Real Salt Lake Wins MLS Cup

SportsSoccerRugbyNick RimandoLandon DonovanClint MathisJason Kreis

The image most expected of David Beckham andLandon Donovan holding the championship of Major League Soccer forthe league's marquee franchise will wait.

Those upstarts from Real Salt Lake outlasted the stars from LosAngeles.

Robbie Russell scored in the seventh round of penalty kicks andthe scrappy underdogs from RSL beat the star-studded Galaxy 5-4 onpenalties Sunday night for its first MLS title.

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando made two saves duringpenalties, and Donovan, the Galaxy's sure-footed league MVP, missedbadly over the crossbar giving RSL a chance in the extra rounds.After Rimando smothered Edson Buddle's shot, Russell beat backupLos Angeles keeper Josh Saunders into the lower left corner to setoff a wild celebration. A few thousand RSL fans that made the tripfrom Utah lined the railings around the field for 30 minutes,sometimes chanting "Nick Rimando" while the players celebrated onthe confetti covered field.

"It's nice to say we're the best team in the league," RSLcoach Jason Kreis said. "... My honest opinion is we deserved towin that game."

Robbie Findley scored in the 64th minute to pull RSL even at 1after Mike Magee gave Los Angeles the lead in the 41st minute off aperfect cross by Donovan.

It was the second straight shootout victory for Salt Lake, whichbeat Chicago 5-4 on penalties last week in the Eastern Conferencechampionship.

Rimando made three saves in the penalty shootout against theFire and the game MVP came up big again in front of 46,011 fans,the fourth-largest crowd for a MLS Cup.

Beckham scored for Los Angeles to start the penalty kicks andthe first four shots went to form. In the third round JovanKirovski's shot was saved by Rimando, but Saunders followed bystopping RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. Donovan, the usually goodpenalty taker for both the Galaxy and the U.S. national team, thenmissed well over the crossbar, ripping off his captain's armband ashe walked disgusted back to midfield.

It was the first time in his MLS career that Donovan failed toput a penalty shot on goal. His only two previous misses weresaved.

Andy Williams had a chance for RSL with the final penalty, butSaunders smothered the shot. Two rounds later, Williams was able tocelebrate with Russell as RSL became the second expansion team inMLS history to win the title, joining Chicago in 1998.

"I just went with my gut. I went left, the ball went right.There's not much I can do," Saunders said.

It was a stunning and disappointed conclusion for Los Angeles,which entered as a heavy favorite thanks to the star power ofDonovan and Beckham.

And it looked promising early, especially after Beckham, Donovanand Magee teamed up for a beautiful goal just before halftime.

Beckham found himself with space in the midfield and carrieddeep into the Real end. Donovan overlapped and ran free onBeckham's right side and the English star slid a pass betweendefenders to the sprinting league MVP. Instead of looking for hisown shot, Donovan served a pass to the far post where Magee wasrunning unmarked.

But Donovan disappeared in the second half becoming anon-factor, and the Galaxy were noticeably exhausted by the end ofthe overtime session, desperate to reach penalty kicks.

Findley, who was shaken up in a collision with Los Angelesgoalkeeper Donovan Ricketts in the opening moments of the secondhalf became the beneficiary of a lucky deflection to pull RSL even.During a scrum in the Galaxy box, a deflection went right to thefeet of Findley. While Beckham stood trying to find the ball,Findley slid a left-footed shot past a sprawling Ricketts.

A few minutes later Ricketts left with a right hand injury. Hewas worked on for several minutes after the collision with Findleythat denied RSL a great scoring chance. Findley's poor first touchon a breakaway allowed Ricketts time to come off his line and slideto deflect the ball away. But Findley and the big Jamaican keepercollided hard and after 5 minutes of examination by trainersRicketts stayed on. The hand continued to bother him as heconstantly looked down at his gloves and finally decided afterFindley's goal it was too painful to continue.

Saunders played well in Ricketts' place as RSL kept the pressurein the closing moments. Findley had a left-footed shot blocked awayby the sliding tackle of A.J. DeLaGarza in the third minute of theextra session.

A few minutes later, Findley found himself open just inside thetop of the penalty area, but his right-footed shot went into theside netting. Clint Mathis found a similar fate with his free kickin the 101st minute.

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