For D.C. United opportunity lost

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For D.C. United opportunity lost

After dominating the first half of their first playoff match in five years, D.C. United had nothing to show for it despite numerous first-half scoring chances, including a penalty kick awarded to captain Chris Pontius.  

Their persistence was finally rewarded in the 61st minute when Roy Miller’s attempt to clear a cross from Chris Korb to Nick DeLeon ended up in the back of his own net.  

“It was a great ball by Korb and Nick [DeLeon] put pressure on their defender to clear the ball,” said Pontius.  “We had so many great chances, something was bound to happen.”

Moments later D.C. United would even things up with their own own goal.  As Bill Hamid attempted to knock down a rebound from Thierry Henry’s corner kick, the netminder fell back into his own net.   Believing he had been fouled by New York’s Marcus Holgersson, Hamid chased the referee out to midfield in a moment of lost composure that would set the tone for DCU’s second half.

“I got bumped,” said Hamid.  “Watch the replay.  I got bumped.”

United’s frustration with the Red Bulls’ physical play and lack of referee calls finally boiled over in the 70th minute when Andy Najar was tagged with a yellow card for a slide tackle.  Clearly unhappy with the call, the defender threw the ball back at the referee, earning a second yellow card and automatic dejection from the game.  

“I’ve never seen that and for a fact I don’t think it was intentional,” said Dejan Jakovic of Najar’s outburst.  “He turned around and threw the ball --he didn’t see where he was throwing it-- and unfortunately it ended up hitting the ref.”

“It’s a playoff game and there are high emotions,” said Pontius.  “We gotta keep our heads a little bit better but this team has a lot of character and a lot of passion and I think you saw that tonight.”

DCU would be forced to play out the remainder of the match with a side of 10.   Despite their man advantage, the Red Bulls were unable to capitalize and failed to put a shot on goal.  

In 94 minutes of play, United’s defense held the Red Bulls, who boast two of the league’s top scorers, to just two shots on goal.  United put five shots on target, narrowly missed on a pair of goal mouth attemps from Branko Boskovic and DeLeon and still managed four strikes to New York's one after losing Najar, yet both teams exited the field in an unsatisfying 1-1 draw.  

“I think we played a great game.  Even when we went down a man we still had some chances,” said Jakovic.  “I don’t think a lot of calls went our way and obviously some frustration came into play but that’s part of the game.  We held our shape and kept them in front of us and the whole game I don’t think they were really dangerous at all.”

Najar will have to sit as the two-game series heads to New York on Wednesday, November 7 to determine who will advance to the Eastern Conference Championship.  

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.