MLS: David Beckham's LA Galaxy beaten
David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy were denied a Major League Soccer title as Real Salt Lake took the MLS Cup on penalty kicks at Qwest Field.
With the game deadlocked at 1-1 after extra time, Beckham converted the first spot-kick of the shoot-out in front of 46,011 fans but as it went into sudden death, a miss from striker Edson Buddle left Salt Lake defender Robbie Russell to convert and give the club their first title in only their fourth season as an MLS team.
Salt Lake, who lost more games than they won in the regular season before reaching the play-offs as a wild card, made the brighter start to the final on the artificial FieldTurf surface as Beckham shook off an ankle injury to start the game.
There was no sign of any reticence on Beckham's part to get involved, though when in the 16th minute the England midfielder brought down Argentine Javier Morales in winning the ball inside the centre circle. He escaped a caution and Real lost their influential midfielder as a result, a tearful Morales limping out in the 22nd minute.
Beckham was becoming increasingly influential for more positive reasons as the Galaxy began to take control in the first half. An inswinging corner from the left in the 28th minute found a late arriving Omar Gonzalez at the back post, the MLS rookie of the year poking the ball over the bar.
A minute later a Beckham free-kick from deep found Mike Magee who blasted over and in the 36th minute, Beckham moved the ball inside to Landon Donovan who pushed it further on to the left for Magee who shot across goal wide of the far post.
It was the same combination that secured the breakthrough for the Galaxy in the 41st minute. Beckham, 30 yards out, fed Donovan outside him on the right and the LA captain sent over a cross to the back post which Magee met and slotted home first time to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead that they held until the 64th minute.
It was leading scorer Robbie Findley who pulled his team level after captain Kyle Beckerman put the ball into the box. Two shots were blocked by Galaxy defenders before it fell to Findley who fired home from the corner of the six-yard box.
Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts was substituted straight after conceding the equaliser, the former Bolton and Bradford man's right hand having been injured earlier in the half with Josh Saunders replacing him in goal.
Even seven minutes of added time could not break the deadlock, however, and the game moved into extra time. Saunders and substitute AJ DeLaGarza got their bodies between Findley and the goal to deny Salt Lake in the 94th minute.
Findley fired into the side netting four minutes later and in the 100th minute, Beckham brought down Beckerman on the edge of the Los Angeles area to give Salt Lake another chance, Clint Mathis also blasting into the side netting.
Chances were becoming rare as the second half of extra time got under way and tired legs took over but Magee got to the byline to send in a cross from the left that Chris Wingert headed clear at the back post to deny Chris Klein in the last clear-cut opportunity before the shoot-out.
Beckham was first to the penalty spot and drew first blood, slotting the ball low and hard to his left, keeper Nick Rimando going the wrong way. The Galaxy's Jovan Kirovski was the first to miss his kick, saved by Rimando, and Saunders got him off the hook by saving Beckerman's spot-kick.
Then Donovan skied his attempt over the bar and Ned Grabavoy put Real into a 3-2 lead. Magee tied it up leaving Williams to win it with Real's fifth penalty. He missed, Saunders saving and it went to sudden death.
Klein blasted home and Wingert slotted home but Buddle's attempt was weak and Rimando saved comfortably. Now Russell stepped up to finish it and he beat Saunders to give Salt Lake the title.
Beckham was left to rue another penalty shoot-out loss following the game. Beckham has been in three England teams knocked out of major tournaments after shoot-outs, by Argentina in the 1998 World Cup when he had earlier been sent off, and twice by Portugal, the then England captain having missed from the spot at Euro 2004 before watching from the sidelines at the 2006 World Cup.
"It's always tough losing, whether you lose on penalties or in normal play but we can be proud of where we've come to,'' Beckham said. "I wouldn't say it's tougher to lose on penalties but it's Russian roulette, it's not a nice way to lose but that's the way it is.
"The people that step up are brave enough to step up and if you score, great, and if you miss it's hard to take. Josh (Saunders) did great to make those saves, he's a great goalkeeper, it just wasn't our night.
"I had three injections in my ankle and it wore off after about 15 minutes. I knew it would be like that going into the game and of course it got worse and worse during the game but that's what happens when you've got an injury like that.''