After 120 minutes and 10 rounds of penalty kicks, the only thing that separated Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake was the bottom of a crossbar. But that post, saving goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen after he dove to the right of goal, gave Kansas City their first Major League Soccer title in 13 years, the team’s 7-6 shootout win after Saturday’s 1-1 draw leaving Peter Vermes’ team on top at MLS Cup 2013. It was the second straight MLS Cup appearance decided by penalty kicks for Real Salt Lake, who won the 2009 title in Seattle over the LA Galaxy in a shootout. But after regulation time goals from Kyle Beckerman and Aurélien Collin, the visitors couldn’t claim another extra time title, with the final round of kicks by field players giving Sporting their second MLS title. The home team went into the fifth round of penalties up 3-2, giving Graham Zusi a chance to claim the title before additional kicks were needed. But scrape the top of the crossbar before Javier Morales leveled the shootout, the U.S. international’s miss paved the way for extra tries, with an additional five rounds needed before Palmer’s miss gave Sporting the crown. The first quarter-hour came with Sporting in control, the hosts holding 60 percent of the ball while registering the game’s first two shots. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando initially went untested, however, the U.S. international left to manage his penalty area on Sporting’s four early set pieces. No surprise, Graham Zusi was Sporting’s key early on. Playing the ball behind Salt Lake right back Tony Beltran, Sporting created their first near-chance through their star attacker, a cross from the left that an oncoming Paulo Nagamura couldn’t get on goal. Zusi came inside to create another near-chance in the middle of the half for Dom Dwyer, a through ball that the Sporting striker couldn’t make dangerous. In the 25th minute, back on the left, a Zusi cross floated far post for C.J. Sapong, who beat Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert to head down the first shot on goal. A diving stop by Rimando kept the match scoreless. Four minutes later, Real Salt Lake nearly almost opened the scoring when a cross from the left by Chris Wingert met a weak punch by Sporting keeper Jimmy Nielsen, who played the ball backward for RSL attacker Robbie Findley. Turning toward an open net, Findley hit the base of the right post from a sharp angle, the resulting rebound going back to a retreating Nielsen. By the half-hour mark, the match had finally opened up: a header by Dwyer that forced Rimando to come claim a ball; a flick from Luis Gil that put Álvaro Saborío behind the defense; a 36th minute header from the Costa Rican that went just wide. If the coldest MLS match ever was frozen at kickoff, the 30th minute saw the end of its thaw. By halftime, the game had taken on it’s early characteristic, even if Real Salt Lake had started controlling more of the ball. Two late first half fouls saw Zusi go wide on a direct kick before a restart from deep on the left fell un-played in penalty area. When, after a failed clearance, Matt Besler’s eventual chip found Dwyer in front of goal, Rimando was forced into a diving challenge to send the teams into halftime scoreless. The second half’s kickoff brought more Sporting set pieces, with a foul down their left in the half’s third minute leading to a Sapong chance put over the bar. When Real Salt Lake needed a Chris Schuler challenge two minutes later to prevent Dwyer from going in on goal, the hosts appeared to have found momentum in the locker room, a notion that was dispelled moments later. In the 52nd minute, Kyle Beckerman’s no-look chip from 40 yards out found Saborío open at just outside the penalty area, right back Chance Myers having kept the RSL number nine onside. Aurélien Collin, retreating into the space he had just vacated, ran past Saborío when the Salt Lake forward pushed the ball to his right, the ensuing shot lashed around Matt Belser and past Nielsen for the game’s first goal.
Sporting K.C. crowned 2013 MLS champs after 10 rounds of penalty kicks
Pro Soccer Talk | Dec 7