07 December, 2013

MLS Final Shootout

Real Salt Lake met Sporting KC for the MLS Cup on a frigid afternoon today at Kansas City's Sporting Park. The temperature was the coldest ever for an MLS final, at 20 degrees F (the second coldest, in Toronto 2010, was over twice as "warm" at 43 degrees). Sporting KC lined up in a 4-3-3 (Nielsen; Sinovic, Besler, Collin, Myers; Feilhaber, Rosell, Nagamura; Zusi, Dwyer, Sapong) while RSL played a standard 4-4-2 diamond (Rimando; Wingert, Schuler, Borchers, Beltran; Beckerman, Grabavoy, Gil, Morales; Findley, Saborio). The game was very rough but referee Hilario Grajeda  let most contact go without calling fouls, and for excessively hard fouls was not particularly quick with yellow cards, issuing three in the first half. Sporting KC made the first substitution very early, as center midfielder Uri Rosell suffered an ankle sprain in the 5th minute and was replaced by Lawrence Olum.

Goalkeepers Nick Rimando and Jimmy Nielsen kept the first half scoreless with spectacular saves on CJ Sapong and Robbie Findley, respectively. Early in the second half, Real Salt Lake broke the scoreless tie as Kyle Beckerman found Alvaro Saborio at the 18 yard line. Saborio put some moves on Matt Besler and created enough room to shoot the ball past Jimmy Nielsen in the 51st minute.

Ten minutes later, Kyle Beckerman blasted a shot from about 30 yards out that nearly doubled Salt Lake's lead, but the shot hit the post - hard - and bounced back in the field, where Jimmy Nielsen ended up controlling it after several bounces. Sporting started attacking harder to attempt to equalize, bringing in Claudio Bieler for Dom Dwyer at center forward. RSL countered with a defensive substitution, Lovel Palmer for Chris Wingert, who had ealier made a spectacular goal-saving sliding tackle but was carrying a yellow card. RSL's super star attacking center mid Javier Morales lifted a ball over Jimmy Nielsen in the 72nd minute and Kansas City were saved by the crossbar again. In the 76th minute Sporting Park came back to life. Aurelien Collin pushed and shoved with Chris Schuler inside the 6 yard box on a KC corner kick, but not enough to be called for a foul as the referee had clearly established that the pushing would be allowed, and Collin won the battle of the big center backs to head in the Graham Zusi corner for the tying goal.

RSL made their second sub in the 84th minute as overtime approached, bringing in Sebastian Velasquez for the ineffective Luis Gil. The game went to overtime tied 1-1 thanks to another excellent sliding goal-saving tackle late in the half, this time by Kansas City's Seth Sinovic. In the 104th minute, just before the overtime break, Alvaro Saborio put the ball in the net for the second time today, but it was correctly called back for offsides, much to the relief of the Sporting Park crowd.

After one last RSL substitution (Joao Plata in for Robbie Findley) in preparation for a shootout, the tiebreaker began, and what an intense shootout it was.
1. KC Bieler - Goal
1. RSL Saborio - Miss
2. KC Nagamura - Goal
2. RSL Grabavoy - saved by Nielsen
3. KC Besler - saved by Rimando
3. RSL Beckerman - Goal
4. KC Feilhaber - Goal
4. RSL Plata - Goal
5. KC Zusi - Miss
5. RSL Morales - Goal
6. KC Sinovic - Goal
6. RSL Schuler - Goal
7. KC Sapong - Goal
7. RSL Beltran - Goal
8. KC Olum - Miss
8. RSL Velasquez - saved by Nielsen
9. KC Myers - Goal
9. RSL Borchers - Goal
10. KC Collin - Goal
10. RSL Palmer - hit crossbar. Shot bounced down but not into the goal.

Sporting Kansas City wins the MLS Cup.
To be honest, I was expecting Rimando to shoot by round 10, and maybe he would have scored.

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