The great thing for Real Salt Lake fans who look back on the 2009 MLS Cup win is that the core of that team will line up Saturday at Sporting Park – the bulk of it, anyway.
It was Nick Rimando in goal; Nat Borchers on patrol in the back; Kyle Beckerman at the bottom of RSL’s midfield diamond, and; Javier Morales making the plays and controlling possession from the top of the diamond.
Plus, Ned Grabavoy played a big role in the 2009 triumph, something a few folks may forget. What else happened that cold day in Seattle? Let’s take a look back at a few of the key happenings that day:
- Real Salt Lake claimed the day in a penalty kick shootout over the starry LA Galaxy. What I wrote that day for ESPN.com: “The overachievers from one of the league’s smallest markets overcame ample hardship thanks to superior fitness and, even more, to a goalkeeper [Nick Rimando] who specializes in turning away spot shots. The Utah side also had just enough shooters able to remain calm under pressure, as a blue-collar club with no real front-line international stars claimed a 5-4 edge in a tiebreaker that went seven shooters deep.”
- The game was deadlocked at 1-1 after 90 minutes, and after extra time as well. Mike Magee had scored in the 41st minutes for the Galaxy; Robbie Findley supplied RSL’s 64th-minute equalizer. (Hmmm … Magee and Findley scoring in the post-season? Sound familiar?)
- A lot of people forget that Javier Morales left the game early (22nd minute) injured. What a blow. His replacement: Clint Mathis! Honestly, I had forgotten about Mathis’ role in this one. Plus, Will Johnson was limited by a bout with food poisoning. Ned Grabavoy replaced him, and quite effectively so.
- Landon Donovan was the Galaxy’s fourth tiebreaker shooter. Historically, the guy has proven as sure a PK taker as you’ll ever see … but not on this night. His shot flew well high, yet another failure in a bit of a burgeoning litany of them against Rimando.
- The Jason Kreis story was just beginning. He was already the youngest MLS coach to date when he first took to the suit and the sidelines in 2007. Two years later, on that chilly, wet Seattle night, Kreis became the youngest manager to win MLS Cup, still a month from his 37th birthday.
- A big narrative that developed out of MLS Cup 2009 was this idea that Designated Players may gin up an MLS club’s exposure, but the DP dandies do not necessarily win titles. This was the third championship decided after MLS instituted its innovative DP rules. And for the third year, a team without one of these recognized stars claimed the title. This was the best example yet, Real Salt Lake (small of market, balanced of salary) vs. the DP-loving Galaxy, with Landon Donovan and David Beckham on the roster.
- Finally, Seattle as MLS Cup hosts? Two words: Awe. Some.
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