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Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009

Salt Lake ends Galaxy's title dream

SEATTLE (AP) David Beckham limped badly, the pain from a bone bruise in his right foot piercing through three pregame injections. Landon Donovan angrily ripped off his armband after watching a penalty shot go sailing over the crossbar.

News photo
Hair-raising finale: Real Salt Lake's Chris Wingert battles David Beckham for the ball during the MLS Cup on Sunday in Seattle. Salt Lake won on penalties. AP PHOTO

The image most expected of Beckham and Donovan holding the championship trophy of Major League Soccer for the league's marquee franchise was replaced by anger and frustration.

Instead, it was those upstarts from Real Salt Lake celebrating their first title.

Robbie Russell scored in the seventh round and the scrappy underdogs from RSL beat the star-studded Galaxy 5-4 on penalties Sunday night to win the league championship.

Russell's goal set off a wild celebration for Real while Beckham was left holding Donovan by the ears in consolation, telling the league MVP, "great season."

"It's Russian roulette," Beckham said of the penalties. "It's not a nice way to go out. It's just the way it is."

And it's a result Beckham and the Galaxy will have to accept after getting outplayed in the second half and overtime, then watching RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando make a pair of saves during penalties to clinch the title.

Rimando swatted away shots by Jovan Kirovski in the third round and smothered Edson Buddle's weak attempt in the seventh round to set up Russell's winning shot that beat backup Los Angeles keeper Josh Saunders.

A few thousand RSL fans who made the trip from Utah lined the railings around the field for 30 minutes afterward, sometimes chanting "Nick Rimando" — who was named MVP — while the players celebrated on the confetti covered field.

It was the second straight shootout victory for RSL, which beat Chicago 5-4 on penalties last week for the Eastern Conference championship. Rimando made three saves in the penalty shootout against the Fire and the game MVP came up big again in front of 46,011 fans, the fourth-largest crowd for an MLS Cup.

"It's nice to say we're the best team in the league," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. " . . . My honest opinion is we deserved to win that game."

After Mike Magee scored in the 41st minute for Los Angeles off a perfect cross by Donvoan, the Galaxy's control of play quickly disappeared.

Donovan became a non-factor, as the league MVP was constantly hounded by the Real defense and never given space. The pain killers Beckham took before the game started wearing off early in the second half and his limp became more noticeable.

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