Sporting KC tops Real Salt Lake for MLS Cup

Aurelien Collin, soaked in champagne, pulled the black stocking

cap that read ”MLS Cup Champions” down over his ears and

sheepishly shook his head from side to side.

The defender for Sporting Kansas City had never needed to try a

penalty kick in his career.

It’s unlikely that the next one will compare to the first.

Collin drove home the deciding penalty kick after Sporting KC

and Real Salt Lake played to a 1-all draw Saturday night, giving

his club its first league championship since 2000.

”I hope I never have to kick another one again,” Collin said

with a smile.

Alvaro Saborio, who missed the Western Conference finals because

of injury, scored for Real Salt Lake in the 52nd minute, but Collin

answered with a header in the 76th minute.

It remained 1-1 through regulation and 30 minutes of overtime,

and then the teams engaged in the longest penalty-kick shootout in

championship history – one that both sides had chances to win

before Collin’s shot and Jimmy Nielsen’s save left Sporting KC with

the 7-6 victory.

”I never think that penalty kicks are the best way to end a

game, but you can’t just keep going,” said Sporting KC manager

Peter Vermes, who was on the team known then as the Kansas City

Wizards that won the 2000 title. ”You have to end it some

way.”

Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi had a chance to wrap it up in the

first stage of penalty kicks, but he missed high and Real Salt

Lake’s Javier Morales made good to force sudden death. Real Salt

Lake then had a chance when Lawrence Olum missed wide, but Nielsen

made a diving save on Sebastian Velasquez.

Two rounds later, Collin placed his penalty kick just out of the

reach of Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, and Lovel Palmer

was unable to answer as Sporting KC players and coaches spilled off

the sideline and fireworks began popping over sold-out Sporting

Park.

It was the third time the MLS Cup has gone to a penalty kick

shootout. Houston beat New England in 2006, and Real Salt Lake

topped the Los Angeles Galaxy 5-4 in 2009 for its only title.

”I’d advise you if you have a choice not to go in there. It’s

bad, real bad,” Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said upon

emerging from his team’s locker room after the game.

”It’s an emotional completion to a long year,” Kreis said.

It was the coldest MLS Cup in history with a game-time

temperature of 22 degrees and a wind chill of 12, and that only

dropped as the sun set and the game pressed through overtime. Half

of the field was frozen solid, and Kreis said the conditions ”were

not ideal at all.”

Even in the frigid Midwestern weather, tempers ran hot from the

start.

Real Salt Lake’s Chris Wingert picked up a yellow card midway

through the first half when he plowed over C.J. Sapong, and Collin

earned one for a reckless tackle. Saborio picked up his yellow card

for running through Sporting KC’s Benny Feilhaber, then bumping him

back to the pitch.

The physical nature of the first half resulted in precious few

scoring chances.

Real Salt Lake, taking advantage of the wind suddenly at its

back, finally broke through in the second half. Collin’s weak clear

was tracked down by Kyle Beckerman, and he passed ahead to Saborio,

who made a nifty move around defender Matt Besler and put a shot in

the corner of the net.

Real Salt Lake players sprinted to the corner of Sporting Park,

and Collin seemed to take umbrage with the celebration that ensued

among a small but vocal contingent of visiting fans.

Real Salt Lake nearly put the game away on two occasions.

Beckerman first ripped a shot off the post that bounced to Nielsen,

who spiked the ball in frustration. Then, Javier Morales sent a

shot off the opposite post that nearly caromed into the other side

of the goal.

Sporting KC finally answered in the 76th minute when Zusi sent a

corner kick toward the goal, and Collin leaped up and got his bald

head cleanly on the ball, redirecting it into the net.

Both teams had chances to end it early overtime. Zusi’s open

shot from the point was deflected high by Rimando in the 93rd

minute, and a header by Saborio into the net in the 105th was waved

off due to offsides, keeping the game going all the way to penalty

kicks.

It may not be the fashion Vermes would want a game to end, but

he wasn’t going to quibble.

Not the way it turned.

”This is definitely a big cherry on top at the moment,” Vermes

said. ”It’s tremendous to be able to bring this home, to be able

to win it in our city.”