DC United looking for one more at home

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DC United looking for one more at home

D.C. United is so close. For the first time in almost three years United has chance to slip into first place with a win Saturday at home against New England. The top spot in the Eastern Conference would be a welcome reward for United ahead of a 21-day break from league play.

A victory over the Revolution would also extend Uniteds unbeaten streak at R.F.K. Stadium to eight games. United has not lost at home since the 1-0 season-opening defeat to Sporting Kansas City. Since then United has survived injuries to multiple players and thrived with its depth from goalkeeper to forward.

I hate to say it, but it has been a blessing in a lot of ways that we have had some minor injuries throughout this stretch, said United head coach Ben Olsen. Guys have had to come in and do their part. Now going through this middle part of the season hopefully we will continue to find a rhythm and trust our depth and continue with wins.

It was June of 2009 when United used goals from Jamie Moreno and Christian Gomez to capture a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire and a first place standing. It has been an interesting ride since, but this is now a club that appears to being moving from strength to strength. Adversity has been turned into opportunity and United is after its first three-game winning streak since 2008.

We are in no position to be complacent, Olsen added. We havent made the playoffs in a few years. We are doing in my mind what D.C. United should do and those are win games, put teams on their heels, and entertain the fans.

Through 14 games this year United is 7-4-3 with 24 points. Only in four other years did United rack up points at a better pace. Three of those seasons, 1997, 1998, 1999, United made it all the way to MLS Cup and in 2006 captured the Supporters Shield. United is trending positive and after not recording back-to-back victories in 89 games has done it twice in less than a month.

Wins over Colorado and Toronto FC highlighted Uniteds versatility and resourcefulness. Dwayne De Rosario earned MLS Player-of-the-Week with three goals at both striker and attacking midfielder. Branko Boskovic started both games and was an attacking midfielder, left-sided midfielder, and alongside Perry Kitchen in the middle.

Hes a rhythm player, and he needs these games, said Olsen of Boskovic. He needs more games, and hes only going to improve. Weve done him a little bit of an injustice in that he hasnt played a lot of minutes. Hes been 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there, filling rolls for us, and thats no way to get a rhythm. Its not an easy way to play.

When Danny Cruz suffered a hamstring injury in the 3-1 over Toronto FC, Andy Najar shifted from right back to right midfield and then assisted on Hamdi Salihis goal. For most of his pro career Najar has been known as a midfielder, but now has started twice and appeared in two other games at right back.

Hes (Najar) playing hungry, like hes got something to prove, Olsen said Were, just in fact, really seeing Andy consistently playing with the hunger, I see that in him. Competition will do that sometimes. He played right back, Im asking him to do that, and the plays he was making on their defenders was pretty fun to watch.

Despite Cruz injury that could coast him four weeks, there is encouraging news out of Uniteds training room. Defender Emiliano Dudar and midfielder Nick De Leon were back in the mix at practice after battling hamstring injuries in recent weeks. Leading scorers Chris Pontius and Maicon Santos are eager to get back in the side.

Santos and Pontius have both missed the last two games with injuries and are listed as probable for Saturday. The emergence Salihi with four goals in the last five games has helped United navigate through the absence of Santos and Pontius. United now has 16 players who have either scored or have an assist, or both.

Saturday United will face a Revolution side that is playing with more confidence and is averaging 2.25 goals per game in May after being shutout in four of their first seven games. The Revs have conceded five goals on set-piece situations to tie Toronto for most in MLS.

Regardless of the opponent United has been playing with a swagger not seen in years. A win on Saturday will give United a first place position to match that swagger.

Real Madrid wins Champions League in penalty shootout

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Real Madrid wins Champions League in penalty shootout

By GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer

MILAN (AP) -- Cristiano Ronaldo did it again for Real Madrid, stepping forward to score a penalty and inflict another devastating loss in a Champions League final on rival Atletico Madrid.

For the second time in three finals, the biggest game in club soccer ended with Ronaldo sealing victory, then ripping off his shirt to show off his muscled torso to adoring fans.

Ronaldo's decisive spot kick in a Saturday night shootout gave Real Madrid a 5-3 victory on penalties, following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Two years ago, the Portuguese superstar's penalty had sealed a 4-1 extra-time win over Atletico and prompted the first of his provocative celebrations.

"I knew I was going to score the winning penalty. I was confident," said Ronaldo, who won his third Champions League title. "I asked (coach Zinedine) Zidane to let me take the last penalty."

Rising to the dramatic moment after a quiet game for him, Ronaldo sent goalkeeper Jan Oblak the wrong way seconds after Atletico defender Juanfran struck a post with his team's fourth kick.

Real Madrid got its record-extending 11th European title and left Atletico was left with bitter memories of its third loss in a European Cup or Champions League final. In its two previous finals, Atletico gave up last-minute equalizing goals.

"I don't believe in injustices," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "In football, the team that wins deserves to win. They were better during the shootout."

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Simeone said he will consider his future at Atletico, where the combative Argentine has coached for five years.

Zidane has coached for less than five months, yet is already just the seventh man to both coach and play for champion teams in the competition's 61-year history. The France great joins an elite group that includes Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola.

Just like the 2014 final, a Madrid derby finished 1-1 after 90 minutes. This time, it was Real Madrid instead of Atletico in the role of long-time leader giving up a late equalizer.

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who struck in stoppage time two years ago, showed a forward's hunger to score in the 15th by forcing the ball past Oblak from close range.

Atletico substitute Yannick Carrasco showed the same desire to level in the 79th, outmuscling Lucas Vazquez to shoot Juanfran's pass high into the net.

Atletico missed a penalty kick in the 48th, given for Pepe's clumsy tackle through Fernando Torres.

Antoine Griezmann's kick struck the cross bar, repeating his failure to beat goalkeeper Keylor Navas from the spot in a league match this season. The France forward scored in the shootout.

Atletico raised its game after Griezmann's miss but the clearest shooting chance fell to defender Stefan Savic who also failed to force a save from Navas.

Ramos showed how a defender, tough and often cynical, should finish. As noted for his red cards as goals, he has now scored in two Champions League finals to stand with Ronaldo in the competition's history.

Atletico's defense was warned of Real Madrid's threat, and its own weakness on the night, from free kicks as early as the sixth minute.

Gareth Bale was fouled deep in Atletico territory, then fired a dipping cross. Attackers again got in front of defenders and both Karim Benzema and Casemiro seemed to deflect the ball toward Oblak staying on his goal-line. This time, the Slovenia goalkeeper blocked with his left leg.

When Madrid did score nine minutes later, Benzema was again free but failed to connect on Bale's flick before Ramos pounced.

Benzema could have likely sealed the win in the 70th when sent clear but Oblak blocked the Frenchman's shot with his chest.

Atletico was soon level when Carrasco exploited substitute Vazquez, a midfielder who had just come on for Benzema.

Early in extra time, Ronaldo wasted a good chance when his downward header struck defender Filipe Luis and looped into Oblak's hands.

Real Madrid was crowned the best in Europe -- watched by Spain's King Felipe VI in San Siro stadium -- to cap a season when it had not even been best at home.

Victory helped eclipse rival Barcelona winning four major trophies, including a Spanish league and cup double. Just not the one that matters most in Madrid.

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Leicester City clinches EPL title, greatest underdog season in sports history

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AP Photo/Rui Vieira

Leicester City clinches EPL title, greatest underdog season in sports history

On Monday afternoon, Chelsea and Tottenham F.C. played to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, meaning Leicester City clinched the Barclays Premier League championship. 

While Leicester City still has a few games left, they have already clinched an outright title thanks to 77 points and a 22-11-3 record and the mantle of greatest underdog season in sports history.

Yes, sports history. All of it.

 The Foxes were promoted to the Premier League after winning the Football League Championship in 2014. Imagine a baseball team being called up to join the AL East and in just the second season, they clinched the pennant after leading the entire season.

Leicester City's estimated payroll for the 2015-16 season is 48.2 million pounds, which is good enough for 17th place, with Chelsea (215.6 million), Manchester United (203 million), Manchester City (193.8 million), Arsenal (192 million) and Liverpool (152 million) firmly cemented at the top.

Unlike a majority of American sports, there are no salary caps in international club football. A player can be bought by another team at any time during the transfer window. The teams at the top of the league, the traditional powers, are typically able to buy the best players because they have more money at their disposal. Since the formation of the English premier League in 1992, only one team outside the traditional powers has claimed the championship — the Blackburn Rovers in 1993.

Leicester City is now the second.

Leicester City had  5000-to-1 odds to win the championship at the beginning of the season. Think about this: Indiana, Illinois, and Colorado have 2000-to-1 odds to win the College Football Playoff championship this season. 

The Foxes were led by Jamie Vardy, who set an EPL record for consecutive games with a goal scored in with 11. Vardy has scored 22 goals in 34 appearances this season and is behind just Tottenham's Harry Kane (24) and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (23) in the league's scoring table. Aguero's salary calls for nearly 220-thousand pounds a week. Vardy makes roughly 45-thousand a week.

In clinching the championship, Leicester City has clinched a spot in the UEFA Champion's league, the top club competition in Europe., the first time in club history. The club was founded in 1884, 24 years before the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series. Not only has Leicester City never qualified for the UEFA Champion's League, but they have never qualified for the UEFA Europa League, the international competition for the teams that just miss out on the Champion's League.

Leicester City winning the Barclays Premier League makes what George Mason did in the 2006 NCAA Tournament look like a regular season MLB series in May.

Simply put, this is the most unthinkable and unexpected championship season in sports history.

 

D.C. United's late goals secure 3-0 win over Revolution

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USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United's late goals secure 3-0 win over Revolution

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lamar Neagle scored on a penalty kick in the first half and D.C. United added two late goals to beat the New England Revolution 3-0 on Saturday.

Neagle converted from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute with a low shot into the left corner. Marcelo Sarvas drew the penalty on a run up the right side where Je-Vaughn Watson's foul occurred just inside the area.

Luciano Acosta scored his first MLS goal in the 86th minute on 20-yard chip shot that glanced in underneath the crossbar. Alvaro Saborio capped the scoring for D.C. United (2-3-3) with a breakaway goal in the 90th.

Revolution (1-2-5) defender Chris Tierney and United forward Fabian Espindola left the game before halftime with leg injuries.

United coach Ben Olsen served a one-game suspension for stepping on the field last Saturday. Assistant coach Chad Ashton oversaw the team in Olsen's absence.