Jon Kempin

MLS Cup Playoffs: Portland Timbers 2-2 (7-6 PKs) Sporting KC


The game in 100 words (or less more): Major League Soccer has never known a more insane, nonsensical, I’m-at-a-loss-for-words game in its 20 years of existence. The Portland Timbers are on to the Western Conference semifinals after defeating Sporting Kansas City, 2-2 after extra time (7-6 in 11 rounds of penalty kicks), but that doesn’t even begin to tell part of the story. Rodney Wallace gave the hosts a second-half lead, but Kevin Ellis equalized just before full time and Krisztian Nemeth scored a stunning goal six minutes into extra time, but Maximiliano Urruti equalized with two minutes of extra time remaining. The game could have had as many as four red cards — Ellis, Wallace, Nemeth and Fanendo Adi. The game went to penalty kick — 11 rounds — before it was decided. The crazy penalty kick shootout moment to ever occur occurred (watch below, in all its insanity). The Timbers will face the no. 2-seed Vancouver Whitecaps in the conference semifinals beginning on Sunday. Sporting KC’s season is over, with a single trophy, the 2015 U.S. Open Cup, to show for their efforts.

[ MORE: MLS playoff predictions | Preseason predictions revisited ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

57′ — Wallace toe-pokes one past Melia — You just have to clear the ball better than this, Sporting KC. Especially this time of year, with your season on the line with practically every kick of the ball in and around your penalty area. They didn’t, and the ball eventually fell to Wallace, who took his chance expertly.

87′ — Ellis skies over Ridgewell to equalize late on — Graham Zusi had himself a rough night for 86 minutes, but with 87 minutes on the clock, the USMNT midfielder delivered his first bit of real class on the night. The cross was quality, but Ellis seemed to levitate inside the box and pulled Sporting KC even very late on.

96′ — Nemeth’s moment of brilliance makes it 2-1 — Oh. My. Word. What a goal from Krisztian Nemeth, who — let’s get this out of the way no — should have been shown straight red in the 76th minute, continues to score stunning, massive goals for this Sporting KC side.

118′ — Urruti hammers a late equalizer past Kempin — Two minutes plus stoppage time left in his side’s season, Dairon Asprilla blazed a cross across the penalty area to Urruti was waiting. Urruti hammered his shot past Jon Kempin, who replaced Tim Melia in the 84th minute (concussion).

AET — The penalty kick shootout — There were 11 rounds, which — yes — means goalkeeper penalties. It ended in the 11th round, but that’s not what’s important here. Check out what Saad Abdul-Salaam did in the ninth round of spot kicks. MLS is insane. Clinically insane.

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Man of the match: Rodney Wallace

Goalscorers: Wallace (57′), Ellis (87′), Nemeth (96′), Urruti (118′)

Chile vs. USA preview: Who’s here to stay as USMNT kicks off 2015?

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When Jurgen Klinsmann called in 28 players for the U.S. national team’s annual January training camp and subsequent friendlies, the USMNT head coach did so with eyes and mind looking forward to two different places: this summer’s Gold Cup — established USMNT veterans — and next year’s Olympic qualifying tournament — players under the age of 23.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

Klinsmann was more than open about his intentions to kill two birds with one stone, publicly confirming the roster was a healthy mix of players who will contribute on either front over the next 15 months.

With that in mind, who on the current 23-man roster for friendlies against Chile (Wednesday, 6 pm ET) and Panama (Sunday, Feb. 8, 4 pm ET) is in camp for an extended run with the first team this year, and who’s just hanging around for experience and further evaluation with the Olympics in mind?

Gold Cup locks — Goalkeeper Nick Rimando; defenders Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones and DeAndre Yedlin; midfielders Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud; forwards Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey

Eight players from Klinsmann’s World Cup roster, all of which are too old for the Olympic qualifying team — Yedlin, who is probably seen as “too advanced” for U-23 team, the exception.


source: APGold Cup fringe players — Goalkeeper Sean Johnson; defenders Matt Hedges and Perry Kitchen; midfielders Lee Nguyen and Brek Shea; forward Chris Wondolowski

Johnson has been called into camp on a fairly regular basis as the No. 4 goalkeeper, often times flip-flopping with Bill Hamid, so with Tim Howard taking a year-long break from the national team, one of the two young shot-stoppers could sneak onto the Gold Cup roster as the No. 3 behind Brad Guzan (No. 1) and Rimando.

Hedges’ (right) performances during the 2014 MLS season forced Klinsmann to call up the 24-year-old and, with strong showings during training sessions, could push the FC Dallas defender into a class just below Besler, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez, who are all pretty regular starters. A possible shift to a 3-5-2 only helps Hedges as it creates another starting spot along the backline. Kitchen, who often plays in the midfield for D.C. United, surpassed the 11,000-minute mark for United in 2014, his fourth year as a pro, and figures to get a look with the full senior team at some point.

Lee Nguyen had an unreal 2014 season for the New England Revolution, and there’s no one in the USMNT player pool who plays the No. 10 position as dynamically as him. Here’s the problem for Nguyen: if Klinsmann switches to a 3-5-2 full time, there’s little room on the field for Nguyen. Shea, on the other hand, gets another lifeline thrown his way as someone who’s fairly experienced in areas both wide-attacking and defensively. Klinsmann obviously rates the 24-year-old because he keeps calling him into camps despite a complete lack of club team minutes, so he’ll get every chance to succeed (or fail).

Wondolowski is 31 the No. 4 forward on any first-team USMNT roster, at best.

[ RELATED: U.S. U-20s defeat El Salvador, qualify for 2015 U-20 World Cup ]


source: APAn eye toward Olympic qualifiers — Goalkeeper Jon Kempin; defender Shane O’Neill; midfielders Dillon Serna and Wil Trapp

Kempin showed flashes of a future MLS No. 1 during spot starts for Sporting Kansas City in 2014. It’ll be interesting to see whether Klinsmann and U-23 head coach Andreas Herzog opt to ride the 21-year-old Kempin, or Southampton prospect and regular U-20/23 starter Cody Cropper.

O’Neill and Trapp (right) figure to make up the spine for the Olympic qualifying team, and a strong one at that. Both 21 years old, each has logged nearly 4,000 minutes (Trapp is just short at 3,875) in their first two full seasons in MLS combined.

[ RELATED: Juan Agudelo close to re-joining New England Revolution ]


Too old for Olympic qualifiers, hoping to make a GC case — Defender Steve Birnbaum; midfielder Miguel Ibarra; forward Bobby Wood

Both Birnbaum and Ibarra seem long shots to earn long-term places in the senior team, but January call-ups are important opportunities to make their case, regardless. Meanwhile, Wood got a number of run-outs with the senior team at the end of 2014, but failed to stake his claim to a place once the full complement of forwards is available to Klinsmann.

Sporting KC adds former Chilean World Cup vet at goalkeeper; What’s next?

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Out: Eric Kronberg and Andy Gruenebaum.

In: Luis Marin and a player to be named later.

That’s essentially the “trade” in goalkeepers for Sporting KC this early offseason, as longtime backup Kronberg (Montreal) and suddenly well-traveled Gruenebaum (San Jose) found new homes and KC boss Peter Vermes turned to 31-year-old Chilean vet Marin as one piece of his goalkeeper competition.

Marin went to the 2010 World Cup on a Chile goalkeeping unit that included Claudio Bravo and Miguel Pinto. He’s made eight appearances for the national team and went on loan to Universidad de Chile last season after several years with O’Higgins.

[ USWNT: No longer 1st in FIFA; heads to tourney final ]

With respect to the pair he replaces, it’s an upgrade in resume. And with 21-year-old Homegrown kid Jon Kempin — a US youth national team vet — will KC be looking for a veteran backup or more young competition? The former is more likely, though Vermes could look to a strong GK class at the 2015 SuperDraft in order to bring in competition; Penn State’s giant brick wall Andrew Wolverton will be joined by Syracuse’s Alex Bono and Northwestern’s Tyler Miller as hot young prospects, but all three would likely require Sporting’s No. 10 overall pick.

It’s easy to see Marin between the sticks on Opening Day, and he joins a KC team that wasn’t porous in the back. Despite dealing with several injuries and the World Cup absence of Matt Besler, KC allowed the fourth-fewest goals in MLS and finished a win out of the third seed in the East. One more goal save here or there could’ve done the trick.

Sporting also added Hungarian striker Kristian Nemeth and Haitian mid James Marcellin. Read Vermes thoughts on the trio here.