MLS

MLS: Play-offs set as Galaxy miss out to RSL in dramatic finale, Red Bulls extend streak and Wondolowski retires

By Sports Desk November 07, 2021

The 2021 MLS Cup play-offs are set following a wild final round of the regular season which saw LA Galaxy dramatically eliminated from the post-season picture by Real Salt Lake.

Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez scored twice for the Galaxy in a 3-3 draw with Minnesota United on Decision Day, but RSL's last-gasp 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City changed the landscape of the Western Conference.

RSL pipped the Galaxy – without post-season football for the second straight campaign – to the seventh and final play-off spot on victories for the season via a 95th-minute winner, having finished level on 48 points at the end of 34 rounds.

Minnesota finished fifth to clinch a post-season berth in the west, along with sixth-placed Vancouver Whitecaps, who drew 1-1 against Seattle Sounders.

Seattle's stalemate and Sporting KC's late loss allowed Colorado Rapids to secure top seed in the Western Conference following a 5-2 rout of Los Angeles FC, who were eliminated as a result.

In the Eastern Conference, Orlando City beat Montreal 2-0 for a spot in the play-offs, along with Atlanta United (2-1 over FC Cincinnati) and New York Red Bulls – the latter using a 1-1 draw against Nashville to extend their post-season streak to 12 years.

Supporters' Shield winners New England Revolution lost 1-0 to already eliminated Inter Miami, Portland Timbers eased past lowly Austin 3-0, DC United defeated Toronto 3-1, 10-man New York City drew 1-1 with Philadelphia Union and reigning champions Columbus Crew – who will not defend their title – beat Chicago Fire 2-0.

Chris Wondolowski scored in the San Jose Earthquakes' 1-1 draw against Dallas before the league's all-time leading scorer announced his retirement.

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    New York City have eliminated record-breaking Supporters' Shield winners New England 5-3 on penalties after a thrilling 2-2 draw in the MLS Cup Conference semi-final victory on Tuesday.

    Bruce Arena's Revs had equalised twice, including Tajon Buchanan's 118th-minute leveller, to send the game to a shootout but City goalkeeper Sean Johnson was the hero, denying Adam Buksa's tame effort.

    Alexander Callens powered in the decisive penalty to clinch City's maiden Conference finals appearance, ending New England's hopes of a first-ever MLS Cup after setting a single-season record for most points with 73 in 2021.

    City will take on Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday, although they will be without top scorer Valentin Castellanos who was sent off after scoring in extra-time.

    The visitors went ahead in the third minute with Santiago Rodriguez capping off a fine team move by sweeping home Tayvon Gray's cross.

    The Revs levelled in the ninth minute as Polish striker Buksa headed in from Carles Gil's free-kick.

    New England's Thomas McNamara headed over the bar in the second half, while Maxi Moralez's cannoned a header into the post for City.

    Castellanos blew a great chance late in regulation time, before putting City ahead in extra time by emphatically powering home Gudmundur Thorarinsson's cross.

    The Argentinean forward was sent off minutes later for a second bookable offence with a late tackle and the Revs capitalised with Buchanan volleying in Ema Boateng's 118th minute ball.

    Buksa almost decided the contest before the shootout, bursting forward but his left-foot shot was pushed over by Johnson.

    In the shootout, Johnson denied Buksa again with a low left-hand save and City converted all five of their spotkicks to secure their progress.

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    The 35-year-old defender had been without a club since May of this year, after being released by English Championship club Bristol City.  The player had, however, continued to show strong form with his country’s national team, playing in 6 games.

    Mariappa was linked with a move back to England with Sheffield Wednesday, who are coached by another former Jamaica international Darren Moore.  The club reportedly offered the out-of-contract player a deal, but he opted for the Super League move instead.

    For his part, Mariappa insists he is excited and looking forward to the new challenge.

    “I want to thank the owners and the football staff for having faith in me and making this happen,” Mariappa said.

    “When the opportunity to join the Bulls arrived, it was one I couldn’t turn down. It’s an exciting new challenge for me in my career and that for me is what I thrive off,” he added.

    “I’m hungry to achieve great things with the club and create new memories with the team and the fans.”

    Macarthur have won one and drawn one of their two games so far in the 2021/22 season.

  • Barcelona stalwart Pique: I don't want to let Xavi down Barcelona stalwart Pique: I don't want to let Xavi down

    Gerard Pique revealed he feels "added pressure" as he does not want to let former team-mate and new Barcelona head coach Xavi down.

    The centre-back has started all three games of the new era under Xavi, who was appointed in the wake of Ronald Koeman's dismissal at the end of October.

    Barca have won twice while drawing the other of Xavi's first three games and currently sit in 10th in LaLiga, 10 points behind leaders Real Madrid.

    Pique now feels an added incentive and pressure to perform for the former Blaugrana midfielder, who he played with 261 times during the Catalan club's halcyon days.

    "Xavi has arrived and has set standards like many coaches," Pique told Spanish television show El Hormiguero on Tuesday. 

    "They are necessary to demand orders and we are going to fulfil them all as it has always been in the past.

    "It puts added pressure on me to have Xavi as a coach, you don't want to let him down.

    "Morally I have to give him my best and if my performance is not the best I feel like I'm failing him."

    Barca's challenge has mounted this term following the departure of Lionel Messi, who ended a 21-year association with the Spanish giants as he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

    Pique explained the difficulties of seeing Messi leave as he reminisced on a glory period with the Argentine superstar, who collected a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or on Monday.

    "It was very hard, we played together since we were 14 years old," he added. "It was very hard from a sporting and personal point of view. Things haven't gone well for us at the start of the season.

    "I am happy for him and his seventh Ballon d'Or proves that he is the best of all time.

    "He has gone to a new country and a new culture. It's difficult, it happened to me when I was 17 when I went to Manchester [United]. Leo has gone with his family and I went on my own, but it's hard."

    Pique has no ambitions to leave Barca, though he has been gradually preparing himself for a potential retirement.

    "Many team-mates say that when you retire it's hard. You have had this routine since you were little," the 34-year-old continued.

    "It takes you a long time to adapt to the new life. People can take a year or more. And people recognise you less and less in the street and generations go by. It's hard.

    "I have been preparing myself for this life for a long time. Investing in business, projects, [and so on] to have something to do after I retire.

    "The key is to have something to do after leaving football. But clearly, I'm going to miss football."

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