The celebrations probably won't stop for a while. Not after Sporting Kansas City won its second MLS Cup trophy on Saturday night.
Here are The Full 90's three thoughts and man of the match.
This is a game many in KC won't soon forget
It wasn't a pretty game (far from it), it wasn't always exciting (the first 45 minutes were rather dull), and it might not have been a cleanly played game (the cold, hard turf made sure of that), but it had everything else.
The tension of a penalty kick shootout that saw all 10 field players take a crack.
The drama of two evenly-matched teams doing battle in 20-degree weather in front of a passionate standing-room only crowd for 120+ minutes.
The controversy of a disallowed goal (for Salt Lake), a non-call on a penalty shout (for Kansas City) and a crazy Javier Morales shot that hit two posts but didn't go in.
The contentiousness of a match that featured 40 fouls* (21 for Salt Lake, 19 for Sporting KC) and five yellow cards (3 for RSL, 2 for SKC).*Yeah, about those fouls. Real Salt Lake averaged 11.8 fouls per game for the regular season. Tonight, 21. It went against the normal RSL style so drastically, you can't help but think it was part of the strategy.
If that game didn't do it for you, you probably should follow another sport.
Kansas City won the style battle
When it comes to the style of soccer played tonight, looking through the post-game stats, there's almost no question that KC's style won the day.
The match was physical (those 40 fouls) and not crisp (neither team passed with better than 75% accuracy — both usually do).
Real Salt Lake entered the game as the best possession team in the league, averaging more than 56% possession on the season. Tonight, they had just 44 percent.
Real Salt Lake entered the game as one of the best teams at preventing shots (11.6 per game). Tonight, Kansas City had 24.
Neither of those are really a surprise, Kansas City tends to statistically dominate matters. The problems at home have come when Kansas City struggled to finish clear chances. And, even that problem was evident tonight. Both C.J. Sapong and Claudio Bieler skied close chances. The difference tonight was that Kansas City's defense held tight and the midfielders controlled the ball from the 75th minute throughout extra time.
Really, except for a 30-minute stretch to start the second half, Kansas City were on the front foot for most of this match. It seemed after the half-time break that Salt Lake had adapted to the game without Oriol Rosell, who had to leave the game in the 8th minute with an ankle sprain.
During that 30-minute stretch Real Salt Lake was the most "Real Salt Lake" they looked all evening. They dominated the ball, moved through KC's defense with ease and challenged a tentative Lawrence Olum (and an Aurelien Collin on a yellow card). That stretch included this goal:
Just absorb that brilliance for a second. A no-look one-touch pass from Kyle Beckerman to Alvaro Saborio, who takes it off chest on the bounce from the edge of the 18-yard box.
I thought we'd see more of that. Whether the cold weather changed Jason Kreis' style or it was a tactical switch, I'm not sure. After Collin leveled the game, Salt Lake never managed to grab a firm grasp on the game again.
Jimmy NIelsen came up big when needed
Kansas City's goalkeeper didn't have the most convincing game of his career. He seemed frozen at times — not surprising given the cold weather. (UPDATE: Or, that he played the entire game with broken ribs
and a field that was essentially frozen.)
I have no idea what happened here:
But, in the penalty kick shootout, he made two big saves. None bigger than this one on Sebastian Velasquez.
Man of the Match
While Collin (scorer of KC's only goal in the run of play and the winning penalty kick) took home the honors on the field and was, generally, very much a big part of this win, my vote goes to another defender: Seth Sinovic.
He was remarkable tonight, pressuring the ball in defense and pushing forward to help Kansas City's attack.
In fact, I'm going to nominate Sinovic for an award that doesn't exist: MLS Cup Playoffs MVP. He played every single minute of Kansas City's five games, scored one of the best goals of the season and almost single-handedly saved Kansas City's season with this recovery run:
If he doesn't catch up to Ned Grabavoy, the game was likely headed to a two-goal lead for RSL. Simply immense.