Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Arsenal, wallop, Wigan Athletic hit them with a hammer blow… but the Gunners responded valiantly to reach their first FA Cup final since 2005 in dramatic fashion.
Arsene Wenger’s quest for a first trophy in nine seasons is still on course, as the North London club reached a record 18th final of the world’s oldest knockout competition.
Arsenal eventually beat Championship side Wigan 4-2 on penalties, with reserve ‘keeper Lukas Fabianski saving two penalties to set the Gunners on their way, after a tense 1-1 draw in a gripping FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
The shock 2012-13 FA Cup winners took the lead against Arsenal, as Callum McManaman was brought down by Per Mertesacker in the box and after a lengthy delay Jordi Gomez slotted home the penalty to put Wigan 1-0 up with less than 30 minutes to go.
Arsenal huffed and puffed, as late pressure started to build in regular time. Yaya Sanogo had a header against the post that was hacked away and moments later Kieran Gibbs saw his header wonderfully stopped by Scott Carson, then Stephen Crainey hacked it off the line. That pressure eventually told with 10 minutes of regulation remaining, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scuffed a shot into the ground that Mertesacker followed up to equalize and send the game into extra time.
In the extra 30 minutes the teams couldn’t be separated, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent a rasping effort off the woodwork, so the dreaded penalty shootout took place to see who would be going back to Wembley on May 17 in the FA Cup final.
Fabianksi saved Wigan’s first two penalties from Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison, as Arsenal scored all four PKs to hold their nerve and make the showpiece final next month.
Five MLS teams have made the playoffs, but in the world of probability that number is a lot closer to 10.
Red Bulls, DC, L.A., Vancouver and Dallas are in the postseason, while Toronto, Columbus, New England and Sporting KC are on the verge. Seattle is just behind that group.
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So how about those final two slots?
Montreal: at Colorado, vs. New England, at Toronto
Orlando: vs. NYC, at Philadelphia
New York City: at Orlando, vs. New England
Obviously, the Impact have the wheel here, though a pair of road tests — one across the continent — aren’t easy. If it comes down to a match against their rivals at BMO Field, all bets will be off. NYC can do Montreal a huge favor by getting a result in Orlando, but Jason Kreis’ side need all three points (Well, all six points… and a load of help). No one is playing better than Orlando right now.
San Jose: vs Sporting KC, at Dallas
Portland: at RSL, at LA, vs. Colorado
Houston: vs. Seattle, at Vancouver
Real Salt Lake: vs. Portland, vs. Dallas, at Seattle
Quite literally anything can happen here in terms of these four. Pressure’s surely on Caleb Porter and the Timbers to finally give their supporters a side worth their passion. RSL is the only other side with three matches left, and the two pair up next. Houston has a harrowing pair of matches, one without Cubo Torres, while San Jose also has two tough efforts.
Longtime Serie A goalkeeper and World Cup winner Marco Amelia is giving Chelsea some cover.
The ex-AC Milan man, 33, has also played for Roma and Livorno amongst other stops in Italy, and has been on trial at Stamford Bridge for some time.
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Amelia will backup Asmir Begovic, and give the Blues three keepers in the absence of Thibaut Courtois.
He’s available for Chelsea’s next match, against Aston Villa, and will potentially slide into the No. 2 slot ahead of 21-year-old Jamal Blackman. Whether he’s an upgrade in skill is debatable, but his experience could prove invaluable.