And so, readers on the FanSided Network, we close the books on a sensational season of Major League Soccer. Peter Vermes’s Sporting Kansas City are the champions of MLS after defeating Jason Kreis’s Real Salt Lake 7-6 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in MLS Cup 2013 at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Here are six things we learned from an entertaining match in December where, once again, the team that is down a goal prevails to win the MLS Cup.
1. The woodwork is a cruel mistress for Real Salt Lake
To be fair, the match should have been won by Real Salt Lake but their accuracy was lacking. Three times RSL hit the post in regulation, but the biggest highlight was when Lovel Palmer’s penalty hit the crossbar and Jimmy Nielsen could only watch it turn into the real 12th man Sporting Kansas City needed.
Hitting the woodwork takes some accuracy and a lot more bad luck and Real Salt Lake had their best game in years in terms of hitting the post and crossbar. But you don’t win points for hitting the woodwork; only calls for getting waived or released. It would be a shame if Palmer was off the books in the offseason, but on the other hand, given what unfolded, it will be well-deserved.
2. Alvaro Saborio gave Real Salt Lake hope
The one player that really delivered for Real Salt Lake was one of their designated players, Alvaro Saborio. He scored in the 52nd minute off a great pass from Kyle Beckerman and silenced the crowd for several minutes. Of course, when it comes to penalties, it’s a whole different story.
3. A new hero emerges: Aurelien Collin
When Saborio scored for Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City’s Aurelien Collin pounded the turf in frustration. He wanted this more than anything, and he delivered. In the 76th minute, a Graham Zusi corner found Collin, who leapt high and delivered a critical equalizer. Then, in the penalty shootout, he scored a stylish spot kick that became the difference.
4. Dom Dwyer should have done better
The expectation for Dom Dwyer in this game was that he would finish the job and leave a significant impact on the contest. Unfortunately, he lacked the finish, got it horribly wrong on an overhead kick in the first half and was eventually substituted in the second half.
In USL Pro, Dwyer would have fared better, and indeed he did in that title game for Orlando City. But the MLS Cup final is a different beast, and Dwyer never got into the form that he found himself in for the Lions. At least he has won league titles with two different teams in the same year. Job well done nonetheless.
5. A solid performance backed up by stat domination
Sporting Kansas City got stronger as the game went on and after the goal from Saborio, they were able to regroup and lead in a number of categories, as seen here.
|Sporting Kansas City||Real Salt Lake|
|24||Attempts on Goal||12|
|5||Shots on Target||2|
|11||Shots off Target||7|
|36||Open Play Crosses||11|
|2||First Yellow Cards||3|
|0||Second Yellow Cards||0|
|48%||Duels Won %||51%|
|71%||Passing Accuracy %||66%|
6. The 13-Year Itch is over for Sporting Kansas City
But this is the most important thing we learned, readers. Some people in Kansas City weren’t even born when Sporting Kansas City won its last title…as the Kansas City Wizards, playing their games at Arrowhead Stadium. Those were the days.
And now, after 13 years of waiting and a close call in 2004…Sporting Kansas City have finally earned their second star and will return to the CONCACAF Champions League following their run in the ongoing edition. It’s a wait that was richly rewarded by a well-managed organization that knows it is capable of holding its own, led by one of the best managers around and one of the finest front office staff in the league.
When all is said and done, it was Sporting Kansas City soccer that made winning MLS Cup easy in KC.