It took seven frames of penalty kicks, but Real Salt Lake -- the No. 8 seed -- is the MLS Cup champion.
The crowd of 46,011 was fourth-largest in MLS Cup history.
This was the first trophy won by the club that was formed in the expansion of 2005. And it came after a losing regular season (11-12-7) in which RSL won only twice away from home.
Yet in the playoffs, Real advanced with road wins at Columbus and Chicago (also on PKs). And then they clinched the championship on a neutral pitch when defender Robbie Russell scored in the seventh round of PKs.
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“What we saw this year at certain points in the season, in certain games, we saw what we were capable of,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said. “We saw when we played our best soccer we were one of the best teams in the league. So now it’s nice to say we are the best team in the league.”
The two-time champion Galaxy entered the playoffs as the Western Conference’s top seed. In the final, L.A. scored first in regulation, and didn’t fall behind in penalty kicks until the game’s dramatic highpoint: MLS most valuable player Landon Donovan taking what might be his final kick in MLS and shanking it high over the crossbar.
“The penalty kick I hit like any penalty kick,” Donovan said. “I made sure (Rimando) was going the other way, and I closed my body -- I just put it in the air. You know, it’s probably due to tired legs and not concentrating in that moment.”
Until then, Donovan had scored on 19 of 21 PKs in his nine-season MLS career. And since both of his previous misses came on saves, this represented the first time that he failed to put a penalty kick on goal.
“If it came down to penalty kicks we were confident going back from last week (when) we handled business in Chicago,” said RSL keeper Nick Rimando, who was voted most valuable player of MLS Cup. “But I really think we could have won this in regulation, we were that good in the second half.”
That seemed to be the consensus: LA controlled the first half, RSL the second half and added time.
David Beckham: "I wouldn't say that it is tougher to lose on penalties. It's Russian roulette. It's not a nice way to go out, but it's the way it is in soccer."
RLS midfielder Clint Mathis: "As a team, we are young and still growing. ... We're young and have a lot of promise and a lot of talent, and we all buy into the system that coach wants us to buy into. In two years, we took a team on the doormat and became champions."
And a nice capper from Galaxy coach Bruce Arena: “I played here and lived here during the ‘70s, and professional soccer never should have left Seattle,” he said. “I think the Pacific Northwest is a fabulous geographic area for professional soccer. … I’m happy it’s back. They really embraced the season and the team, and it’s a fantastic story for MLS.”
End of added time: No goals in added time. This season's MLS champion will be decided by penalty kicks.
One lowlight was Landon Donovan -- one perhaps his final kick in MLS -- sending his PK far high above the crossbar.
That has happened only once before, in 2006, when Houston defeated New England on PKs.
Added time: It ended 1-1 in regulation. Now we're headed to 30 minutes of added time -- no golden goal -- and then, if needed, PKs.
This is the sixth time that MLS Cup has gone into added time ... and five of those games have involved LA.
Stoppage time: Seven minutes worth. It's been an odd game.
Attendance: 46,011. Commissioner Don Garber said that is more than the league had expected.
64th minute: Robbie Findley scored after a mad scramble in front of the LA goal. And apparently LA keeper Donovan Ricketts was injured in the scramble, and he has now been replaced by Josh Saunders. (Right hand contusion, we're told.)
Halftime: Galaxy up, 1-0.
41st minute: The Galaxy takes a 1-0 lead as Beckham runs the ball across midfield, passes to Donovan down the right side, Donovan carries into the area, and then slides the ball left to Mike Magee who finished easily.
22nd minute: RSL's Javier Morales out with a left lcl strain. Clint Mathis in.
Kickoff: The game has begun.
Sounders appear: The MLS Cup pregame festivities began with an appearance by Adrian Hanauer and a dozen or so Sounders players. The fans met the moment by raising their Sounders scarves and chanting one last time: "Seaaaaatle" -- "Soundeeeeers."
Now we're getting some vaguely Olympic-opening-ceremonies-like entertainment on the pitch. And the game -- which had been scheduled to begin 15 minutes ago -- is apparently still out there somewhere.
Lineups: For RSL -- GK Rimando; D Russell, Borchers, Olave, Wingert; M Williams, Beckerman, Morales, Johnson; F Findley, Movsisyan. For LA -- GK Ricketts; D Franklin, Berhalter, Gonzalez, Dunivant; M Beckham, Magee, Birchall, Kirovski; F Buddle, Donovan.
Pregame: Both teams are on the pitch, warming up for the final game of the MLS season.
Real is in their red and blue, Galaxy in white.
I'll keep the blog open all night and will pass along news and updates and then notes and quotes from the locker room. But most of all, I'll just keep it open as a spot for you guys to discuss what you're seeing on TV or to report back with what you experienced at Qwest for the final soccer game of the year.