Nashville SC pulled off the Round One upset Tuesday night at Rentschler Field, using a Daniel Rios game-winner in the second half of extra time to beat Toronto FC 1-0 and book a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Rios scored in the 108th minute after the expansion squad mounted pressure, following up a Hany Mukhtar shot that Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg initially stoped. Rios’ shot came into an open net, emphatically helping Nashville bounce the 2019 MLS Cup finalists, who were the No. 2 seed and chased the Supporters’ Shield all season.
Before Rios’ tally, Nashville (No. 7 seed) saw three goals called back for players being in an offside position. Designated Player forward Jhonder Cadiz twice thought he gave his team a 1-0 lead, heading home in the 13th and 54th minutes after finding holes in the Toronto defense. Mukhtar’s inch-perfect chip in the 100th minute was also waived off, having evaded Michael Bradley with a midfield run before slipping his shot underneath the crossbar.
If that wasn’t enough, Nashville’s frustrations grew in the second half when Mukhtar (72nd minute) and Alex Muyl (75th minute) both missed close-range headers. Mukhtar skied his effort after Alistair Johnston’s cross from the right, and Muyl couldn’t sneak his header inside the post after Randall Leal picked him out.
The near-misses continued as extra time loomed, with Mukhtar looping a header off the crossbar in the 90th minute and Walker Zimmerman seeing his shot smothered by Westberg in the 91st minute.
Toronto struggled to generate many quality chances, but nearly scored in the 26th minute through Nick DeLeon. The midfielder latched onto a Pablo Piatti cross from the right, only for Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis to stop him on the doorstep. The Reds were outshot 21-10.
- 108′ – NSH – Daniel Rios | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Toronto FC could’ve made it four trips to MLS Cup in the last five years. Instead, head coach Greg Vanney’s team departs the playoffs early, even as key players like Jozy Altidore returned to health. The Reds were outplayed for large chunks, too, and now Nashville will look to keep defying the odds. Just how far can head coach Gary Smith’s team go?
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Last year, Daniel Rios was playing in the USL Championship. Now, he’s scored the biggest goal in Nashville SC history and sent his team through to the next round. What a moment for the second-half substitute, who had four regular-season goals.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Hany Mukhtar was at the heart of most attacking moves for Nashville, finishing with a game-high six shots. He could’ve finished a coupe chances, sure, but will be most remembered for creating the late winner.
- TOR: End of season
- NSH: Sunday, Nov. 29 at Columbus Crew SC (8 pm ET) | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals
Bills advance to AFC Championship after beating Ravens – TSN
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Taron Johnson could’ve kept running into next week on a 101-yard interception that carried the Buffalo Bills to their first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years.
Johnson’s pick-6 of Lamar Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter secured a 17-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.
The interception return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offence to 150 yards on 32 carries.
Jackson was sacked four times and did not return after being evaluated for a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored.
Facing second-and-10 at Baltimore’s 25, centre Patrick Mekari snapped the ball over Jackson’s head. The quarterback turned and chased the bouncing ball down inside the 5, turned and quickly threw it away as Tremaine Edmunds had him by the legs and Trent Murphy fell down on top of him.
Jackson’s injury left Tyler Huntley to finish the game after being promoted off the practice squad.
Buffalo’s defence took the pressure off of a Josh Allen-led offence that was limited to 223 yards offence, and made up for rookie kicker Tyler Bass missing two of three field goal attempts — a 43-yarder that was wide right in the second quarter and a 44-yarder that sailed wide left with 5:30 remaining.
The game was decided in the third quarter, when the Bills went up 10-3 on Allen’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs to cap an 11-play, 66-yard opening drive.
Jackson responded by marching the Ravens 66 yards on 15 plays before throwing the interception while facing third-and-goal from the 9. Johnson jumped in front of the pass intended for Mark Andrews and took off up the right sideline. He followed teammate Tre’Davious White, who made sure Jackson didn’t have an angle to push Johnson out of bounds.
Johnson, who also returned an interception for a score in a 26-15 win over Pittsburgh on Dec. 13, said he initially thought about going down after catching the ball, before seeing no one in front of him.
“I caught the ball and kind of looked down, but then I looked up and saw a whole bunch of green grass to that side of me,” he said. “At that point, there’s one person I have to beat. And that’s No. 8 (Jackson).”
Johnson wasn’t touched until a mob of Bills players jumped on his back and brought him down in the end zone.
The Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994 on their way to making — and losing — their four consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first post-season game since the same year.
The Bills will play the winner of the AFC’s other divisional playoff between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday.
Buffalo has won eight straight, matching its best streak since 1990. The 13 regular-season victories matched a franchise record set in both 1990 and ’91 in a season they set numerous single-season records on offence, including scoring 501 points.
The fifth-seeded Ravens (12-6) had their season come to an end after leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive year.
Baltimore clinched its third playoff berth in three years by winning its final five regular-season games. The winning streak came after a 1-4 skid capped by a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 in a game rescheduled three times due to COVID-19 issues.
Johnson’s interception return matched Packers defensive back George Teague’s 101-yard fumble return in Green Bay’s 28-24 win over Detroit in a wild-card playoff on Jan. 8, 1994.
Jackson finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries.
The Bills also limited Jackson to just 40 yards on 11 carries in the Ravens’ 24-17 win at Buffalo in Week 14 of the 2019 season.
Huntley, who had attempted just five passes in two appearances this season, finished 6 of 13 for 60 yards on three drives, the final two in which Baltimore turned the ball over on downs.
Allen was 23 of 37 for 206 yards passing.
“You saw our defence. The game plan our coaching staff put for that offence was unbelievable,” Allen said. “You don’t get style points for winning in the playoffs. You either go home or you advance to the next round. We’re on to the next one.”
A game that was supposed to highlight two dynamic third-year quarterbacks instead turned into a defensive struggle with the score tied at 3 after the first half.
The Ravens came up empty on two drives that ended inside Buffalo’s 30, with Justin Tucker missing his first two field goal attempts. He hit the left upright from 41 yards on Baltimore’s opening drive, and then hit the right upright on a 46-yard attempt in the second half.
It marked the first time Tucker, the NFL’s most accurate kicker, has missed twice from inside 50 yards in the same game. Tucker finally tied the score at 3 by hitting a 34-yard attempt with 4 seconds left in the first half to cap an eight-play, 57-yard drive
Aside from Allen’s 4-yard scramble on an aborted pass play and an end-of-half kneel-down, the Bills had one carry in the first half on Devin Singletary’s 3-yard gain to open Buffalo’s final possession of the second quarter.
Buffalo became just the third team since the 1991 playoffs to have a running back have just one carry in the first half. The St. Louis Rams had one carry in a half in a 49-37 divisional-round playoff win against Minnesota on Jan. 16, 2000. The Raiders had one carry in a half of a 41-24 win over Tennessee in the 2003 AFC championship game.
Ravens: Season over.
Bills: Advance to AFC championship game for first time since 1994, where they’ll face Cleveland or play Kansas City for a second time this season following a 26-17 loss to the Chiefs on Oct. 19.
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Canadian Bills fans revel in team's success despite agony of being parked at home – CBC.ca
Once again, Jason Tangorra, Wayne Kretz and Leslie Churchill will be glued to their respective television sets watching the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night.
And once again, their hearts will be in Orchard Park, N.Y.
The three Canadians are Buffalo season-ticket holders and they’re reveling in the Bills’ success this year. But they’re unable to attend games in Western New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed the border to non-essential travel.
Buffalo (13-3) finished atop the AFC East Division this season to secure the conference’s No. 2 seed. That gave the Bills their third playoff berth since 2017. but the club’s 27-24 victory last weekend over the Indianapolis Colts was its first post-season win since 1995.
It also was Buffalo’s first home playoff contest since 1996.
On Saturday night, Buffalo hosts the Baltimore Ravens in second-round action. Like last week, New York State has approved admission for about 6,700 fans after not allowing any fans into the nearly 70,000-seat facility during the regular season. Fans must get a COVID-19 test at the stadium two to three days before the game and then have a negative result to be admitted.
Instead of sitting at Bills Stadium with his uncle — a native of nearby Jamestown, N.Y. — and four cousins, Tangorra will be watching on television with his wife and daughter. The 40-year-old real-estate agent has been a fan of the team since 1990 and a season-ticket holder for the past six years.
“My daughter is conflicted because her stepdad is a Bears fan,” Tangorra said. “But my wife will cheer with me because she knows what we [Bills fans] have been through all these years so she has empathy.
“Oh what I wouldn’t give to be there. The emotion you feel when you go to a game, especially when you’re with family, it’s comradery, it’s friendship and it’s culture. I remember when [Bills coach Sean McDermott] came in, he was saying, ‘The process, the process, the process,’ . . .and when you see the team grow and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is cool.'”
Financial as well as emotional hurt
Tangorra isn’t alone. Bills Mafia, the moniker for the club’s rabid fanbase, is alive and well in Ontario and Quebec with Bills Backers chapters located throughout the provinces. It’s estimated between 3,000 and 8,000 Canadians are season-ticket holders.
The stadium is located about a 30-minute drive away from the Peace Bridge, which connects Fort Erie, Ont., to Buffalo.
“I’d go there and watch those and I can tell you I met every single player from 1991 to ’92 though ’93. It was a pretty amazing experience for a kid and so cool [because] you get to engage. It was one of the best experiences.”
Kretz, 49, owns The Manhattan Bar and Grill in St. Catharines, Ont., and it would usually be very busy when Buffalo plays. Not only is Kretz a Bills season-ticket holder, he organizes bus trips to various events, including Buffalo football games
“The financial hurt as a business owner is crippling but then just as a life-long Bills fans it’s devastating to not be able to be there,” said Kretz, who”s been attending Bills games since the late 1980s. “It is affecting my fun as well as my business.”
‘Verge of tears’
Kretz had arranged to attend a Bills home game in Las Vegas but, predictably, had to cancel those plans this year. He also took a serious look at all possible ways to make the trip to Orchard Park for Saturday’s contest.
“There’s a company doing helicopter trips to fly you over the border,” he said. “It crossed my mind but I think this is a team that could go all the way.
“If they go to Tampa [site of this year’s Super Bowl] I will seriously consider flying down and quarantining and doing all that . . . I’m that big of a fan.”
Churchill, 38, operates R U Serious Tap and Grill in Guelph, Ont., with her sister, Kim, also a diehard Bills fan. Churchill has been a Buffalo season-ticket holder since 2015 but members of her family have had tickets for upwards of 30 years.
“Obviously we own a bar and it’s an industry being hit the hardest but I feel like we’re going to muscle that out and be OK,” Churchill said. “On a personal note, the most difficult thing this year and what I miss the most is being in Buffalo.
“I drive my son [three-year-old Jack] to daycare every morning and just as the sun comes up I roll my windows down for the cold air to come in because it reminds me of getting to the border on gameday and I get emotional and am on the verge of tears and I’m hiding it from my son.”
One of Churchill’s fondest memories of attending a Bills game was Sept. 24, 2017 when fans threw her an impromptu baby shower.
“It was the game against Denver and I was eight months pregnant and it was the hottest game we had in history there,” she said. “That afternoon I was sitting there in the shade and friend after friend was showing up and they threw me a baby shower in the parking lot.
“It makes me so emotional now just to think about it because these are the people that are your family.”
The road to the Super Bowl is a difficult one for Buffalo. Baltimore finished with an 11-5 record this season and looming for Saturday’s winner could be a road contest against the defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs, who posted a league-best 14-2 record this season and will face Cleveland (11-5) on Sunday.
“Kansas City is a very good team,” Tangorra said. “[But] I think Buffalo can win the Super Bowl, I really do.”
If the Bills and Chiefs both win to set up an AFC title showdown in Kansas City, Tangorra said he’ll take a look at the logistics of attending — Canadians still can fly out of the country, though the government is recommending against travel. However, with Ontario enacting a stay-at-home order this week, he doesn’t like his chances.
“Am I going to look into it? Yes,” he said. “Do I have any hopes for it? No.
“But I’m going to look into it.”
Canadian Nick Taylor finishes second round strong to lead in Hawaii at Sony Open – TSN
It wasn’t the best start for Nick Taylor, but the finish was pretty good.
Taylor played the first five holes of his second round of the Sony Open in 1-over and looked as if he might have trouble making the cut. Instead, he went 9-under over the next 13 and takes a two-shot lead into the weekend.
“Early on today, the first four or five holes, I made some nice par putts,” said Taylor. “I was 1-over and then I started hitting it better and giving myself opportunities and kept making putts.”
His hot stretch started on the 15th hole, his sixth of the day, when he hit his approach to seven feet and made the birdie. He made a four-footer on the next hole to get to red figures, and then pitched in for eagle on par-5 18th to close out the front side.
He made five birdies on the back nine, none more eventful than his final hole of the day. His tee shot darted left, coming to rest against a fence that bordered the driving range. At first, it appeared Taylor would have to play his shot left-handed and hack it back into play, but he got relief from the netting above the fence and was able to play a full shot into the fairway. A wedge to three feet and a simple putt added a final birdie for a round of 62.
“Whenever you get another birdie, it’s obviously a nice finish, but after everything that happened, it’s nice to walk away with four,” said Taylor. “It was a fortunate break and nice to take advantage of it.”
The Canadian, who is leading the tournament in Strokes Gained: Putting, will have to keep making birdies if he hopes to earn his third PGA Tour win. There are five players grouped two shots back and another eight players trailing by three shots. The cut came at 4-under with the Waialae Country Club course playing easier in the afternoon as the winds that usually provide a defense, died down.
“I feel like you can make four, five, six pars in a row you’re probably getting lapped,” Taylor stated, “especially with how the fairways are running.”
It marks the second time in his career that Taylor has held the 36-hole lead. The other time was last year at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he went on to win. Since that victory, however, he hasn’t finished inside the top 25 in 15 starts.
The 62 is also his career-low on the PGA Tour; he’s posted rounds of 63 on four previous occasions.
“I’ve always liked this golf course,” Taylor said. “It kind of suits my eye off the tee. I’ve driven the ball well the last couple days and really putted well. Obviously when you’re doing that you’re going to shoot some good scores, and reading the greens well, so hopefully I’ll keep doing that.”
Taylor tees off in the final group with Stewart Cink and Webb Simpson at 5:50 pm ET.
Mike Weir and Mackenzie Hughes, the two other Canadians to make the cut, will play together at 3:50 pm ET.
Bills advance to AFC Championship after beating Ravens – TSN
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