Real Salt Lake fell to Sporting Kansas City in penalty kicks to lose the MLS Cup final Saturday.
Salt Lake jumped out to a lead early in the second half, but conceded a goal later in the half. After extra time produced no scoring, it took 20 penalty kicks to separate these two squads.
Sporting emerged victorious and claimed the season’s MLS Championship.
Real Salt Lake ran out its first choice lineup for the first time this entire season for this match. Injuries, international call-ups, and regular rotation conspired to make this group of 11 players unavailable at the same time all season long.
Kansas City came out flying and forced Salt Lake to focus on defending early. The home side’s first major threat came on a 10th minute long throw-in from Matt Besler. Seth Sinovic got into the air to contest for the ball after it had been popped up, but Nick Rimando was able to catch the ball and eliminate the danger.
Rimando was busy in the first half. The Salt Lake netminder kept the match scoreless in the 26th minute when CJ Sapong made a run to the far post and headed a cross on frame. Rimando’s diving save pushed the ball wide and preserved the 0-0 draw.
Salt Lake started to control the run of play later in the first half. The visitors nearly scored in the 30th minute when Jimmy Nielsen bobbled a Javier Morales free kick and Robbie Findley got on the end of it. Findley picked up the ball to the right of the goal and fired, but it was stopped on the line and pounced on by Nielsen.
Things got testy in the 44th minute when Alvaro Saborio got tied up with Benny Feilhaber. Feilhaber flopped to the ground, earning Saborio a yellow card. Kansas City then made a late rally but couldn’t score, and the first half ended 0-0.
Sporting had the first good chance of the second half in the 48th minute when Sapong got to a free kick in the six yard box and tried to fire on frame, but he missed high over the net.
Saborio gave Salt Lake the lead in the 52nd minute when he pulled down a lob from Kyle Beckerman just outside the box, touched it to the ground, and put the ball past Nielsen and into the net.
Kansas City nearly scored in the 63rd minute when a cross made it all the way across the Salt Lake box to Chance Myers in front of the Salt Lake net. Myers missed high over the bar, and Salt Lake retained the lead. Myers hit Wingert on the play, re-injuring his rib. The Salt Lake outside back held on for a few more minutes before being removed from the match. That proved to be costly.
Salt Lake nearly tacked on a second goal in the 73rd minute when Morales chipped a ball at the back post and Nielsen let it go because it appeared to be going out of bounds. Instead, it bounced of the inside of the far post and fell back into play; however, Sporting was able to clear the ball.
Aurelien Collin equalized in the 76th minute by heading home a corner kick from Graham Zusi into the bottom left corner of the net.
That shifted the momemtum toward Kansas City. Claudio Bieler nearly scored in the 79th minute when he got on the end of a cross and fired hard, but the ball flew harmlessly over the net. That kept he match even at 1-1.
Salt Lake still had chances. Luis Gil freed Ned Grabavoy on the beak in the 87th minute with a flick that led the Illionois native on a free run into the Kansas City half of the field. Grabavoy was caught, but he still managed to create a corner kick and shift the momentum of the match.
The first 90 minutes with the sides tied, so the sides played 30 minutes of extra time.
Nick Rimando made the first big save of extra time in the 94th minute. The save came when a long throw in found Bieler in front of the net. Rimando tipped the Kansas City DP’s shot over the bar to preserve the draw.
Kansas City had a shout for a penalty kick in the 103rd minute when Chris Schuler pulled down Sapong from behind in the box. Grajeda adjudged Sapong’s fall to be too soft, earning the ire of the Kansas City fans.
Saborio appeared to score a second in the 105th minute, but assistant referee raised his flag to signal Saborio was off. Video replay confirmed Saborio was offside on the play.
The remainder of extra time concluded without a score from either side and so the match went to penalty kicks. Salt Lake missed its first two kicks, and Sporting made its; however, the visitors were able to rally and tie things up at 3-3 following the initial five kicks.
Things remained even until the 10th kick when Kansas City converted and Lovel Palmer (Wingert’s replacement), hit the crossbar.
Kansas City stormed onto the field as MLS Cup Champions.
Category: Game Review