Kevin Ellis

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MLS Three Things: TFC falls again, Guzan red ruins marquee match

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Five MLS matches hit midweek to join the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in bringing a busy Wednesday for soccer in the USA (and Canada).

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

We are here to talk about three of them.

Brad Guzan deprived us of cool dual litmus tests

Two of the top teams in Major League Soccer met in Atlanta on soccer, and we can’t really tell you which team proved its mettle (Not that anyone’s doubting the quality of either).

That’s because Yohan Croizet played a delightful ball to Khiry Shelton, and Brad Guzan… didn’t… get it… right. Sent off, Sporting KC was able to break through with a pair of second half goals in a 2-0 win.

Shots were still just 18-17 for KC despite the DOGSO red, but playing in Atlanta is no picnic.

Soccer is a funny game

Toronto FC took 24 shots, 10 of them from Sebastian Giovinco, but Seattle took its chances and spun a 2-1 win out of not much in an MLS Cup Final(s) rematch Canada.

Homegrown Sounders 18-year-old Handwalla Bwana scored the winner after Magnus Wolf Eikrem took advantage of overly enthusiastic center back Michael Bradley on the opener (see video below).

TFC’s seven points are seven back of a playoff spot, and Victor Vazquez left the game with injury (Jozy Altidore is already out). Uh oh.

By the way, TFC’s best player this year after Giovinco has unquestionably been Jonathan Osorio, who bagged another goal tonight. The 25-year-old hometown kid is completing better than 90 percent of his passes.

On the flip side, Auro has been a major defensive liability several times this season. Hey, maybe we’ll see a proper 90 (or more) from these two in December.

Kevin Ellis: Golden Boot candidate

In his first 90 professional games, Kevin Ellis scored six goals.

The 26-year-old defender now has two in his last two, and this one is pretty nice.

Chicago needed this win, which pulls it back within sight of the playoffs. Montreal did not need this loss, its seventh of the young season.

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

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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.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Rodney Wallace

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

MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 2-1 LA Galaxy

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The game in 100 words (or less): Sporting Kansas City have officially qualified for the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, having knocked off the defending champions LA Galaxy, 2-1 at Sporting Park on “Decision Day.” Peter Vermes’ side entered Sunday’s finale with a playoff berth anything but guaranteed, and for the first hour on Sunday teetered back and forth on either side of the playoff cut line. Kevin Ellis gave Sporting a first-half lead, but reigning MLS MVP Robbie Keane equalized just before the halftime whistle. Dom Dwyer scored the eventual winner to put Sporting four points clear of the San Jose Earthquakes for the sixth and final spot in the Western Conference. Sporting finish sixth and will be away to the Portland Timbers in the knockout round, while the Galaxy finish one spot better, setting up a knockout round clash with the Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Playoff scenarios — Western Conference | East ]

Three moments that mattered

38′ — Ellis bundles home the rebound, makes it 1-0 SKC — He was pretty clearly offside, but the assistant referee failed to flag for the infraction, thus Kevin Ellis was in perfect position to knock home the loose rebound from Chance Myers’ shot moments earlier.

45+1′ — GdS, Keane combine for LA’s equalizer — Giovani dos Santos and Robbie Keane found themselves in acres of space, a single defender to beat following a bad giveaway in midfield, which resulted in Keane lifting the ball over an out-rushing Tim Melia.

65′ — Feilhaber feeds Dwyer for 2-1 lead — Benny Feilhaber started Sunday’s game on the bench (coach’s decision), but was thrown into the fire after halftime. 20 minutes into his shift, he played the incisive through ball to put Dom Dwyer in on goal. Dwyer finished past Donovan Rickets for the 2-1 lead.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Benny Feilhaber

Goalscorers: Ellis (36′), Keane (45+1′), Dwyer (65′)

MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 4-3 Vancouver Whitecaps (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less more — definitely more): As far as flat, dreadful and embarrassing performances in the sport of soccer go, Sporting Kansas City’s first-half showing in a late, dramatic, unfathomable, come-from-behind 4-3 victory for the ages over the Vancouver Whitecaps is an all-timer. Kekuta Manneh, who about every fourth or fifth game has an absolute belter of a game, had an absolute belter of a game en route to a first-half brace. Then, the second half began. The Whitecaps, playing their third game in eight days — just as Sporting KC were — elected to sit deeper and soak up the pressure in an attempt to kill the game off. It worked, for about 35 minutes as the ‘Caps held a 3-1 lead into the 81st minute. Dom Dwyer tucked away a peach of a header and Paulo Nagamura, perhaps the most unlikely off heroes, bagged the game’s equalizer and winner in the 87th and 94th minutes. This game, in a word, was legendary. With the victory, Sporting (40 points) leapfrog FC Dallas and take sole possession of third place in the Western Conference with multiple games in hand on nearly every team around them. Meanwhile, the ‘Caps crushing defeat sees them slip to second in the West as the LA Galaxy now reign supreme.

[ WILD NIGHT IN MLS: FCD 1-2 LAG | RBNY 3-0 TFCRSL 0-1 POR ]

Three Four Five Six moments that mattered

9′ — Manneh runs circles around SKC en route to the opener — Manneh is scary-fast. Like, scary-fast. He’s also becoming a scary-good soccer player. Soni Mustivar must not know about Manneh, otherwise he wouldn’t take ill-advised touches on the ball in Manneh’s general direction. The Gambian-soon-to-be-American speedster rounded Kevin Ellis with ease and finished from a tough angle. Woo.

41′ — Manneh goes unmarked, rises up and bags his brace — Sporting’s uninspired, languid performance persisted through the entirety of the first half. After another bad midfield giveaway, Steven Beitashour provided the pinpoint cross for Manneh who was a forgotten man at the back post. Just like that, 2-0, ‘Caps.

75′ — Morales swerves a filthy free kick past Melia — Pedro Morales’ right foot is absolutely frightening, if you’re an opposing goalkeeper, of course. Just watch Tim Melia, who’s as athletic as any shot-stopper in MLS, struggle to get into the same area code of this Goal of the Week shoo-in.

81′ — Dwyer heads home to cut the deficit to one — Bonus highlight time, because this game was B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Krisztian Nemeth cross -> Dwyer header -> ball into the back of the net.

85′ — Nagamura curls home a late equalizer — Chance Myers cut inside form the left wing, cut the ball back to the top of the 18-yard box and Nagamura wrapped his right foot around the ball and curled it home inside David Ousted’s left-hand post. Sporting Park erupted.

90+4′ — Nagamura heads home the unlikely winner — Soni Mustivar’s in-swinging cross found the head of Nagamura, Sporting’s Brazilian midfield warrior, at the top of the six-yard box. Nagamura’s flicked header was never going anywhere but inside of Ousted’s right-hand post. Sporting Park could have collapsed to the ground and no one inside the building would have cared one bit.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Paulo Nagamura

Goalscorers: Manneh (9′, 41′), Ellis (53′), Morales (75′), Dwyer (81′), Nagamura (87′, 90+4′)

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 23

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Week 23 of the 2015 MLS season has come and gone (where has it gone so quickly?), which means it’s time once again to break down the latest Major League Soccer Team of the Week.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Week 23 MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

While goalscoring was down considerably from Week 22 (29 goals in 11 games, compared to 41 in 10), Week 23 still provided the thrill of watching the 2015 MVP-in-waiting, Sebastian Giovinco, bag his second hat trick in less than a month. We were also treated to the fifth brace of the season by goalscoring king-in-waiting, Kei Kamara.

Also delighting our eyes in Week 23: Cristian Techera’s first MLS brace; the continued maturation (and dominance) of Matt Miazga; Robbie Keane’s free-flowing play alongside new running mate Giovani dos Santos; and the save-our-ship heroics of Bill Hamid.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 23

Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid (D.C. United)

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Defenders: Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Kevin Ellis (Sporting Kansas City), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps)

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Midfielders: Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Cristian Techera (Vancouver Whitecaps)

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Forwards: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)

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