MLS Cup Man of the Match: Sporting Kansas City’s Aurelien Collin

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KANSAS CITY — Aurelien Collin may not have been the very best player on the field Saturday from a technical standpoint – but talk about finding a way in the big moments.

His team wouldn’t even have been in the final, record-setting, 10-round nail-biter of a penalty kick shootout but for Collin’s big second half header, when he out-jumped and out-competed RSL defender Chris Schuler for Graham Zusi’s corner kick and Sporting Kansas City’s only goal Saturday night.

Schuler was actually right with his marker, but Collin just wanted it a little more – perhaps still a little stung for having his own paw prints nearby as Alvaro Saborio opened the scoring for RSL.

Collin was his usual, physical self, walking the line as always. He crossed it in the 35th minute and had to carry a yellow card from there.

Allowing Saborio to break free for some shooting space was Collin’s only big mistake in the back, but he more than atoned with the 76th minute goal, one that positioned his team for its 2nd MLS Cup triumph in 18 years, and the city’s first professional sports championship in 13 years.

He was also named the game’s official MVP, just the second time a defender has claimed the honor over those 18 years. (The only other time was last year, when the LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez was named MLS Cup MVP.)

Collin’s penalty kick, the 10th, was about as sweetly hit as possible. It was audaciously, perhaps even dangerously, high and right. But when Collin put the spot shot right there, no goalkeeper on Earth would be able to reach it.

He was No. 10 on the list because, apparently, he isn’t the best PK taker in practices. He and manager Peter Vermes joked about it after the match, the SKC manager insisting that was the very best he has ever seen Collin hit a 12-yard shot.

Collin said he couldn’t remember ever taking a penalty kick, certainly not it the run of play and not even in a tiebreaker situation. So that was the first, he was asked, for clarification?

“Yes, and hopefully the last!” he said with a big smile.

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

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On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

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Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

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The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

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Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”