Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake spent the first half of the 2013 MLS Cup final hitting each other as much as the ball. Aided by a referee who felt anything short of a drive-by wasn't worthy of a foul, the two teams hacked at each other for most of the opening 45 minutes until the whistle finally sent them to halftime tied 0-0 in bitterly cold Kansas City.
The match got off to an ominous start when Uri Rosell went down with an apparent foot injury. The midfielder went in on a tackle and came out of limping before getting looked at by trainers and leaving the match. He was replaced by Lawrence Olum and, right away, SKC was at a disadvantage.
From that point on, the two teams just clattered each other, which was especially painful in sub-20 degree weather. Nat Borchers got a ball kicked into his face from close range, Dom Dwyer went down with an injury before getting up and every time someone went to the turf, he took a minute before rising to his feet. It was physical and cold, which is a terrible combination for everyone.
It took until the 25th minute before either team got a great chance and it came through Graham Zusi. Sporting's best player worked his magic down the left to work himself some space before hitting a pinpoint cross for C.J. Sapong. The forward nodded the ball for what looked like a goal, but Nick Rimando came flying in to make a great save and push the ball wide.
Minutes later, Sporting had themselves a chance thanks to Jimmy Nielsen. The SKC goalkeeper made a meal of an attempted punch and put the ball on Robbie Findley's foot from three yards, but the RSL forward missed the open net. He hit the post and Nielsen jumped on the rebound to save the home side.
The final chance of the half came just before the whistle when Dwyer snuck in behind the Real Salt Lake defense, but Rimando came storming off his line to make things tough on the Englishman. Dwyer, under pressure, couldn't do better than shoot right at Rimando and once again RSL had been saved by their goalkeeper.