Capitals

Sporting KC to host MLS All-Star game in July

Sporting KC to host MLS All-Star game in July

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) Major League Soccer is bringing its All-Star game to the home of Sporting Kansas City.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Thursday that Livestrong Sporting Park would host the July 31 game between MLS All-Stars and an international club still to be determined. It will be the 10th time that MLS All-Stars have played an international opponent.

``This market has just been so incredibly exciting for all of us at Major League Soccer, and really for soccer fans throughout the United States and North America,'' Garber said. ``This has been one of the great, great success stories for our sport.''

Last year's game between MLS All-Stars and Premier League club Chelsea was played at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., just outside of Philadelphia. The MLS side won that game 3-2.

The opponent for this year's All-Star game will be announced at a later date, but Garber said that Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes would serve as coach for the MLS team.

The game in Kansas City, Kan., follows a successful showing by the metro area in hosting Major League Baseball's All-Star game last summer. Fans packed every event during the weeklong festivities at Kauffman Stadium, just across the state line in Kansas City, Mo.

``You want to really highlight how engaged Kansas City is in soccer, and I think that's going to be a phenomenal opportunity for us,'' Mayor Joe Reardon said. ``Last year's game against Chelsea in Philadelphia was fun to watch on TV. Now we're going to get to watch it right here.''

The past few years, MLS has brought its All-Star games to the smaller, soccer-specific stadiums that have popped up in its markets across the country.

Garber said it's important to reward those who invested in the facilities rather than playing the game at a larger stadium that could generate more revenue. That's why the game will be played at Livestrong Sporting Park, which opened in 2011, rather than at Arrowhead Stadium, the home facility of the Kansas City Chiefs.

``There's been a massive financial commitment by the team and the community to build this stadium, and they deserve to have this showcase rather than playing it in a larger venue where we could arguably make more money,'' Garber said. ``We're proud of that.''

Livestrong Sporting Park has already become one of the jewels of MLS. It hosted the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Olympic qualifying rounds last summer, along with the CONCACAF Gold Cup the previous summer, when the $200 million stadium had just opened.

Sporting KC's average attendance last season, when the club won the regular-season Eastern Conference championship, was 19,404 - well over the listed seating capacity of 18,467, thanks to a number of areas where standing-room tickets are sold.

``The goal and vision for the club is to win MLS Cups. Let's always be clear,'' said Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman. ``But this is a great day for the stadium and the city. It's the kind of event we always wanted to have, and for it to come to fruition so quickly is a great thing for us.''

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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”

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Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

The Florida Panthers played over half of Friday’s game with five defensemen after a hit from Alex Ovechkin ultimately knocked Mark Pysyk out of the game.

Early in the second period, Ovechkin attempted to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but it was swept away at the blue line back to Pysyk. Pysyk quickly chipped the puck away and then was on the receiving end of a hit from Ovechkin.

In real time, the hit did not appear to be a big one. It wasn't even the biggest hit Ovechkin delivered in the game, as in the third period he sent Aleksander Barkov flying with a shoulder hit. But Pysyk went down to the ice after the hit and left the game soon after.

After the game, Florida head coach Bob Boughner did not mince words.

“Pysyk got a high hit to the head,” he said.

When asked if he thought the league should review the hit, Boughner said, “I hope they do because if you see the replay, it's high. It's a head shot. And the league's trying to clamp down on that. Whether there's no call, I don't blame the refs. Maybe they missed it. That happens. But those are the kind of plays that need to be reviewed.”

Based on the replay, it is hard to determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Ovechkin does not launch himself, but does appear to take an upward trajectory into Pysyk. Still, it seems like a hard sell to say Ovechkin was targeting the head.

But the hit did send Pysyk out of the game, and in today’s NHL, when head hits are a big topic of conversation and when a player is injured on a play, the NHL has shown it takes those plays more seriously.

Pysyk returned to the game for one more shift after receiving the hit, but left the game after and did not return.

“Right now we're still getting him checked out, but we'll see more in the morning,” Boughner said.

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