- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2009

SEATTLE | Robbie Russell scored in the seventh round of penalty kicks and underdog, overlooked Real Salt Lake beat the star-studded Los Angeles Galaxy 5-4 on penalties Sunday night for its first Major League Soccer title.

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando made two saves during penalties, and league MVP Landon Donovan missed badly over the crossbar giving Real Salt Lake a chance in the extra rounds. After Rimando smothered Edson Buddle’s shot, Russell beat backup Los Angeles keeper Josh Saunders into the lower left corner to set off a wild celebration.

Robbie Findley scored in the 64th minute to pull Real Salt Lake even at 1-1 after Mike Magee gave Los Angeles the lead in the 41st minute off a perfect cross by Donovan.

It was the second straight shootout victory for Salt Lake, which beat Chicago 5-4 on penalties last week in the Eastern Conference championship.

Rimando made three saves in the penalty shootout against Chicago, and the game MVP came up big again Sunday in front of 46,011 fans - the fourth-largest crowd for a MLS Cup final.

David Beckham scored for Los Angeles to start the penalty kicks, and the first four shots went to form. In the third round, Jovan Kirovski’s shot was saved by Rimando, but Saunders followed by stopping Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman.

Donovan, the usually sure-footed penalty taker for both the Galaxy and the U.S. national team, then missed well over the crossbar, ripping off his captain’s armband as he walked disgusted back to midfield.

Andy Williams had a chance for Real Salt Lake with the final penalty, but Saunders smothered the shot. Two rounds later, Williams was able to celebrate with Russell as Real Salt Lake became the second expansion team in MLS history to win the title, joining Chicago in 1998.

It was a stunning and disappointed conclusion for Los Angeles, which entered as a heavy favorite thanks to the star power of Donovan and Beckham.

The setup was perfect for the league with its marquee team and arguably two biggest stars playing for the title. And it looked promising early, especially after Beckham, Donovan and Magee teamed up for a beautiful goal just before halftime.

Beckham found himself with space in the midfield and carried deep into the Real end. Donovan overlapped and ran free on Beckham’s right side, and the English star slid a pass between defenders to the sprinting league MVP. Instead of looking for his own shot, Donovan served a pass to the far post where Magee was running unmarked.

But Donovan disappeared in the second half, becoming a nonfactor, and the Galaxy were noticeably exhausted by the end of the overtime session, desperate to reach penalty kicks.

Findley, who was shaken up in a collision with Los Angeles goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts in the opening moments of the second half became the beneficiary of a lucky deflection to pull Real Salt Lake even. During a scrum in the Galaxy box, a deflection went right to the feet of Findley. While Beckham stood trying to find the ball, Findley slid a left-footed shot past a sprawling Ricketts.

A few minutes later Ricketts left with a right hand injury.

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