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Collin's penalty kick leads Sporting Kansas City to MLS championship

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Aurelien Collin had never taken a penalty kick in his lifetime until Saturday. He made the first one count.

Sporting KC won an epic 7-6 penalty shootout -- and the MLS Championship -- on Collin's goal in the 10th round of penalty kicks, after a 1-1 draw in regulation in front of 21,650 fans at Sporting Park.

It was the first time the MLS Cup final has ever gone past seven rounds of penalty kicks. It was the third time the MLS Cup final was decided in penalty kicks, and the first time since 2009 when Real Salt Lake defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy. The game was played in 20-degree weather.

"This is definitely a big cherry on top for our ownership, our club and our fans," SKC manager Peter Vermes said. "I never think penalty kicks are the best way to end the game. But there has to be a way."

Vermes was part of the 2000 MLS Cup champions.

"We can't compare because we won this year in our hometown," Vermes said. "I think when this rule came out (giving home field in the MLS Cup to the team with the better record), I think it's one of the best ideas we've had in this league in a number of years."

Collin, who scored SKC's goal in regulation, may have been an unlikely hero on the penalty kicks, but he was a big part of the game for SKC.

"It was a very complicated game," he said. "We had quite a lot of football to play today. We are a very patient team, even when we're down one goal. We just try to move forward as quickly as possible. (On his first goal) I got kicked in the head, so I was lucky that (Graham) Zusi put the ball right where I wanted it."

The fans of Kansas City finally have a championship to celebrate, as the Chiefs haven't won an NFL championship since 1970 and the Royals haven't won a World Series since 1985. Vermes wants the trend to continue.

"Good luck to the Chiefs from here on out," he said. "The thing that's very evident to me is that this is an incredible sports town. The fans have had their down times for many years but they continue to support their teams."

With the teams tied at 6-6 on PKs after nine rounds, Collin sneaked one past goaltender Nick Rimando to give his side the edge. When Lovel Palmer's shot hit the top crossbar, the celebration began.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis said of his team's chances that they didn't convert. "You look at it in one way and it's a credit to what we do in the match that we're creating chances. But we didn't take advantage of those chances. Kansas City had chances that it didn't convert either.

"I'm a person who says what he means and means what he says. I told (his team) yesterday that there's no way they can lose. I think that just by getting to this point is a remarkable statement. But to lose on penalties is hard to swallow."

The cold made footing treacherous, and as the afternoon progressed the temperature dropped and the footing got worse.

"The great thing about sports is that both teams have to play in it," Vermes said. "It was difficult for both teams. The weather was tough. The ground at the south end was frozen. It was one of those days."

RSL grabbed the lead in the 52nd minute as Alvaro Saborio snuck one past Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielson. It was first ever goal for Real Salt Lake in three games at Sporting Park.

But Collin headed the tying goal past Rimando off a corner kick from Zusi.

Saborio appeared to score a go-ahead goal in the 105th minute on a header past Nielsen, but he was offside on the play.

Sporting Kansas City continued a recent trend with the victory. Sporting is the seventh team in the last 10 MLS Cup finals that allowed the first goal and still won the match.

The first half ended in a scoreless draw. Neither team's offense could gain much traction, literally or figuratively. The icy conditions left the field slippery and players from both teams slipped when trying to get a foothold. Sporting KC led in shots, 8-2 in the half, and held possession 52 percent of the half.

Each team really only had one good scoring chance.

Real Salt Lake got behind SKC's defense, but Robbie Findley's shot hit the post. In stoppage time, Dom Dwyer got tangled with RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who deflected his shot from short range. but Sporting KC had no one else in the area and RSL kept control.

RSL came out much more aggressive in the second half, culminating in Saborio's goal. The 2,000 or so Real Salt Lake fans almost drowned out the partisan home fans until Collin's game-tying goal.

NOTES: This game marked the first time two former players squared off in the MLS Cup final as coaches. SKC's Peter Vermes was a player on the 2000 Cup champions, then called the Kansas City Wizards. RSL's Jason Kreis ranks fifth all-time in goals in MLS history (108). ... It's also the first time a former player has been on the losing end in the Cup final. ... Real Salt Lake had the second best offense in MLS this season, scoring 57 goals, second only to the New York Red Bulls. ... Sporting Kansas City had the best defense in MLS, allowing 30 goals in 34 games.
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