Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Why Real Salt Lake was better
by Ridge Mahoney, November 23rd, 2009 6:45PM

MOST READ


The better team won MLS Cup 2009, and that's not just in the sense that Real Salt Lake played better than the favored Los Angeles Galaxy.

For the Galaxy, as good as its 12-6-12 record might indicate, wasn't as good a team as RSL, which won only one fewer game but had much less luck getting ties (11-12-7). RSL was better in the sense that from back to front it was stronger, while the Galaxy had the more brilliant stars in Landon Donovan and David Beckham, but not as much experience and talent, position by position, or off the bench.

Omar Gonzalez won the MLS Rookie of the Year Award and formed a good partnership with veteran Gregg Berhalter, but the RSL central pairing of Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers proved to be steadier in the final as well as down the stretch as it posted four shutouts in its last six games.

 

Right back Robbie Russell, one of several players to fill that slot during the season, rallied after losing the mark on Mike Magee's goal that gave the Galaxy a 1-0 lead and owned his flank in the second half and overtime, while first Sean Franklin and then substitute A.J. DeLaGarza had to stay back as RSL took command of the match.

Jovan Kirovski and Chris Birchall were assigned to man the middle in the absence of Dema Kovalenko, kept by illness out of the starting lineup, and limit the touches of Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman. The Galaxy lost Donovan Ricketts and Omar Gonzalez to injuries and cramps, respectively, in the second half. Yet RSL had to replace playmaker Morales midway through the first half, his knee injured on a Beckham foul, and midfielder Will Johnson, weakened by food poisoning, at halftime, and kicked it up a notch with Clint Mathis and Ned Grabavoy marauding in midfield.

Had Donovan and Beckham been sharp and at the top of their game, they'd probably have cut open RSL more often than they did. A great early ball by Beckham released Donovan down the right wing to float a far post cross that Magee tucked away late in the first half. Yet Magee and forward partner Edson Buddle were seldom able to hold the ball or finish combinations with Donovan within shooting range, and while RSL forwards Yura Movsisyan and Robbie Findley were typically wasteful of their few chances, they were far more threatening than the Galaxy attackers. Grabavoy, in particular, grew in influence as the minutes ticked by, and by the onset of overtime he and Beckerman had completely blotted out their Galaxy counterparts as Mathis and Russell launched attacks.

Findley equalized through sheer persistence, as the Galaxy first failed to clear a cross and then a Movsisyan shot that caromed off Gonzalez. Findley pounced to steer the ball past Ricketts, who had suffered a hand injury a few minutes earlier and fell on the hand again scrambling to block Findley's shot.

In the tiebreaker, keeper Nick Rimando stopped two penalty kicks and held his ground long enough to befuddle Donovan, who shot over the bar after watching during his approach to see which way Rimando would dive. In the seventh round of kicks, Rimando easily snuffed Buddle, and Russell, whose seven-year stint in Europe ended when he joined RSL in August of 2008, easily beat substitute goalie Josh Saunders, then fell to his knees, his face contorted and fists clenched in triumph. Then Russell was smothered by his teammates.

It was a fitting celebration for a team told by its coach, Jason Kreis, from day one that the team is the star.

 

 



0 comments
  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: November 23, 2009 at 10:56 p.m.
    Hey come on, Ridge, are you kidding me? I saw two games, one played by the Galaxy in the first half, and the other by RSL in the second half. Both teams were equal in during their respective halves, and stars for each team were neutralized. The OT was the usual scenario, weakened legs, supporting ineffective players. Both defenses were fine, but not outstanding as both left mind-boggling gaps on the wings, to wit Magee's and Findley's goals, plus other forays throughout the game. As for Buddle and Movsisyan, both were taken out of their game. Yes, I agree that Donovan and Beckham should have sliced through RSL, and I expected RSL to do the same. Sadly though, it was on to PKs and the luck of the Irish shone on RSL. BUT to say RSL was the better team, well, I've seen better!


Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Confidential
Donovan plays out third act of an amazing saga    
The career of Landon Donovan is winding down yet there are myriad possibilities of what the ...
It's much too soon to bring up the R-word    
The growing contingent of MLS players in the national-team pool has prompted fears they will regress ...
Soccer America's 20+3: our editors' World Cup selections    
That sound you heard across the country late last Wednesday night and early Thursday morning was ...
Wondo puts past disappointments behind him     
He may not make it to Brazil, but his goal against Mexico has erased a little ...
U.S. Player Ratings: Mexico rally taints superb first half for USA    
A disallowed goal, a two-goal lead that evaporated, Rafael Marquez on the scoresheet, a frenzied crowd ...
Midfield mates Bradley and Beckerman tune up with intriguing MLS battle    
A strong contingent of domestic players is likely headed to Brazil for the World Cup, with ...
Toronto FC rides into Real Salt Lake sleek and shiny    
The Toronto FC Watch moves to Utah, where nearly two years ago two very different teams ...
Consistency is the creed in 'Porterland'    
Fans may be concerned that the Timbers have yet to win in three games so far ...
Well, now what for MLS in the Concacaf Champions League?    
Another round of MLS-Liga MX matchups in the Concacaf Champions League has ended in disappointment for ...
Just how special is Julian Green?     
I suppose one has to recall Giuseppe Rossi to comprehend the excitement surrounding the decision of ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives