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
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
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.