Steffen the hero as Columbus advance in MLS playoffs

Columbus Crew forward Adam Jahn (12) reacts with goalkeeper Zack Steffen (23) and fellow Crew teammates after scoring the winning shootout goal against the Atlanta United during the Eastern Conference knockout round soccer game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Columbus Crew won in a 3-1 shootout. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 27 October 2017
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Steffen the hero as Columbus advance in MLS playoffs

LOS ANGELES: Goalkeeper Zack Steffen was the hero as Columbus Crew ended Atlanta United’s debut Major League Soccer season in a penalty shoot-out on Thursday.
Steffen saved twice as the Crew stunned the 67,221-strong Atlanta crowd into silence to advance to an Eastern Conference semifinal against New York City FC next Tuesday.
Crew’s 3-1 win in the shootout came after an entertaining game finished 0-0 after 120 minutes of end-to-end action.
The defeat halted a fairytale first season in MLS for Atlanta, an expansion side who confounded expectations by reaching the playoffs at their first attempt.
But the Crew’s victory keeps alive their chances of delivering one last title to supporters before the club possibly relocates to Austin, Texas.
The Crew’s owners stunned fans of the franchise — one of 10 founding MLS members — after confirming earlier this month they were studying a possible move across country.
The prospect of relocation has added an emotional subplot to the Crew’s post-season campaign.
For long periods against Atlanta, Columbus looked the more threatening team, piling on the pressure in extra-time in search of a winner.
Ghana international Harrison Afful hit the bar with a left-footed strike in the 105th minute, shortly after Federico Higuain had spurned a golden opportunity with a free header saved by Brad Guzan.
In the closing minutes, Atlanta defender Michael Parkhust rescued his team with a goal-line clearance from Afful, sending the game to penalties.
Steffen saved both of Atlanta’s opening spot-kicks, including a superb diving one-handed stop from Julian Gressel, before Higuain’s cheeky “Panenka” gave Columbus the lead.
When Jeff Larentowicz’s fourth penalty for Atlanta hit the post, it was left to substitute Adam Jahn to ram home the decisive penalty.
In Thursday’s other playoff, Houston Dynamo squeezed past Sporting Kansas City 1-0 thanks to a 94th-minute goal from Alberth Elis.
Houston will now play the top-seeded Portland Timbers in the Western Conference semifinals.


Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

Updated 20 February 2019
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Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

  • Five-time world champion feeling confident of a sixth crown ahead of new season.
  • Pre-season testing going well in Barcelona.

BARCELONA: Lewis Hamilton has warned his rivals they had better get ready to catch his dust as he is feeling “better than ever” ahead of the season.
The 34-year-old Briton enjoyed a near flawless run to secure his fifth drivers’ title last year. He won 11 of the 21 races to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with two races to spare, and he expects the Italian marque to once again keep him on his toes.
“Ferrari are very strong,” Hamilton said in Barcelona on the third day of pre-season testing.
“It appears they have a better package than last year, which means it will be a bigger challenge for us.
“In the last few years, Ferrari has looked good from the very beginning so that’s to be expected.”
But he said it would be a mistake to draw any hard and fast conclusions from the evidence thrown up by testing.
“We’ll have a better idea I guess this time next week where we stand but still then we won’t know what fuel loads everybody is on and who is showing their cars and who isn’t.”
Hamilton, with a new two-year deal that will earn him £40 million ($52 million) a season, is buzzing after the winter recess.
“I feel in the best shape that I’ve been in,” he assured his fans, as he embarks on his quest for a sixth championship and record sixth consecutive constructors’ crown for Mercedes.
On a sixth title he shrugged: “I am not even focusing on that. It’s a new season, a new year, a new chapter and we have to approach like it’s our first.
“We’re going for number one, that’s how I approach it.
“But it’s not something that I allow my peers to talk about. It’s not what we are here for to focus on that number.”
He dismissed out of hand any notion of complacency setting in at his all-conquering team.
“We are always driven to do something new and to break boundaries and do stuff that no one else has done before but we are fully aware of the work that it will take to deliver something like that and it’s by no means like ‘yeah we are going for the sixth’ like it’s a relaxed thing.
“It’s not like that.”
Hamilton’s bid for title number six begins at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17.