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RSL stun Kansas City to advance in MLS Cup, Union move on

Los Angeles (AFP) – Bobby Wood came off the bench to score a stoppage-time goal and lift Real Salt Lake to a 2-1 victory over favored Sporting Kansas City Sunday and into the MLS Cup Western Conference final.

Salt Lake, who shocked the Seattle Sounders in a penalty shootout in the opening round, erased an early deficit to gain another upset and book a conference title clash with the Portland Timbers, who ousted Western Conference top seeds Colorado on Thursday.

In Eastern Conference action, the Philadelphia Union edged Nashville 2-0 in a penalty shootout after the teams played to a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Pablo Mastroeni, who took over as interim manager of Real Salt Lake after the sudden departure of Freddy Juarez in August, said he wasn’t surprised to see his team pull off the comeback.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have been, since it was the eighth second-half stoppage-time goal of 2021 for the club.

Those goals included Damir Kreilach’s stoppage-time winner against Sporting on the final day of the regular season.

“The way things have gone this year, the way we got into the playoffs, the fight in these guys, the resilience … I’d like to say I’m surprised but honestly when we scored that (first) goal I knew we were going to get a second one,” Mastroeni said. “These guys believed they were going to get a second one.”

Sporting’s Johnny Russell opened the scoring in the 24th minute with a crisply taken penalty after Aaron Herrera tripped Gadi Kinda in the area.

Kansas City almost doubled their lead in the second half when Pablo Ruiz headed a free-kick from Kinda off the post.

The tenor changed, however, when Mastroeni brought in Anderson Julio, Justin Meram and Wood, and Julio grabbed the equalizer in the 72nd minute when he headed in a ball served up by Andrew Brody from just outside the box.

Finally Wood found the winner in the first minute of stoppage time, sliding forward to collect a low cross and firing it past Sporting keeper Tim Melia.

“It’s amazing,” Wood said. “We were down 1-0 but we kept going. I’m happy we got the goal and I’m happy I got to score the game-winning goal.”

– Blake shines in shootout –

In Philadelphia, the Union reached their first Eastern Conference final with an emphatic shoot-out win in which Nashville failed to find the net in four attempts.

Union goalkeeper Andre Blake set the tone, saving the first two shots he faced in the decider with a dive right to deny Hany Mukhtar and a leap left to stop Anibal Godoy.

Nashville keeper Joe Willis saved a shot by Sergio Santos, but that was sandwiched between to made penalties for Philadelphia and when Nashville’s Alex Muyl and Walker Zimmerman both fired wide the shootout, and Nashville’s season, was over.

The teams had exchanged goals in the first half, with Mukhtar opening the scoring against the run of play in the 38th minute when he raced onto a cross from Eric Miller and headed home.

Daniel Gazdag grabbed the equalizer moments before halftime. Gazdag’s initial shot off a corner kick was blocked but Gazdag collected his own rebound and fired past Willis.

In the Eastern Conference final, the Union will face the winner of Tuesday’s conference semi-final between the New England Revolution and New York City FC.

New England enjoyed a first-round bye as top seeds, having won their first Supporters’ Shield as the team topping the regular-season table.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. greg

    November 29, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    I watched the Union v Nashville match…if Union had guys who could finish (looking at you Santos) they’d have won 3-1 or 4-1 in regulation. And to be fair, Nashville played some serious deep defense. But Philly were fun to watch.

    Also, to be fair to Nashville, the Union keeper made two good saves – he’s the Jamaican national keeper, and TBH teams in the EFL or EPL should take a look at him. The other two were howlers, yes. Find videos of the 2004 Copa Libertadores final, leg 2. Boca were as bad as Nashville in taking penalties. I was in a small town on the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls that night & watched in a restaurant. The Boca haters loved it, but most were rooting for them since they were Argentinian…somber mood after. But that’s what the beer is for.

  2. Roberto

    November 29, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    Hoping to see Nashville in their 2nd year make the final. Instead they produced the worst group of penalty takers that I have ever seen in my 50 years of watching football and there have been some serious turkey shots! So major upsets, my favorite Seattle really choked, maybe Portland can save my former home the NW’s creed.

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