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SALT LAKE CITY -- For the first time in decades, Utah has a professional sports champion. When Real Salt Lake knocked off the L.A. Galaxy Sunday night, they undoubtedly sold some tickets for next year.
The championship ended tied 1-1 after regulation and overtime period, which led to the shootout. Robbie Russell scored in the seventh round of penalty kicks as RSL beat the star-studded Galaxy Sunday night for its first MLS title.
Fans greet the team at Salt Lake International
Some fans who went to the game in Seattle drove all night to welcome the team home at Salt Lake International Airport Monday afternoon. They wouldn't miss any of the championship festivities.
"I think it's awesome," one fan said. "They did great. We were up in Seattle. We saw the game. It was great!"
"Oh, it's great. It's wonderful. I'm speechless," said RSL fan Jesse Henderson. "My heart's still pounding after last night. I just think it's great."
"It's awesome! It ruled!" another fan said. "I don't have much of voice left anymore, but it was a lot of fun!"
When the team arrived, the terminal erupted with the cheers of hundreds of fans, which surprised most of the athletes.
When midfielder Will Johnson was asked if he was expecting that large of a crowd, he said, "No. No chance. That was an awesome surprise."
Forward Robbie Findley said, "I thought there would be some people here, but not like this."
"This is awesome! We should do this every year! This is so much fun!" Team captain Kyle Beckerman said. "These fans, they stuck with this team through when the team wasn't doing very well."
"Incredible! Man, what an outpouring of support -- so genuine," RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey told KSL News, "It brings tears to my eyes. It's so amazing!"
"It's great! Salt Lake's got the best fans! Salt Lake's got amazing fans!" defensive midfielder Robbie Russell said.
Utah youth look up to RSL athletes
RSL has legions of fans, many among young local soccer players. One Salt Lake County youth teamed showed extra pep in practice Monday. The 10- and 11-year-olds of team Ajax felt inspired by their favorite pros. They all watched the game Sunday night and aspire to keep playing at a higher level.