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.

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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.

El Tri star Lozano staying focusing amid Barcelona rumors

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Hirving “Chucky” Lozano was a player everyone needed to pay attention to heading into the 2018 World Cup, and through two matches, the El Tri star has been every bit the price of admission for his country.

[ MORE: Group scenarios heading into the final group stage matches ]

Mexico sits atop Group F with six points at the moment, and much of the team’s success can be attributed to Lozano’s endless motor and creative attacking vision when he finds space down the wing.

The PSV Eindhoven attacker has been linked with various big clubs, including La Liga giants Barcelona, but that hasn’t halted Lozano’s pursuit of guiding Mexico to an unprecedented run at the World Cup.

“The important thing is to focus on the next [Mexico] game, do as well as possible and go step by step,” Lozano said.

Despite winning their first two games, El Tri needs at least a point in its final Group F match to ensure qualification without any complications.

Mexico will take on Sweden on Wednesday, as Juan Carlos Osorio’s side aims to remain perfect in the group stage.

Meanwhile, Andres Guardado — who has been a mainstay of the Mexican national team for years — only confirmed the work ethic of his teammate and hopes that a dream move becomes a reality for Lozano in the near future.

“It makes me very proud to say he is a kid that is very centered, despite everything he is going through,” said Guardado after Saturday’s 2-1 win over South Korea. “He is conscious that he has to continue like he’s not achieved anything.”

“He’s the same kid I met the first time he came with us,” continued Guardado. “Hopefully he stays like that and the rumors about a possible transfer to a big team become reality. It would be marvelous, he’s a great teammate.”

Video: Salah lob has Egypt off and running in first half

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Egypt’s run at the World Cup didn’t go according to plan, but the Pharaohs are looking in control on Monday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Mohamed Salah‘s second goal of the tournament has given the Egyptians a 1-0 lead over Saudi Arabia in their Group A finale.

After a Saudi giveaway in the attacking half of the field, Salah latched onto a beautiful long ball from Abdallah Said, before lofting a shot over goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem.

Video: Suarez gives Uruguay early lead over hosts Russia

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It only took Uruguay 10 minutes to break through, and the South American side could be on its way to capturing a third consecutive victory at the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Barcelona star Luis Suarez scored his second goal of the tournament on Monday, as the veteran striker gave Uruguay the lead early on against hosts Russia.

Suarez stepped up for a free kick just outside the penalty area, and slotted the ball brilliantly past the Russia goalkeeper at his near post.

Both teams have already advanced out of Group A after winning their first two matches, however, Monday’s victor (if there is one) will likely decide who tops the group.

Argentine players likely selecting lineup for Nigeria match

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The Albiceleste entered Russia among the favorites to win the World Cup, but now Argentina is on the brink of disaster and possibly crashing out of the group stage.

Through two Group D matches, Argentina sits on one point, and needs a victory over Nigeria to have a shot at advancing to the knockout phase.

Drastic changes appear to be coming for the CONMEBOL nation, after relations with manager Jorge Sampaoli have soured significantly over the last week-and-a-half.

Rumors have suggested that Lionel Messi and the elder players in the squad will select the starting XI for Argentina’s do-or-die fixture on Tuesday, with Sampaoli simply staying on as manager to avoid further embarrassment to the federation.

Sampaoli is expected to still be on the sidelines for the match, though.

Meanwhile, Argentine television outlet TNT Sports LA revealed a potential lineup ahead of Tuesday’s Group D finale against Nigeria.

The starting XI, if true, would feature four changes from the Albiceleste’s 3-0 defeat to Croatia last Thursday, including the introduction of River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani for Chelsea’s Willy Caballero.