Sporting Kansas City are the champions of MLS.
It took 120 minutes of 1-1 soccer and 10 rounds of penalty kicks to separate Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, but when Lovel Palmer hit the crossbar with his penalty in the 10th round, it had finally ended. Sporting and their 18,000 fans who had stood in sub-freezing temperatures for hours were rewarded with a 7-6 win in penalties.
The final was billed as a a matchup of two of MLS's best teams and they certainly lived up to the hype, even if it wasn't always the prettiest soccer. The match was physical from the start, which was only egged on by Hilario Grajeda, who deemed anything short of a drive-by unworthy of a foul. That Uri Rossel went down with an injury in the eighth minute and had to be substituted off didn't help, but in between all of the hellacious fouls, there were chances, drama and plenty of entertainment.
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C.J. Sapong almost put Sporting in front in the 25th minute, but a tremendous save by Nick Rimando kept the home side scoreless. Not long after a mistake by Jimmy Nielsen gifted Robbie Findley a chance from five yards, but he missed the open goal from five yards and hit the post. Just before halftime, Dom Dwyer got a chance fot the home side, but Rimando was there again to deny him.
Alvaro Saborio put Real Salt Lake ahead in the 52nd minute, but as much of the credit on the goal belongs to Kyle Beckerman. The midfielder ht a sublime, no-look chip to Saborio, who chested the ball down and fired past Kimmy Nielsen. It was a wonderful play and stunned the crowd at Sporting Park, but they were back to chanting mere minutes later.
Sporting responded well to the RSL goal and pressure for the rest of the half, with one glorious chance for Javier Morales the only Salt Lake chance of note. But for all of Sporting's time on the ball and forays forward, they couldn't turn it into chances. That is until the 76th minute, when Aurelien Collin equalized.
Graham Zusi, who had plenty a handful of great balls in the match only for them to be wasted, hit a perfect corner kick, but Collin still had to beat Chris Schuler to get to it. Few players in the league can muscle off Schuler, but Collin was able to and head past Rimando to ignite Sporting Park.
Neither side was able to find a goal in the final 14 minutes so the match went to extra time, where Sporting dominated. Rimando was called upon time and time again to keep RSL in the match and every time, he did. He had to repeatedly rescue RSL and Sporting could have had a penalty to boot. Schuler took down C.J. Sapong, but Grajeda waved play on and replays showed it was the right call. It was a clean shoulder-to-shoulder play and in no way a foul.
It looked like Saborio might put RSL in front when he beat Nielsen in the 105th minute, but he was correctly flagged offside and the goal did not count. As time went on and fatigue set in, the match slowed and penalties were required to decide the match.
There, Sporting prevailed. They had a chance to win it in the fifth round of penalties, but Zusi fired over the bar so the shootout went on and all the way to the 10th round. There, Palmer beat Nielsen, but hit the crossbar and that was it -- SKC were champions.
Sporting Kansas City: Nielsen, Sinovic, Besler, Collin, Myers, Rosell (Olum 8'), Nagamura, Feilhaber, Dwyer (Bieler 72'), Sapong, Zusi.
Goals: Collin 76'.
Real Salt Lake: Rimando, Wingert (Palmer 72'), Borchers, Schuler, Beltran, Grabavoy, Beckerman, Gil (Velasquez 87'), Morales, Saborio, Findley (Plata 112').
Goals: Saborio 52'.