Teal Bunbury's 92nd minute goal gave the Revolution a late lead over the team that traded him this offseason. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Collin red, Bunbury goal see New England down visiting Sporting, 2-0

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Given the teams that met at Gillette Stadium, a game that lacked scoring chances was less of a surprised than unfortunate confirmation. New England, a team that always possesses a conservative streak, has been offensively challenged all season, while Sporting Kansas City is not immune to down spells of its own. Through 74 minutes on Saturday, each sad had put exactly one shot on goal, with the rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinal seemingly destined to end scoreless.

That’s when a small, perhaps trivial piece of history turned Saturday’s match. Aurélien Collin, owner of 32 career yellow cards without a dismissal in this three-plus year MLS career, was shown a straight red card by Alan Kelly after a sliding challenge on Diego Fagundez. Nineteen minutes later, a cross sent through the penalty area that was misplayed by Eric Kronberg led to Teal Bunbury’s game-winning goal, with Lee Nguyen’s late penalty conversion giving the Revolution a 2-0 win over the defending Major League Soccer champions.

source: Getty Images
Teal Bunbury’s 92nd minute goal gave the Revolution a late lead over the team that traded him this offseason. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Before Collin’s dismissal point, Bunbury’s 32nd try on Kronberg had been New England’s only shot on target. Sporting finally tested Bobby Shuttleworth just before the hour mark, with Alex Martínez’s shot toward the lower right hand corner pushed wide. It was a match blunted by two conservative approaches, allowing the Revolution to hold the champs at bay while Sporting closed in on a road result.

When Collin was sent off, that all changed, though Kelly’s decision will prove controversial. Immediately reaching from his back pocket, the official seemed to judge the Sporting defender had gone in studs up. Replays were less conclusive. For a player who has made an MLS career of riding the line between physical and excessive, Collin pressed his luck with the wrong official, the defender left pointing to the replay on Gillette’s scoreboard as he left the field.

Moments later, Benny Feilhaber had a golden chance to snatch full points for 10-man Sporting when a ball in from the right was knocked down behind New England’s collapsing defense. One touch beyond an oncoming defender have the Kansas City midfielder a near-post chance around six yards out. Instead of going across goal, however, Feilhaber tried to pick out the upper right hand corner. His shot went into the stands.

Come stoppage time, Collin’s absence paid off. On a ball send in from the right by Fagundez, Kronberg missed on an attempted punch, apparently thrown off as Jerry Bengston made a run in front of him. Following behind, Bunbury was able to finish into an open net, scoring his first Revolution goal against the team that traded him this winter.

Nguyen’s insurance — coming after a handball for which Oriol Rosell should have seen red — made for a deceiving final score, one that gives the appearance there was some difference in quality between the two teams. There wasn’t, something that should provide the Revolution some assurances after an inconsistent start.

As far as the final score is concerned, however, one mistake (be it by Collin or Kelly) gave New England full points, costing Sporting its place atop the Eastern Conference.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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