing all the way back, assisting Gil in defense along RSL’s right side as RSL won the ball and quickly moved the other way? That was Morales, helping to claim possession before Findley was off and running, pressuring Portland’s back line and creating the home team’s second goal.

Huddersfield promoted to Premier League; beat Reading on PKs

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LONDON — Huddersfield Town beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks in the Championship Playoff Final at Wembley on Monday to secure promotion to the Premier League for the first time in club history.

In a tense, tight game Huddersfield missed big chances early on and Reading fought back valiantly.

However, it was German-American manager David Wagner who got the better of Jaap Stam as his team won 4-3 on penalty kicks as Danny Ward saved Jordan Obita‘s spot kick and then Christopher Schindler scored the winner.

A remarkable story as Huddersfield secured promotion to the top-flight of English soccer for the first time in 1972.

Huddersfield had the first big chance of the game as Aaron Mooy‘s free kick from the left found Michael Hefele but he nodded just wide after rising at the back post.

The Terriers continued to press and had a glorious chance to take the lead as Elias Kachunga got free on the right side of the box and his shot across goal looked destined to be tapped home by Isaiah Brown… but somehow he shinned the effort wide from one yard out.

At the other end Reading went close when Lewis Grabban dropped deep and curled towards the top corner but it flew just wide.

Huddersfield continued to pour forward in search of the opener as Nahki Wells’ cross was hooked clear and Reading, somehow, went in level at the break.

Reading started the second half well as John Swift burst into the box but his show was straight at Danny Ward who saved.

That effort sparked Huddersfield back into life as they twice surged into the box but couldn’t find the final pass at the crucial moment.

The game grew more tense as the clock ticked closer to 90 minutes with substitute Collin Quaner failing to get proper contact on Aaron Mooy’s cross.

Late on Reading pushed forward as Hefele made a wonderful last-ditch clearance with Yann Kermorgant lurking and Huddersfield lost captain Tommy Smith to a serious injury.

Seven minutes of stoppage time couldn’t find a winner, so the game went in to extra time but an extra 30 minutes failed to open up the game as Garath McCleary drilled a low shot wide and then Nahki Wells dragged a tired effort wide in the 116th minute and that was as close as either team came to scoring.

After 120 minutes it finished 0-0 and penalty kicks were needed to decide who gained promotion to the Premier League.

Huddersfield won on penalty kicks after Danny Ward saved Jordan Obita’s spot kick and then Schindler stepped up to send the Terriers into the top flight for the first time since 1972.

Marco Reus out several months with cruciate ligament tear

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DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Marco Reus has been ruled out for several months with a partial tear of the cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Reus suffered the injury in Saturday’s German Cup final and Dortmund says, “Further examinations will be conducted over the next few days to determine what course of treatment is required. Borussia Dortmund will therefore not make any precise prognosis on the possible length of the player’s absence.”

Reus, who had been left out of Germany’s Confederations Cup squad after a season plagued by injury, suffered the latest blow in the first half of Dortmund’s 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the German season’s showpiece in Berlin.

Dortmund’s win gave the 27-year-old Reus his first title in a career of persistent injury setbacks.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Perisic to Man United; Iheanacho to West Ham

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Inter Milan’s sporting director Pierro Ausilio has told Mediaset that Manchester United are interested in signing Croatian winger Ivan Perisic, but there’s been no official offer.

Ausilio said that “certainly there is interest” from United but also said that Perisic is a “champion” and Inter like to “keep hold of their champions.”

Perisic, 28, has been linked with a $46.2 million move to United and it is believed Inter may be willing to offload him to bring in James Rodriguez from Real Madrid.

The Croatian international is capable of playing on the left, right or in the center and scored 11 goals and added eight assists in 31 Serie A starts for Inter in 2016-17.

United seemed to be well stocked out wide with Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, but the power and supreme crossing ability of Perisic may give them a slightly different option out wide.


West Ham United have offered $26.4 million for Kelechi Iheanacho, according to the Daily Mirror.

Iheanacho, 20, has struggled for playing time this season at Manchester City after the emergence of Gabriel Jesus. With Sergio Aguero also likely to be around next season in a center forward role, plus City’s whole host of star attackers, the Nigerian youngster may find it hard to break in to Pep Guardiola‘s team next season too.

For West Ham, this move would make plenty of sense. Be it a permanent deal or a loan move.

The latter may suit City as Iheanacho proved his worth in the 2015-16 campaign, scoring 14 goals in 35 appearances, most of which were off the bench. In the 2016-17 campaign he was reduced to just 29 appearances but he still scored seven times for City in all competitions. The potential is obviously there, but Iheanacho needs game time.

With Andy Carroll suffering from numerous injuries, plus Andre Ayew also missing a large chunk of last season through injury and Jonathan Calleri‘s loan ending, Slaven Bilic will be looking to add some extra firepower and a hungry Iheanacho could fit the bill.

This move makes sense on so many levels, especially with West Ham scoring just 47 goals in 38 games last season.

Stampede at stadium in Honduras kills multiple people

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) Officials in Honduras say thousands of soccer fans trying to force their way into a stadium for a championship match stampeded in panic when police fired tear gas, and at least four people and an unborn fetus were killed in the crush and 25 others were injured.

A spokesman for University Teaching Hospital says the victims died from suffocation and multiple broken bones from being trampled Sunday. Spokesman Miguel Osorio says a fetus died when its mother suffered severe injuries.

The stampede happened at the National Stadium as fans tried to push their way into the jammed venue to see the game between Motagua and Honduras Progreso.

About 600 police officers were guarding the stadium and used water cannon and tear gas trying to push back the crowds.