By Michael P Garrett
The “Blue Hell” took on a whole new meaning as Sporting Kansas City battled against Real Salt Lake in sub-zero temperatures for the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.
Sporting Park hosted its first ever MLS Championship match, which ended up being one for the ages.
After 90 minutes of back-and-forth physical play and 30 minutes of extra time with a tie of 1-1, the teams concluded the match in a penalty-kick shootout.
Sporting Kansas City ultimately won the match 1(7)-1(6) in the longest penalty-kick shootout in MLS Cup history.
Even though Sporting prepared for a shootout, shooting two or three penalty kicks after every training session leading up to the game, it seemed a crime to decide a champion by way of penalty kicks.
“I really hoped that we didn’t go to PKs,” defender Aurelien Collin said in an interview posted on SportingKC.com.
Collin, who was eventually named the MLS Cup 2013 MVP, played savior for Sporting all afternoon.
In the 52nd minute, Real Salt Lake scored, putting Sporting behind 1-0. After countless missed scoring opportunities, it seemed as though the clock was running out on Sporting’s season.
In the 76th minute, Kansas City finally found the back of the net. Sporting’s Graham Zusi crossed the ball off of a corner kick into the box where Collin headed it into the goal.
As if equalizing wasn’t enough, Collin eventually scored what would be the game-winning PK after Salt Lake’s tenth penalty kick hit the crossbar.
Collin, like many Sporting players, dedicated this win to Kansas City and the team’s fans.
“All the love that I receive from KC, during the game or on the streets, it was the least we could do for them,” Collin said on winning the cup for the fans to SportingKC.com.
Goalkeeper and team captain Jimmy Nielsen had similar feelings about the fans’ support.
“This championship here is for the city and we know they are 100 percent behind us,” Nielsen said on SportingKC.com. “It’s pretty awesome.”
For a city that has been dry of a championship in any sport since 2000 when the Wizards won the MLS Cup, Kansas City sports fans certainly appreciate Sporting’s victory.
With the resurgence of the Chiefs, the improvements of the Royals and the dominance of Sporting over the last few years, it’s nice for Kansas City sports to give ‘em hell once again. “Blue Hell,” that is.
Midfielder Graham Zusi prepares for a free kick in the second half of Saturday’s game. Zusi recorded an assist off of a corner kick to Aurelien Collin in the 72nd minute to equalize the game.
Sporting lines up for Zusi’s free kick. No goal was scored off of the free kick and the game eventually went into overtime.
Sporting receives the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy after beating Real Salt Lake 1(7)-1(6). It is the franchise’s first MLS title since 2000.