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
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
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
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
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
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.”