Kick Off: Controversy as KC stun Seattle to win USOC
It wouldn't be a cup final without controversy, now would it?
Sporting Kansas City defeated the Seattle Sounders on penalties to win the US Open Cup title, their first piece of hardware since taking the same trophy in 2004. The pulsating clash went to penalties after finishing 1-1 thanks to two late regulation-time goals at a sold-out Livestrong Sporting Park. (Watch the highlights here.)
While KC-area natives Seth Sinovic and Matt Besler were overjoyed to bring a trophy to the club they grew up supporting, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid was left fuming about referee Ricardo Salazar. “He made some absolutely, I thought, ridiculous calls," Schmid said. "It’s very tough to win.”
Perhaps the toughest call for Schmid and the Sounders to swallow was the one on goalkeeper Michael Gspurning after he saved Paulo Nagamura's shot during the penalties. Salazar whistled for a retake after judging that Gspurning left his line early — something the Sporting players warned Salazar about before the PKs.
For his part, Gspurning didn't mince his words: "I didn't do something bad." But Nagamura took issue with that assessment: "If he wasn't off his line, he never could have saved my PK."
Beyond that call, Schmid seemed at a loss of how to accept the result, given his opinions of the officiating. "You sit there and you throw up your hands and go, OK.'"
Regardless, the result ended Seattle's bid to be the first side to win four straight USOC titles. The result also gave SKC their first silver since the club's rebranding as Sporting. "We've reached a level where the expectation is championships," Besler said. "Now we have something to show for it."
Moving across to London, will the US women's national team have anything to show for their Olympic endeavors? They will go for their third straight gold medal at Wembley Stadium this afternoon (2:45 pm ET, NBC Sports Network).
The gold-medal match against Japan is a repeat of last year’s World Cup final in Germany, where Japan triumphed on penalties. Striker Abby Wambach cites that crushing loss as increased motivation to climb atop the podium this afternoon: “I think the fact that we lost the World Cup and the way that we did gives us even more passion and desire to go out and perform.”
Gold medal or not, there was good news for the players on Thursday, as it was announced that a new professional women's league will begin play in the US in the spring of 2013. Three of the former WPS clubs — Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC — are already committed to the league.
For the men's game, the big news revolved around new tiebreaker rules announced by MLS.
Some believe Tuesday's goalkeeper swap between Portland and Montreal was basically a tie. But Timbers Interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson believes his side got the better deal by picking up Donovan Ricketts in exchange for Troy Perkins.
In New York, the Red Bulls finally got the goalkeeper they've been after since February, a onetime US international acquired via the allocation process.
There was no allocation involved in Houston defender Geoff Cameron's drawn-out switch to Stoke City. He finally gained his UK work permit, and now it’s official: He’s a Potter.
Cameron's move allowed Ricardo Clark to officially rejoin the Dynamo. He's settling in well during his second spell with the club and hopes his experience overseas will help out Houston's quest for the MLS Cup. “I got to experience a different culture, experience a higher level of soccer. That’s something that I want to carry over to my game over here."
Staying in Texas, arguably their most famous soccer son, Clint Dempsey, is still a Fulham player. But for how much longer? The transfer rumors surrounding the US national team star continue to swirl, with Deuce now ordered to train on his own by the Cottagers.
Dempsey will most likely join one of Europe’s elite clubs at some point this summer, but probably not one of the four European heavyweights in action on Wednesday night.
First Real Madrid and AC Milan squared off at a packed Yankee Stadium in the Herbalife World Football Challenge, with Madrid putting on a clinic. Los Merengues won 5-1, with Cristiano Ronaldo bagging a brace. Watch the highlights here.
Before the match, Real Madrid manager José Mourinho sat down with The New York Times and admitted he'd be interested in coaching in the United States at some point.
Elsewhere, there was the small matter of a friendly between Manchester United and Barcelona in Göteborg, Sweden. A 0-0 stalemate ensued, with Wayne Rooney missing a penalty in regulation for the Red Devils. Barça triumphed 3-0 on penalties, as Ashley Young missed yet another spot kick in a shootout.
That loss aside, Sir Alex Ferguson has been left exasperated as Arsenal play hardball over the possible transfer of captain Robin van Persie. Arsene Wenger has never sold an Arsenal player to United, and it doesn’t look like he’ll buck that trend anytime soon, according to Fergie.
Things are trending nicely for US midfielder Sacha Kljestan, as his Anderlecht side completed an impressive 11-0 aggregate win over FK Ekranas. They are now in the UEFA Champions League playoff draw, one step away from making the group stages.
We're coming up on a few international friendlies, and the call-ups are starting to come in. First up is Honduras, who have called up six MLS players, including Sporting's Roger Espinoza, New England's Jerry Bengtson, and San Jose's Marvin Chávez.
Finally, a bit of attendance news for MLS: The league now has the third-highest average attendance among the five US leagues, passing the NHL and NBA.
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