Heading into the final game of the regular season, few expected Real Salt Lake to make the playoffs, let alone win the MLS Cup.
But Sunday night, Real Salt Lake achieved the improbable, [defeating the star-studded L.A. Galaxy 5-4 (1-1) in penalties to win the first trophy in club history](http://web.mlsnet.com/mls/events/mls_cup/2009/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091123&content_id=7703148&vkey=mlscup2009&fext=.jsp).
As Fire fans know all too well, the win is the second consecutive penalty shootout victory for Real Salt Lake, who defeated the Galaxy after the seventh round of spot kicks. Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando again came up huge in the shootout, stopping Jovan Kirovski and Edson Buddle to propel RSL to victory. Galaxy Captain Landon Donovan was the goat for L.A., shockingly hitting his penalty attempt over the bar.
Defender Robbie Russell clinched the title for RSL, putting his penalty just inside the left post and collapsing in joy after seeing it go in. The game was only the second MLS final to go into penalty kicks, the first being the 2006 final between Houston and New England. L.A. forward Mike Magee (a South Barrington native...) kicked off the scoring in the 41st minute, when he neatly finished off a Donovan cross at the far post.
Real Salt Lake pushed hard in their efforts to get back into the match but didn't find success until the 64th minute, when playoff hero Robbie Findley pounced on a rebound to equalize. L.A. keeper Donovan Ricketts was injured in the play and had to be substituted off after the goal.
Neither side could find a winner after RSL's equalizer and the two teams went into extra time knotted at 1. Real Salt Lake dominated the extra period and nearly found a winner on several occasions. But the game wouldn't be decided until penalty kicks and where it was -- once again -- a victorious story for Real Salt Lake.
Personally, I'm glad to see Salt Lake pull out the victory in this one. It's always fun for me to root for the underdog, which Real Salt Lake certainly was Sunday night. The title is also Utah's first professional sports championship in history and -- let's face it -- L.A. gets more than their fair share of championships with the Lakers, so I don't feel too badly for all the Galaxy crazies out there.
I want to keep this recap relatively quick (don't worry, I'll be back with plenty more coverage later on in the day...) but before I go I'd thought it would be nice for me to leave you guys with a complete list of links/highlights so you can occupy your Monday morning.
First the links:
[Salt Lake perspective](http://www.sltrib.com/realsaltlake/ci_13848705)
[National perspective from The New York Times](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/sports/soccer/23mls.html)
[Beckham's promise to return to MLS and (eventually...) buy a club](http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/2009-11-23-1962767054_x.htm)
And now the highlights: