Kansas City, Kan. • This MLS Cup final forever will be etched into the lore of the league — the 20 penalty-kick attempts, the bitter cold and the gripping finale.
But before the title winners were to be decided from the penalty spot, Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City traded jabs on the field of play for 120 minutes. The first half featured three first-half yellow cards, an injury substitution and plethora of whistles blown due to the nature of both sides feeling out one another on the league’s biggest stage.
It took some time for the match to settle and RSL to discover its pass-first style of play and to start taking the attack to SKC.
"I think the start was really hectic for both teams," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "I think that’s the problem that comes down to the playing surface."
Kreis said he saw both teams playing very directly in the first half, viewing it more as a battle than anything else. But as the second half came, both sides figured it out, and RSL showed up first.
Forward Alvaro Saborio gave RSL the lead in the 52nd minute with a fabulous chest trap and volley off a no-look chip by Kyle Beckerman. The Costa Rican star controlled the ball with his chest and one-timed it by the outstretched arms of SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Asked to elaborate on his assist, Beckerman said, "Yeah, we like to call it ‘Sin Ojos,’ or ‘Without Eyes.’ We like to have fun."
But RSL, having weathered an onslaught of free-kick attempts by SKC and the right foot of Graham Zusi, relinquished the lead 24 minutes later when Aurelien Collin soared over Chris Schuler for the equalizing header.
Goals by Robbie Findley and Saborio in extra time were disallowed due to offside calls, and the league champion suddenly was left to be decided at the penalty spot after 120 minutes.
"You just wish you could go back and make a play," midfielder Ned Grabavoy said.
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