Real Salt Lake v Portland Timbers - Western Conference Championship - Leg 2

Real Salt Lake earns place in MLS Cup final, downs Portland 1-0 to win Western Conference

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PORTLAND, Ore. — For the second time in team history, Real Salt Lake is into the MLS Cup final, their fourth win of the year over Western Conference top-seed Portland putting the Claret and Coblet into their first championship game since 2009. With a 29th minute goal from Robbie Findley, RSL earned a 1-0 win at JELD-WEN Field, finishing their 5-2 aggregate victory over the Timbers.

Real Salt Lake, the West’s second seed, will now face the Eastern Conference’s runners up on Dec. 7, Sporting Kansas City set to host MLS Cup after their 2-1 win Saturday over the Houston Dynamo.

RSL came into the final leg of the team’s two-legged playoff with a two-goal edge won Nov. 17 in Utah. Then, goals from Chris Schuler, Findley, Devon Sandoval and Javier Morales had RSL up 4-1 before a stoppage time header from Portland’s Frederic Piquionne built on Will Johnson opening goal, cutting the Timber’s deficit to two after of the ahead of Sunday’s match at JELD-WEN.

source: Getty Images
Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman celebrates his team’s 1-0 victory, clinching the Western Conference title and a place in the 2013 MLS Cup final. (Photo: Getty Images.)

An opening half that saw Real Salt Lake generate the first good chance (a Devon Sandoval header hit down and over the bar) left Portland finding net first, though Mamadou ‘Futty’ Danso’s goal was waved off when Rodney Wallace was called for a foul while playing Will Johnson’s corner kick. For nearly 30 minutes, the teams alternated control of the match, Portland holding more of the ball while both teams put three shots toward goal.

(MORE: RSL Man of the Match, center back Nat Borchers)

The back-and-forth half broke Real Salt Lake’s way in the 29th minute thanks for a failed clearance by Pa Modou Kah after a Nick Rimando goal kick. A ball that bounced to the edge of the Timbers penalty area was headed straight to Javier Morales, whose touch pass to Luis Gil sent the 20-year-old toward goal. The midfielder’s 20-yard strike was parried by Donovan Ricketts but left in front of the right post. There, Findley beat Kah and Michael Harrington to the rebound for the game’s opening score.

Four minutes later, Portland appeared to have equalized only for another Futty Danso goal to be waved off. Cleaning up a Diego Valeri shot from the middle of the box, Danso slid the rebound under a sprawling Nick Rimando only to see the assistant referee’s flag was raised, the Timbers’ defender offside ahead of this teammate’s shot.

Down one at halftime, the Timbers opened the second half on the front foot, earning a number of haf-chances and fouls deep in Real Salt Lake’s end. But after 20 minutes, RSL had weathered the storm, and Portland’s chances became more isolated as their guests started to see more of the ball.

(MORE: What we learned from Real Salt Lake’s Sunday win in Portland)

Come the 75th minute, Real Salt Lake was holding out, collapsing deep into their own half, leaving Portland to try their luck beating Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler on crosses. Rarely tested as the clock ran out, Rimando kept second consecutive clean sheet in Portland, his team’s first win of the year at JELD-WEN putting the 2009 champions back in the MLS Cup final.

It was RSL’s fourth win overall over the Timbers in 2013, who went winless in six games against Salt Lake this year. Now Jason Kreis’s team moves on to face Sporting Kansas City, a team they’ve had far less success against. In the team’s only meeting Ike Opara scored in the 97th minute at Rio Tinto Stadium, giving Sporting a 2-1 win.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.