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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  • BREAKING NEWS: Juventus seal €70m Vlahovic deal BREAKING NEWS: Juventus seal €70m Vlahovic deal

    Juventus have completed the signing of highly rated Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina for a fee of €70million.

    The striker, who turned 22 on Friday, agreed to a four-and-a-half-year deal with the Bianconeri and passed a medical.

    Juve will pay the €70m fee over three financial years, plus additional costs of €11.6m. A further €10m will be due to Fiorentina should Vlahovic meet certain sporting objectives.

    Vlahovic is the joint-top scorer in Serie A this season with 17 goals from 21 appearances – a tally only matched by Lazio's Ciro Immobile.

    He has been linked with a host of top clubs across Europe after his impressive form over the past two seasons.

    Vlahovic joins Massimiliano Allegri's Juve team, who have often struggled to turn possession into goals this season, having scored just 34 times across 23 Serie A games.

    That means their attack is the 11th-best in the league, way behind leading scorers Inter (53), while Fiorentina have scored 41 times so far with Vlahovic on board.

    Serbia international Vlahovic, who joined La Viola from Partizan in 2018, has converted 28 big chances since the start of last season, more than any other player in Serie A.

     

    His tally of 21 goals during 2020-21 was the highest recorded by a Fiorentina player in a single campaign since Alberto Gilardino in 2008-09 (25).

    Vlahovic also netted 33 league goals in 2021; matching Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for the most scored in the Italian top-flight during a calendar year. 

    Last week, Fiorentina chief executive Joe Barone confirmed the club were open to selling Vlahovic, who subsequently missed Sunday's draw with Cagliari due to a positive COVID-19 test.

    Vlahovic's arrival in Turin may pave the way for Alvaro Morata to leave Juve, with Barcelona reportedly keen on signing the Spain international, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid.

  • AFCON matchday preview: Aboubakar chases history as Tunisia seek semi-finals at last AFCON matchday preview: Aboubakar chases history as Tunisia seek semi-finals at last

    The Africa Cup of Nations has reached the quarter-final stage and Saturday's matches promise the chance of history.

    Host nation Cameroon will meet Gambia in the competition for the first time, their second successive game against tournament debutants, something they last experienced way back in 1972.

    Tunisia meet Burkina Faso in the later match looking to end a fairly rotten recent record at this stage of the AFCON, although history favours their opponents.

    Two of Egypt, Morocco, Senegal and Equatorial Guinea will lie in wait for winners...

     

    Gambia v Cameroon (16:00 GMT)

    Cameroon have enjoyed facing AFCON debutants of late: including their 2-1 win over Comoros in the last round, they have won three consecutive matches against such opposition, which is more than they managed in their first six such games.

    Gambia, who surprised Guinea in the last 16, are bidding to become the first team to reach the semi-finals in their first Africa Cup of Nations since eventual winners South Africa did so back in 1996.

    Unbeaten in their past eight matches in all competitions, Cameroon have progressed from two of their most recent three AFCON quarter-finals, having gone through on penalties against Senegal most recently in 2017. Defeat to Gambia, the smallest nation on the African mainland and one who had never before reached a major tournament, would go down as one of the competition's greatest upsets.

    Yet for Musa Barrow, whose goal sent them into the last eight, there is little pressure.

    "Everyone is happy back home," he told AFP. "It is a small nation. We love football. People learn football from the street so coming to this AFCON, reaching this stage is a big improvement, and it is going to take the Gambian name to higher heights.

    "We have nothing to lose, but they are the host nation. If they lose it is going to be a big disaster for them."

    One to watch: Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)

    Gambia will need little incentive to keep an eye on Cameroon's captain and most dangerous striker, but Aboubakar is chasing not just a place in the semi-finals here.

    Not only has he scored in each of his past six games in the competition, but he could also become the first player in AFCON history to net in a team's first five matches at a single edition of the tournament.

     

    Burkina Faso v Tunisia (19:00 GMT)

    Tunisia might be favourites - they are ranked 30 places higher in the world than Burkina Faso - but, in the previous two meetings at the AFCON in 1998 and 2017, it was the Stallions who progressed at the quarter-final stage.

    In fact, Burkina Faso have gone through from each of their three last-eight matches in this competition, a record only Mali can better (they have won each of their five previous quarter-finals).

    No team has made it to this stage more often since its introduction in 1992 than Tunisia, who are 11-time quarter-finalists now, but this has not been a happy round for Mondher Kebaier's side: they have been eliminated from five of their past six such matches.

    Still, after knocking out Nigeria in the last 16 despite COVID-19 cases badly depleting their squad, perhaps this will be their year.

    One to watch: Youssef Msakni (Tunisia)

    Msakni's winner against Nigeria saw him become the first Tunisia player to score in five different editions of the AFCON. There are only four players to score in six: Cameroon great Samuel Eto'o, Zambia's Kalusha Bwalya, and Ghana forwards Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew.

     

  • Gladbach sporting director Eberl steps down, feels 'drained' and 'tired' Gladbach sporting director Eberl steps down, feels 'drained' and 'tired'

    Borussia Monchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl has stepped down from the role after becoming "drained" and "tired".

    Eberl has served in the post for 13 years but confirmed on Friday at an emotional news conference that he was calling it quits.

    The former Gladbach defender, who signed as a player in 1999, revealed that he was no longer enjoying the job.

    "This is by far the hardest press conference I have had to hold in my time as sporting director at Borussia," said Eberl. 

    "I am drained. I am tired. I just no longer have the energy to carry on fulfilling this role in the way the club deserves.

    "After 23 years [with Gladbach], I'm calling time on what has become my life. My work here has always been a joy, but there are things in and around the job that are no fun any more."

    He leaves at a time when Adi Hutter's side are slipping down the table amid a run of just four points from the past eight games, while second-tier Hannover dumped them out of the DFB-Pokal this month.

    But Eberl, who extended his contract in 2020, insists the team's slide has nothing to do with his decision.

    "I can understand the people who might question the timing of my decision with the position the club is in," he said. 

    "But I just don't have the strength to keep doing this job the way I have for so long.

    "I extended my contract 13 months ago and would never have thought that I'd be sitting here today. I'm somebody who puts 100 per cent into everything I do. I have done that for 13 years as sporting director."

    Speaking about his plans for life after football, he added: "I just want to be Max Eberl. I want to see the world and just focus on myself for once in my life.

    "I haven't made this decision in order to move to another club. For now, I don't want anything to do with football.

    "My wish is for football to be the focus rather than making a circus of everything surrounding it. I feel like more respect is needed. There had already been abuse and rumours about my decision before I had even said a single word.

    "You don't have to worry about me. I will enjoy myself and perhaps I'll just fall off the map for a while. It was an honour to be able to work for Borussia Mönchengladbach."

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