Real Salt Lake ousts LA Galaxy, advances into Western Conference final

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Two Real Salt Lake men who don’t score a lot notched the goals of their lifetime Thursday as the measurably smaller-budget club from Utah took down the two-time defending MLS champion LA Galaxy.

Sebastian Velasquez’s first-half goal supplied a huge psychological lift to RSL, a header that held up for the 1-0 win over 90 minutes of the teams’ second leg in this Western Conference semifinal playoff series. That leveled the aggregate score at 1-1 and sent the game into a 30-minute extra time.

Chris Schuler’s second career goal, off a precision free kick from Javier Morales, made the score 2-0 on the night, handing Real Salt Lake the series and a date in the conference finals against Portland or Seattle.

The Galaxy was bidding to come Major League Soccer’s first team in 18 years to win three consecutive titles. It also broke a streak of six consecutive conference semifinal series wins for the Galaxy.

Real Salt Lake had to play the final 10 minutes of extra time a man down after striker Alvaro Saborio limped off. His hip flexor aggravation left the team short because manager Jason Kreis had already used all three substitutions.

Sean Franklin, who had scored the first-leg goal in Los Angeles, the big strike that had put so much pressure on Kreis team, had the Galaxy’s final chance. His stabbing header from close-range bounced just wide, another missed chance in 180 minutes that had so many of them for the champions.

(MORE: RSL Man of the Match, Javier Morales)

Velasquez, among RSL’s young stable of talent, scored the goal of his career (by a long way) when he was left free to head home Chris Wingert’s cross in the 35th minute.

It was such an important goal psychologically for RSL, with so much trouble scoring goals lately, and a team that had marched into the match on an alarmingly lengthy string of playoff minutes without finding net. It didn’t just level the score on aggregate, it vented the pressure from a team with an ugly history of being shut out in elimination matches at Rio Tinto.

Besides that, Real Salt Lake had won 10 of 12 matches this year when leading at the half.

The second half chances went almost exclusively to RSL, with Saborio banging one header off the cross bar and later hitting the post with a quick-release shot from just beyond the penalty area. Jaime Penedo had much more work in L.A. goal than his RSL counterpart Nick Rimando.

The series could have turned when a long, late free kick from Javier Morales whipped in quickly over everyone and bounded past Penedo into goal. RSL center back Nat Borchers had begun his run in an offside position but never really got close to the ball. Still, he was adjudged offside … or perhaps there was a foul. Either way, referee Baldomero Toledo immediately waved off the goal, controversially so.

The rain and a hard field (so says Bruce Arena, anyway) kept either team from gaining a steady rhythm of possession. Both teams seemed slightly nervous about it all, and the result was a cautious second half without much happening over long stretches.

Robbie Rogers, not doing too much but generating what little offense the visitors could muster, cut inside to force a classy double save from Nick Rimando. At the other end, Robbie Findley caused some trouble here and there, as when he wriggled from along the left and forced Penedo to save at the near post.

The 1-0 score held, so a 30-minute overtime decided the series.

Schuler, so good in defense over the two legs, got on the end of Morales’ free kick at the far post in the 102nd minute (12 minutes into the first extra period) to send his team through.

Kane “buzzing” after brace secures late win in World Cup debut

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Four years ago, Harry Kane watched the 2014 World Cup, alongside Tottenham Hotspur teammates, friends and family, while on vacation in Dubai and Portugal, and during the club’s preseason tour of the United States.

[ MORE: Kane scores early and late, England top Tunisia ]

Fast-forward 48 months, and Kane made his World Cup debut on Monday, scoring both goals, including the stoppage-time winner (WATCH HERE), in England’s Group G-opening 2-1 victory over Tunisia. It’s an outcome we should have seen coming, considering he’s racked up 105 goals (in the Premier League; 135 in all club competitions; another 13 for England prior to Monday) since the start of the 2014-15 season.

Kane continues to take his superstardom — no matter how unlikely or ill-fitting it looks on him — in stride, using obvious phrases like, “It’s the World Cup,” to which you might think, “Well, yes, Harry, it sure is,” and then you realize he sees himself as nothing more than a giddy child living out a lifelong dream — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s massive. I’m so proud of the lads. It’s tough. We played so well especially in the first half and we could have scored a few more. We kept going. It’s a World Cup, you go to the last second. I’m absolutely buzzing.

“We’ve done it for a while [had good resilience] since the gaffer has been here — he’s instilled it into us. We’ve got a great bond off the pitch so it’s great to see it on the pitch. We’ll get onto the plane happy tonight.

“We could have had a couple of penalties, especially when you look at theirs. A few corners, they were trying to grab, hold and stop us running. Maybe a bit of justice to score at the back post at the end. That’s football, that’s the ref. It showed good character to get on with it.

“We are proud of each other and in a World Cup you are not sure how it is going to go, but we have a great togetherness and are always proud to see it come off in the game. We never panicked, never looked like conceding another one and got what we deserved in the end.

“We got told there would be a lot of flies and when we went out for the match it was a lot more than we thought. We all had bug spray on and it was important as some of them went in your eyes, some in your mouth, but it is about dealing with what comes your way.”

Kane will be the first to tell you that he’s been handed nothing during his career. Early on, before breaking into Tottenham’s first team, he endured four largely unsuccessful loan spells over the course of three seasons, at which point his career path appeared destined for England’s lower leagues. Through his refuse-to-lose attitude, an insatiable appetite to continue improving, and eagerly stepping up to the moment every time a new, grander stage is laid in front of him, he’s now 24 years old and set to captain his national team for the next decade.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

It’s this kind of wide-eyed, relatable approach that endears this young Three Lions side (average age: 25.6 years old) to neutral viewers and made them a popular, if unlikely, feel-good favorite ahead of the tournament in Russia. Following Monday’s performance — no matter how belabored the result itself might have been — the bandwagon will continue to fill up, and Kane is reasons no. 1, 2, 3 and 4 for that fact.

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

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England’s 2018 World Cup debut began brilliantly, then appeared headed for a disappointingly familiar outcome, but was ultimately saved by Harry Kane who scored both goals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

England came sprinting out of the starting blocks — so quickly they nearly took flight — and taking an early lead through Harry Kane in the 11th minute (WATCH HERE). John Stones‘ header was spectacularly saved by Mouez Hassen, but Kane was in the right place at the right time and swept home the rebound for his first World Cup goal (on his World Cup debut).

The opening half-hour was all England, with the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling cutting through the Tunisian midfield and defense with very little resistance and creating a half-dozen golden scoring chances. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate‘s side, they couldn’t capitalize, and they were made to pay for it.

Kyle Walker caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a raised arm as an innocuous cross came into the box, prompting referee Wilmar Roldan to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot immediately. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and converted, just out of reach of Jordan Pickford, who perhaps got a fingertip on the ball (WATCH HERE), to make it 1-1 and negate an otherwise dominant first-half performance by England. It would be Tunisia’s only shot on goal for the game.

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England’s best chance to re-establish a lead came during a six-yard-box scramble just seconds before halftime. Alli’s header hit the crossbar and Stones badly scuffed — nearly whiffed — on the follow-up. Kane was dragged to the ground during the rest of the commotion, to no interest of Roldan.

It took far longer than anyone back home in England would have liked, but Kane grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, heading home from acres of space at the back post. Jordan Henderson got the first crack at heading the corner kick, but it was blocked and bound high into the air. Somehow, some way, Kane was unmarked and snuck his redirect just inside the post.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Up next for England is a meeting with Panama on Sunday, a day after Tunisia take on Belgium, who thrashed the Panamanians, 3-0, on Monday.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news