SEATTLE -- For just the second time in league history, the MLS Cup final was decided on kicks from the mark.
This year it was the underdogs Real Salt Lake topping the Los Angeles Galaxy 5-4 on penalties after playing to a 1-1 draw after extra time in front of 46,011 at Qwest Field Sunday. Nick Rimando stopped Edson Buddle’s attempt in the seventh round and Robbie Russell put away the game-winning shot, sending RSL into euphorics.
“I haven’t had a championship since I’ve been playing football, so it’s been awhile,” said Salt Lake midfielder Clint Mathis. “Last time I played in a game like this was ten years ago and I was on the losing side.”
The Galaxy got off to a fast start, taking control of the ball for most of the first half, culminating in a Mike Magee goal in the 41st minute.
Magee missed his first chance on goal in the 36th minute, shooting wide of the far post on a run up the left side. But he more than made up for it five minutes later when Landon Donovan sent a ball from the right side to Magee at the far post for a left-footed shot to put LA up 1-0.
Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis admitted that the game didn’t go as he’d hoped, but it did go as he expected.
“I thought the first half was almost exactly like I was hoping it wouldn’t be, but thought chances were that it would be,” Kreis said.
Kreis made the proper adjustments at halftime and Real came out blazing in the second half. Two of those changes were related to substitutions due to illness and injury. Midfielder Javier Morales suffered a left LCL sprain in the early-going, forcing him to be replaced by Clint Mathis in the 22nd minute and an illness limited Will Johnson to 45 minutes and Ned Grabavoy replaced him to start the second half.
“You don’t typically burn two subs by halftime,” Kreis said. “I think that’s one of the most gratifying things for me is that there are so many players now over the course of the season that have contributed to this championship.”
To start the second half, Robbie Findley made a run into the box in the 47th minute and collided with LA goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, leaving Ricketts with a contusion on his right hand. He stayed in the game, but the injury clearly affected him.
Then in the 63rd minute, Yura Movsisyan shot inside the box, but it was deflected to Findley who blasted it past Ricketts for the goal in the 63rd minute, tying the game at 1-1.
On the next stoppage of play, Ricketts was subbed out for backup keeper Josh Saunders.
Salt Lake continued to pour on the pressure as the game went to extra time.
In the 98th minute, Findley got up the right side, but his shot just missed the near post and the ball rattled off the boards behind the goal for a goal kick. In the 101st minute a Mathis free kick bent over the four-man LA Galaxy wall and off the side netting for another goal kick.
And after 120 minutes, nothing could be decided, so the game went to kicks from the mark.
There both clubs connected on their first two attempts and both keepers made saves in the third round. Donovan stepped to the mark, but his shot sailed high and Grabavoy scored to give Salt Lake the lead, only to have Saunders save a potential game-winner from Andy Williams to extend the shootout to another round.
Consecutive goals in the sixth round sent it to the seventh round where Rimando and Russell were made heroes.
For RSL it was their first title, coming in just their fifth season in the league.