Sublime season ends quickly for Sporting KC


Sublime season ends quickly for Sporting KC

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) Sporting Kansas City won the U.S. Open Cup, led the Eastern Conference from start to finish, and perhaps most importantly this season, energized an entire city that had grown accustomed to failure.

Next season, the MLS club will try to take the next step.

Sporting KC was eliminated 2-1 on aggregate in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Houston Dynamo, the same club that kept them out of the MLS Cup finals a year ago.

Despite dominating the return leg in the two-game series on Wednesday night, Sporting KC was only able to scratch out a 1-0 victory, not enough to send the team into the offseason.

``We're disappointed, and we should be, because we have the potential to be one of the two teams in the MLS Cup,'' said Jimmy Nielsen, whose exemplary play in goal made him a folk hero this summer. ``We had a great season, won our division. Unfortunately, Houston again.''

The fact that Sporting KC dominated the field Wednesday night was at least an appropriate way to finish off the season. The club rattled off seven straight victories to start the season and never wavered while maintaining the Eastern Conference lead into November.

Along the way, the club qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League by winning the U.S. Open Cup, defeating three-time defending champion Seattle in a riveting final.

It was played before a packed house at Livestrong Sporting Park, arguably one of the best stadiums in domestic soccer, and Sporting KC won 3-2 on penalty kicks to secure the trophy.

``We stayed atop the division for the whole entire season. We won the U.S. Open Cup. We did it,'' Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. ``We did very well. We have a very good team.''

More importantly, a good young team.

Graham Zusi emerged as potentially one of the linchpins of the U.S. national team in future years, helping the Americans matriculate through World Cup qualifying. Kei Kamara showed prowess for finding the back of the net, and Matt Besler earned stripes as a shutdown defender.

Most of those pieces are expected to remain with the club, allowing players to grow together and continue the success.

``We have a great age group in this team,'' Nielsen said. ``The future for this team looks absolutely fantastic, and that should be a big motivation for us.''

So should falling short in the playoffs once again.

Sporting KC won its second straight regular-season Eastern Conference title, only to come up short in its first playoff series. But along the way, the club packed its glittering year-old stadium with the kind of passionate soccer fans that the MLS is hoping to attract to franchises across the country. It gave the city a reason to cheer for the first time in years.

The Royals haven't made the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series and finished below .500 yet again. The Chiefs are off to a 1-7 start in another lost season and still have not won a playoff game since 1993, the same year that Major League Soccer was founded.

Jerseys, scarves and all manner of garb appeared in sporting goods stores all over the city, often flying off shelves faster than merchandise for baseball and the NFL.

``We performed really well throughout the season,'' Kamara said. ``It's good for the city of Kansas City. We've done really well. We just wish we would have pushed it all the way.''

The club could use another precision goal-scorer to help finish off the numerous chances that were wasted this season. It also needs improved depth to sustain the rigors of a longer, more difficult and more grueling campaign with the addition of Champions League games.

That work had already begun by Thursday afternoon.

``We're going to look at it and say there were some really good things, but we fell short of all of our goals,'' Vermes said. ``We feel that we're a very competitive team, and to get to the MLS Cup final, that was our goal. We fell short of that one. But again, I don't leave going, `Oh, what are going to do? We can't play.' It's not that at all. I feel very confident in the team we have.''

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Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

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Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

GANGNEUNG, South Korea  -- The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey -- finally -- is over.

Even though they needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it.

Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998 at Nagano, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored in the sixth round of the shootout to start the Americans piling over the boards, throwing gloves in the air before huddling and hugging on the ice.

Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel also scored in the shootout. Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied it up with a breakaway with 6:21 left in regulation.

Hilary Knight also had a goal.


Maddie Rooney made 29 saves for the win against their archrival. The 20-year-old goalie stopped the last two Canadian shooters in the shootout in Brianne Jenner and then Meghan Agosta on her second attempt.

It was sweet redemption for the 10 Americans who watched the Canadians snatch gold from their hands in 2014 at Sochi after tying it up with 54.6 seconds left in regulation and winning 3-2 in overtime.

Not only did the Americans snap the Canadians' stranglehold on Olympic gold, they ended a skid of five straight against their rival coming into this game, including a 2-1 loss to wrap up pool play a week ago.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Haley Irwin each scored goals for Canada. Agosta and Melodie Daoust scored in the shootout.

The Americans had been dominating in non-Olympic years, winning the last four and eight of the last 10 world championships, including a 3-2 overtime victory over Canada last spring.

Their domination on the world stage only made the lack of gold at the Olympics all the more noticeable, and Canada has been in their way since losing the inaugural gold in Nagano. Canada had won 24 straight Olympic games to go along with four consecutive gold medals. It's a streak of success in a women's team sport second only to the United States' basketball team's current streak of six straight gold.

This was the eighth time these North American rivals met in the Olympics and the fifth with gold on the line. None of the previous seven were decided by more than two goals.

U.S. coach Robb Stauber went with the 20-year-old Rooney in net for the biggest game of her career, but she was the goalie for each of the three games the Americans beat Canada last fall during their pre-Olympic exhibition tour, including Four Nations Cup title in November.

Canada had Shannon Szabados, 31, in goal for her third Olympic gold medal game, and her teammates made her job very easy by keeping the puck in front of Rooney for most of the first period by dictating play. The Americans couldn't use their speed or get organized even with two power plays until Sarah Nurse went in the box for interference late in the period.

Knight gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead with 25.4 seconds left in the first, redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin through Szabados' pads giving the Americans a jolt of energy.

That lasted only 2 minutes into the second when Irwin tipped a pass from Blayre Turnbull over Rooney's left leg for Canada. When Morin lost the puck, Melodie Daoust grabbed it and passed to Meghan Agosta who hit Poulin for the wrister into the left side of the net at 6:55 for a 2-1 lead.


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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.


Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.