Real Salt Lake Wins MLS Title on Penalty Kicks

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Real Salt Lake Wins MLS Title on Penalty Kicks SEATTLE — Robbie Russell scored in
the seventh round of penalty kicks and underdog, overlooked Real Salt
Lake beat the star-studded Los Angeles Galaxy 5-4 on penalties Sunday
night for its first Major League Soccer title.

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick
Rimando
made two saves during penalties, and league MVP Landon Donovan
missed badly over the crossbar giving RSL a chance in the extra rounds.
After Rimando smothered Edson Buddle‘s shot, Russell beat backup Los
Angeles keeper Josh Saunders into the lower left corner to set off a
wild celebration.

Robbie Findley scored in the 64th
minute to pull RSL even at 1 after Mike Magee gave Los Angeles the lead
in the 41st minute off a perfect cross by Donovan.

It was the second straight shootout
victory for Salt Lake, which beat Chicago 5-4 on penalties last week in
the Eastern Conference championship.

Rimando made three saves in the
penalty shootout against Chicago and the game MVP came up big again
Sunday in front of 46,011 fans — the fourth-largest crowd for a MLS Cup
final.

David Beckham scored for Los Angeles
to start the penalty kicks and the first four shots went to form. In
the third round, Jovan Kirovski‘s shot was saved by Rimando, but
Saunders followed by stopping RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.

Donovan, the usually sure-footed
penalty taker for both the Galaxy and the U.S. national team, then
missed well over the crossbar, ripping off his captain’s armband as he
walked disgusted back to midfield.

Andy Williams had a chance for RSL
with the final penalty, but Saunders smothered the shot. Two rounds
later, Williams was able to celebrate with Russell as RSL became the
second expansion team in MLS history to win the title, joining Chicago
in 1998.

It was a stunning and disappointed
conclusion for Los Angeles, which entered as a heavy favorite thanks to
the star power of Donovan and Beckham.

The setup was perfect for the league
with its marquee team and arguably two biggest stars playing for the
title. And it looked promising early, especially after Beckham, Donovan
and Magee teamed up for a beautiful goal just before halftime.

Beckham found himself with space in
the midfield and carried deep into the Real end. Donovan overlapped and
ran free on Beckham’s right side and the English star slid a pass
between defenders to the sprinting league MVP. Instead of looking for
his own shot, Donovan served a pass to the far post where Magee was
running unmarked.

But Donovan disappeared in the
second half becoming a non-factor, and the Galaxy were noticeably
exhausted by the end of the overtime session, desperate to reach
penalty kicks.

Findley, who was shaken up in a
collision with Los Angeles goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts in the opening
moments of the second half became the beneficiary of a lucky deflection
to pull RSL even. During a scrum in the Galaxy box, a deflection went
right to the feet of Findley. While Beckham stood trying to find the
ball, Findley slid a left-footed shot past a sprawling Ricketts.

A few minutes later Ricketts left
with a right hand injury. He was worked on for several minutes after
the collision with Findley that denied RSL a great scoring chance.
Findley’s poor first touch on a breakaway allowed Ricketts time to come
off his line and slide to deflect the ball away. But Findley and the
big Jamaican keeper collided hard and after 5 minutes of examination by
trainers Ricketts stayed on. The hand continued to bother him as he
constantly looked down at his gloves and finally decided after
Findley’s goal it was too painful to continue.

Saunders played well in Ricketts’
place as RSL kept the pressure in the closing moments. Findley had a
left-footed shot blocked away by the sliding tackle of A.J. DeLaGarza
in the third minute of the extra session.

A few minutes later, Findley found
himself open just inside the top of the penalty area, but his
right-footed shot went into the side netting. Clint Mathis found a
similar fate with his free kick in the 101st minute.

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