SEATTLE - The image most expected of David Beckham and Landon Donovan holding the championship of Major League Soccer for the league's marquee franchise will wait.
Those upstarts from Real Salt Lake outlasted the stars from Los Angeles.
Robbie Russell scored in the seventh round of penalty kicks and the scrappy underdogs from RSL beat the star-studded Galaxy after a 1-1 tie, winning 5-4 on penalties Sunday night for its first MLS title.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando made two saves during penalties, and Donovan, the Galaxy’s sure-footed league MVP, missed badly over the crossbar giving RSL a chance in the extra rounds. After Rimando smothered Edson Buddle’s shot, Russell beat backup Los Angeles keeper Josh Saunders into the lower left corner to set off a wild celebration. A few thousand RSL fans that made the trip from Utah lined the railings around the field for 30 minutes, sometimes chanting “Nick Rimando” while the players celebrated on the confetti covered field.
“It’s nice to say we’re the best team in the league,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said. “My honest opinion is we deserved to win that game.”
Robbie Findley scored in the 64th minute to pull RSL even at 1 after Mike Magee gave Los Angeles the lead in the 41st minute off a perfect cross by Donovan.
It was the second straight shootout victory for Salt Lake, which beat Chicago 5-4 on penalties last week in the Eastern Conference championship.
Rimando made three saves in the penalty shootout against the Fire 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 and the first four shots went to form. In the third round Jovan Kirovski’s shot was saved by Rimando, but Saunders followed by stopping RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. Donovan, the usually good penalty taker for both the Galaxy and the U.S. national team, then missed well over the crossbar, ripping off his captain’s armband as he walked disgusted back to midfield.
It was the first time in his MLS career that Donovan failed to put a penalty shot on goal. His only two previous misses were saved.
Andy Williams had a chance for RSL with the final penalty, but Saunders smothered the shot. Two rounds later, Williams was able to celebrate with Russell as RSL became the second expansion team in MLS 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 of Donovan and Beckham.
And it looked promising early, especially after Beckham, Donovan and Magee teamed up for a beautiful goal just before halftime.
Beckham found himself with space in the midfield and carried deep into the Real end. Donovan overlapped and ran free on Beckham’s right side and the English star slid a pass between defenders to the sprinting league MVP. Instead of looking for his own shot, Donovan served a pass to the far post where Magee was running unmarked.
But Donovan disappeared in the second half becoming a non-factor, and the Galaxy were noticeably exhausted by the end of the overtime session, desperate to reach penalty kicks.
Findley, who was shaken up in a collision with Los Angeles goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts in the opening moments of the second half became the beneficiary of a lucky deflection to pull RSL even. During a scrum in the Galaxy box, a deflection went right to the feet 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. He was worked on for several minutes after the collision with Findley that denied RSL a great scoring chance. Findley’s poor first touch on a breakaway allowed Ricketts time to come off his line and slide to deflect the ball away. But Findley and the big Jamaican keeper collided hard and after 5 minutes of examination by trainers Ricketts stayed on. The hand continued to bother him as he constantly looked down at his gloves and finally decided after Findley’s goal it was too painful to continue.
Saunders played well in Ricketts’ place as RSL kept the pressure in the closing moments. Findley had a left-footed shot blocked away by the sliding tackle of A.J. DeLaGarza in the third minute of the extra session.
A few minutes later, Findley found himself open just inside the top of the penalty area, but his right-footed shot went into the side netting. Clint Mathis found a similar fate with his free kick in the 101st minute.
Teams that have won MLS Cup:
D.C. United 4
Houston Dynamo 2
Los Angeles Galaxy 2
San Jose Earthquakes 2
Chicago Fire 1
Columbus Crew 1
Kansas City Wizards 1
Real Salt Lake 1