Sporting KC outlasts RSL for title
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- 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, 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."
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 in 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.''