Beckham, Galaxy Outplayed – MLS Cup Goes to Real Salt Lake

rsl win it all

Real Salt Lake may have had a middling season.  They may have sneaked into the playoffs on the last day of the campaign.  They may have a team of names that would never go on the MLS marquee.  None of that matters very much right now.  Real Salt Lake are deserved winners of the MLS Cup after outplaying the LA Galaxy on a cold night in Seattle.

The game may have gone to penalty kicks, which are always a flip of the coin, but Real Salt Lake were unlucky not to win the game earlier.  RSL coach Jason Kreis had a simple game plan – own the middle of the park and cut off the distribution lanes to Landon Donovan.  Key to that plan was purposeful running by Kyle Beckerman, who was simply outstanding.  He was constantly tracking back, retrieving balls, getting in the Galaxy’s face, and spraying the ball all over the turf.

On the other side of the ball, David Beckham’s bruised ankle curtailed his work-rate, and Beckham looked like he was playing with one flat tire.  He was a step slow and had a tough time winning balls.  Beckham was stripped of the ball in the middle of the field several times and was unable to find the telling pass all game.

Without much distribution, Landon Donovan ran a lot but generated little.  The one exception was the Galaxy’s only good moment of the game.  The Galaxy won the bill in the mid-field, Beckham took it up, and laid it off to Donovan who made a laser pass to Mike Magee’s foot and into the goal.  Beckham’s layoff was wise and Magee’s shot was assured, but it was Donovan’s pass that was remarkable – a 20 yard sniper shot into the perfect position for Magee to poke home.

The goal came shortly before halftime, and the RSL team that emerged in the second half was a band of warriors.  The Galaxy barely had a shot on goal in the second half, let alone a sustained spell of possession as Real Salt Lake put pressure on every ball.  With Beckerman making all the right distributions, Salt Lake was constantly pressing forward, creating breaks and making chances.  One of their best chances ended up in a three way collision in the box between the RSL’s energetic Robbie Findley, and Galaxy behemoths Donovan Rickets and Omar Gonzalez. 

Ricketts hurt his hand in the collision and he was clearly in distress.  However, he stayed in long enough to pick the ball out of his net a few minutes later.  RSL broke into the box with Yura Movsisyan and Robbie Findley pressuring Todd Dunivant into a rushed clearance that rebounded off of Gonzalez and right to Findley who slotted it in.   That was Ricketts’ last moment as he was replaced by Josh Saunders.  Gonzalez followed Ricketts to the bench a few minutes later with a twisted ankle.

For the rest of the game and the two overtime periods, all the pressure was applied by Real Salt Lake, but the Galaxy parried away their chances.  On the other end, Beckham was clearly struggling and the Galaxy could neither sustain possession nor find a solid break-away opportunity.  Penalty kicks loomed.

For the players taking penalty kicks, it is one of the worst positions in sports.  Few players are proclaimed heroes for making a kick, but missing a kick is an utter failure.  RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando certainly has the ability to make penalty takers look like failures as he demonstrated last week against Chicago.  Both Saunders and Rimando saved two kicks, but the main talking point of the game will be the Landon Donovan’s miss. 

Death, taxes and Donovan taking penalties are usually very reliable.  In his entire MLS career, Donovan has never failed to put a penalty shot on frame.  Until tonight.  To seasoned Donovan watchers, his entire body language seemed off.  His usual elaborate pre-kick ritual was curtailed.  He seemed to be paying more attention to Rimando in his run-up than to the ball.  He struck the ball oddly and sent it straight over the bar.  As Donovan turned from the goal, he ripped his captain’s armband off in disgust.  If that winds up being Donovan’s last touch as a member of the Galaxy and he moves to Europe in January, that will be a distressing way to end his Galaxy career.

A few minutes later, after Rimando saved against Edson Buddle, RSL’s Robbie Russell shot right, Josh Saunders dived left, and Real Salt Lake were the MLS Champions.  After the game, Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena called it a war of attrition, and he is probably right.  However, tonight RSL had more ammunition in its arsenal to fight this war, and it was the Galaxy who staggered off the battlefield bloodied and bowed.

22 thoughts on “Beckham, Galaxy Outplayed – MLS Cup Goes to Real Salt Lake”

  1. Jason Kreis is a genius. He was good and faithful player here in Dallas, but as a coach I thing he is did everything right. I credit him the win and cup. Well done!

  2. After the first half, this game became unwatchable. Most players were walking through overtime. You can’t convince me that anyone on the Galaxy actually gave a sh*t. Beckham was obviously injured in the last round of this tournament, but had to play for his ratings pull. When he hit his penalty shot, you could see “thank god this is over” on his face. Salt Lake was the only team that looked like they wanted to finish this game. No leadership from the Galaxy. Seriously, your back up goalie goes in, and there is no desperation to score before a penalty shootout. No one rallying the troops to win the Cup. I cannot believe what I just watched was a championship game. I am only disappointed when I follow this league.

  3. What a game! We had so much fun last night. Very lucky to be able to attend a MAJOR championship game.

    Four negative thoughts on a very fun game:
    1) Beckham and Donovan didn’t want it bad enough
    Beckham- Lambert played a SuperBowl on a broken leg
    Donovan- Go visit the Wizard ( not KC ) and get a heart
    2)ESPN- I go get popcorn and what do I see, the bottom line !?!, Give it up…especially for the most important soccer game of the year !
    3)How about MLS blaming FIFA for it going to penalty kicks ? “..according to FIFA rules of play…”
    You can be your own man…play it until someone wins
    4)Real Salt Lake needs change its name, it is an embarrassment. Seriously it is like me nicknaming myself “Magic” while trying to be a tall point guard.

    Overall a blast, I would have had a heart attack if I had been rooting for LA or Salt Lake City.
    IF you hate the plastic, too bad, because they should play it in Seattle every year !

    1. Penalties was where this game should have gone. I don’t know why anyone would be upset with the game being played according to the LAWS OF THE GAME.

    2. You do realize that ‘Real’ means ‘Royal’ in Spanish and is a designation given to many football teams, not just Real Matrid. Salt Lake did not take this name thinking they were royalty, rather to bring the ‘Real’ name to a club in North America. Just like many teams use ‘United’ in their team name. Should we tell D.C. United that they shouldn’t use ‘United’ because it is “like me nicknaming myself “Magic” while trying to be a tall point guard.”

      I like how during the “most important soccer game of the year”, you are off getting popcorn. Couldn’t wait till halftime?

      1. King Alfonso XIII granted the club his royal patronage which came in the form of the title “Real”, roughly translated as “Royal”. Thus, Alfonso’s crown was added to the crest and the club styled itself Real Madrid Club de Fútbol.

        Don’t mean to be pedantic, but Salt Lake City doesn’t have a king. I really don’t care either way, but the MLS needs to develop its own history and that includes the “United” clubs as well

  4. Hey jayp….
    Salt Lake City didn’t have a losing record…..I think they were 16-12-7 with more wins than any team in MLS.
    This isn’t the EPL, with the perrenial losers, champions with only 2 losses, this is Major League Soccer, winning is hard. Teams go from last to almost first ( LA ). Other teams go from almost winning to last ( NY ).

    Only the Sounders have been great every year they have been in MLS 😉

  5. Meh. Not a very enthralling game, and it kind of makes me squirm that ESPN aired it in more than 120 countries last night. It wasn’t exactly the best advertisement for MLS — for either domestic sports watchers or international footie fans — and that’s really disappointing.

    The stupid plastic carpet certainly didn’t help, and the assorted injuries were really unfortunate. They kept the game from getting a flow or kicking into another gear. (And I could virtually hear the groans of disgust from casual American viewers, as they tuned in for a display of soccer players rolling around on the ground all night. We all know it was mostly legit in this particular case, but it was just bad luck, because it feeds a negative stereotype about the sport.)

    Kevin Stott didn’t help by seeming overly quick to blow the whistle — after a playoffs where MLS had let everything go short of on-field stabbings. It was stop-start-stop-start all evening.

    And I say this as a neutral: A Galaxy win would have been far better for the league. Instead the lasting image is the dreadlocked guy hoisting the trophy as MLS crowns its second consecutive small-market champ. It’s just not what American soccer needed at the moment, especially not when the Galaxy-powerhouse storyline was right there for the taking.

  6. Lars,
    Because the Laws of the Game change….all the time.
    And currently they stink.

    You have to admit when they made the announcement to the fans on how they determine a winnter, they were apologizing and blaming ( FIFA ).

  7. what you mean. America loves an underdog story. Look at ROCKY. Besides i couldnt keep my eyes off it. You also have to remember that this country has a love hate relationship with the flag ship teams. MLB NY Yankees, NFL Dallas Cowboys, NHL Detroit Red Wings, NBA LA Lakers and Boston Celtics.

    I know other then the Cowboys I support the team that is playing them.

    I thought it was a good game. The only thing I would change is i would bring back MLS Shootout.

    I played Keeper and i always perferred MLS shootout

  8. Finally, an exciting game. After watching a weekend of boring European games, this game was actually edge-of-my-seat exciting. Lots of open play and determined players. Penalty shootouts have to be the best sporting event ever. Love ’em. They should skip overtime since both teams are too tired to put on a good show. Beckerman must run marathons in the offseason; he was sprinting the length of the field all night long.

    Nice job RSL.

  9. The game was exciting. The MLS is redefining the word.

    How rediculously competitive is MLS ?

    Go ahead and pick next years winner. IF there are 10 responses, there is a chance you don’t see the same pick from any of them. Pretty amazing seeing as there are only 16 teams, one of them an expansion team.

  10. RSL had 1 less win than LA. I thought it was an exciting, hard fought game with a deserved result. LD looked good to me, with the exception of the PK and was dangerous when he got the ball. RSL was the deeper team and this is a team game. Its probably fair to say LD and Becks were the best 2 players on the field, but RSL may have had the 7 of the next 8. PKs are fun, I love seeing them in World Cup, too.

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