KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- On a day when the 2013 MLS Cup Final wound up being played in the coldest conditions in league history, it figures that Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake stretched their battle for the trophy to 120 minutes and 10 rounds of penalty kicks.
The freezing conditions couldn’t deny Sporting KC, which rallied from a goal down in regulation, then from behind during the penalty shootout, to knock off Real Salt Lake and win the 2013 MLS Cup title.
Aurelien Collin, who kept Sporting KC in the match with a 76th-minute equalizer, slotted his shootout penalty past RSL keeper and noted PK specialist Nick Rimando to put the pressure on RSL backup defender Lovel Palmer. The Jamaican lined up his attempt, and with the ball moving slightly on his run-up, hit his penalty attempt off the crossbar.
The miss set off celebrations at Sporting Park as the sold-out crowd celebrated the club’s first title since 2000. The win also helped Vermes become the first person to win an MLS Cup title as a player and head coach for the same team.
The stage looked set for an RSL shootout victory, given Nick Rimando’s track record of penalty shootout success and Jimmy Nielsen’s apparent physical struggles during the match. Rimando did come up with a pair of big saves, but the RSL takers started the shootout in shaky fashion with Alvaro Saborio missing the opening attempt. Nielsen also did his part, making two key stops, including a stop on a Sebastian Velasquez attempt that could have won it for RSL in the eighth round of penalties.
Nielsen’s save gave the advantage back to Sporting KC, and the home team didn’t let up as Chance Myers and Collin converted their attempts, setting up Palmer’s miss.
Winning a trophy via penalty shootout was nothing new for this Sporting KC team, which won the 2012 U.S. Open Cup via penalties just 15 months ago.
The match started inauspiciously for Sporting. Kansas City lost midfielder Uri Rosell to an ankle injury in the eighth minute, and replacement Lawrence Olum struggled to match Rosell’s normal impact.
Sporting KC created the first real dangerous chance of the match in the 31st minute when C.J. Sapong headed a Graham Zusi pass at goal, only to have Rimando make the first of an impressive collection of acrobatic saves on the night.
Real Salt Lake opened the scoring in the 56th minute when Saborio chested down a floated Kyle Beckerman pass and slotted home a low 18-yard shot just inside the right post.
Sporting KC pressed hard for an equalizer and found one in the 76th minute when Collin jumped over Chris Schuler to head home a Graham Zusi corner kick.
That goal sparked a Sporting KC surge, but the team’s push for a winner didn’t bear fruit before the end of regulation.
The shootout loss denied RSL its second MLS Cup title in five years, and may have been the final match with RSL for head coach Jason Kreis, who is expected to leave the club in order to accept an offer to become the head coach of expansion side New York City FC.