Kansas City, Mo. • When given the opportunity to address the notion of a legacy for his team, Jason Kreis has often deferred, keeping the focus on the here and the now. He did so this postseason, as Real Salt Lake trudged through a helter-skelter Leg 1 at the StubHub Center in their series with the L.A. Galaxy searching for answers, and did the same in the days prior to the MLS Cup final.
"I’m not so much interested in legacies and all that kind of stuff," Kreis said Nov. 27. "I think that’s for other people, and will probably be interesting one day when I’m walking around with a cane."
Thus, the question was posed to the RSL coach again in the moments after his team lost the cup they had thirsted for since January. Sitting as the lone RSL representative in the news conference answering a slew of inquiries about the penalty-kick shootout that went 20 kicks deep and the future of the club, Kreis found another avenue to explain his stance on the legacy of this group — his team — that has now reached four major tournament finals in five seasons and emerged victorious in one.
What is — or was — this group’s legacy?
The magical run of 2009 put the franchise on the map as the Cinderella-story RSL shocked the star-laden Galaxy in penalty kicks. Much of the core of that 2009 team helped the club add to its reputation, but end results have ultimately been disappointing.
The 1-0 home loss to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2011. The 1-0 home loss to D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup final on Oct. 1.
And, as in some cruel twist of fate, RSL — a team most consider as one of the safest bets in the league when it comes to penalty kicks — saw the MLS Cup final’s 20th penalty-attempt clank off the crossbar, giving the Sporting Kansas City the MLS bragging rights for 2013.
"I’m not standing here saying that this group should have won more finals," Kreis said. "What I’m saying is, that it’s remarkable that they got this group into the finals. I think it’s unbelievable that this group has put themselves in so many good positions to win things, and unfortunately, things for just one reason or another haven’t gone our way."
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando thought of the same circumstance in the visiting locker room Saturday night at Sporting Park after the marathon penalty shootout. He was the hero in 2009, and he remembered the elation of winning a final.
This go around, it was different.
"Yeah, having some finals and losing them is in the back of your mind a little bit," Rimando said, "but we lost on PKs to a very good Kansas City team."
"You just hope that it ends the way ’09 did," captain Kyle Beckerman said after the loss.
The talk of legacies will remain up for debate, as Kreis has said. But as players and Kreis explained, it doesn’t make the sting lessen whatsoever.
"You have a chance in the final once you’re in there," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy, "so it’s difficult in the sense that I’ve been here before and won, and so you know that feeling — you know how hard it is to reach the final and to win. It’s one of those things where, in a moment like this, you can’t describe how you feel."
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