In an extraordinary chain of events, Real Salt Lake went from likely missing-the-playoffs to MLS Cup champs in just a few short weeks. Needing a win in the final game of the regular season over Colorado, and with several other chips needing to fall RSL’s way, the Claret-and-Cobalt snagged the win over the Rapids and destiny sent RSL to the playoffs.
That same destiny seemed to stay with the team from Salt Lake as it made its run through the eastern conference bracket and into the MLS Cup Final in Seattle, where it would take on the L.A. Galaxy and the tandem of David Beckham and Landon Donovan.
Even destiny didn’t look like it stood a chance as the Galaxy jumped on the scoreboard in the first half after a Beckham and Donavon breakaway led to a goal by Mike Magee. The Galaxy controlled possession for much of the first half and the dream run for RSL seemed to be coming to an end.
But a funny thing happened. A professional team from Utah finally stepped up and decided to control its own destiny on its sport’s biggest stage. The second half saw possession float RSL’s way and the Galaxy began to look like the underdog, seemingly tired and reluctant in the second 45.
Salt Lake’s Robbie Findley capitalized, evening the score at one goal apiece early in the half by collecting a loose ball and putting it in the back of the net. RSL dominated the rest of the half and two overtime periods but just couldn’t stick it between the pipes. After 120 minutes of soccer, penalty kicks were to decide the 2009 MLS champions.
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando earned his MLS Cup MVP trophy by putting the Kibosh on the Galaxy’s championship aspirations by coming up with two big saves. Donovon didn’t do his team any favors as his penalty kick sailed over the crossbar and Robbie Russell of Real Salt Lake banged home the game winner. Pandemonium ensued for RSL as they celebrated the state’s first major sports championship since 1984.