D.C. United looks to keep momentum

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D.C. United looks to keep momentum

Back in January D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen believed his 2012 Black and Red side had the talent and depth to not only be in the playoffs, but to advance in the playoffs. That belief has not been shaken by an injury to Dwayne De Rosario or a super storm named Sandy.

United’s new journey begins against an old foe when they host the New York Red Bulls Saturday in game one of the two-game Major League Soccer Eastern Conference semi-final. United had earned home field advantage, but Hurricane Sandy forced the reversal of home dates.

“I have always said I am not that concerned with the order in which the games are played,” Olsen noted before the decision was made to have United host the first game. “The advantage is the extra thirty minutes if you do get to that point. Can the crowd give you a little extra energy to get through that part and then the PK energy. A lot of times it never gets to that point so it is not a big deal.”

As a player Olsen never accepted excuses and he is the same way as a coach. United supporters no doubt remember the huge banner unfurled in the stands at R.F.K Stadium in June of 2008 for the nationally televised visit of David Beckham and the LA Galaxy. The banner read: Ben Olsen Heart of a Lion.

United in 2012 is playing in the image of its coach. How else do you explain a seven game unbeaten strike to end the season with De Rosario sidelined by a knee injury? No excuses, Olsen’s United has found a way. During that final stretch United only allowed two goals once and that was in a 3-2 playoff-clinching win over the Columbus Crew.

“People continue to think that we’re not for real and we are lucking out with some results,” Olsen added. “That’s okay with us; we will just keep on grinding out results.”

To add to United’s return to the post-season for the first time since 2007 is its opposition. It is a rivalry with some real bite, although United has had the better share of the results. In the playoffs United is 5-1-1 against New York and has won eight of the 11 Atlantic Cups’s contested between the teams in the regular season.

The emotion behind a rivalry is rooted in history and the spark was ignited in Major League Soccer’s first season when United and the MetroStars (as the Red Bulls were known then) met in the 1996 playoffs. United won the playoff series on a Marco Etcheverry penalty kick in the 89th minute of the decisive game three at R.F. K. Stadium. It kept United on course for its first league title.

“It is the fact that they (New York Red Bulls) have no trophies,” United defender Dejan Jakovic said when asked about motivation in the rivalry. “We want to keep it that way and we know the fans want to keep it that way. There is a lot of history and it is going to be a big matchup.”

This past season the offenses flowed when United and the Red Bulls met with 14 goals in three meetings.  United won the Atlantic Cup on total goals after the series finished 1-1-1. The playoffs usually offer a more defensive brand of soccer, although the Red Bulls are the third highest scoring team in the league.

“We are looking to disrupt their rhythm and get going offensively ourselves,” United midfielder Chris Pontius said. “As a team we have come together the past few weeks and the results have shown that we are a tough team to beat right now. I don’t think anyone looks forward to playing us.”

This will be the first playoff series for Pontius who just completed his third season.  The youth of United provides the contrast to this series. United players have collectively played in ten playoff games. New York has galaxy of stars with international experience including Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Rafa Marquez.

“They have more World Cup games than we have playoff games,” Olsen joked. “Look it’s a great group. They have put together a star studded lineup. They are playing very well and guys like Henry are playing at their tops. Henry is playing better than I have seen him play in America. It is a big challenge.”

Highlights: Sebastian Salazar recaps Week 7 in NWSL

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Highlights: Sebastian Salazar recaps Week 7 in NWSL

Week 7 of the National Women's Soccer League season is in the books - and what a week it was.

We saw the Houston Dash vs. Washington Spirit match postponed due to weather, and got a glimpse at how NWSL squads will deal with their U.S. Women's National Team absences later this summer. 

CSN's Sebastian Salazar takes you around the NWSL for highlights from all four league matches this weekend as well as last week's international friendly between Seattle Reign FC and Arsenal Ladies.

WATCH ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS OF WEEK 7 IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE

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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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.