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Top stories of 2009, No. 8: RSL wins MLS Cup



Estimated read time: 1-2 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- For Utah soccer fans, 2009 will go down as a great year. In just its fifth season, Real Salt Lake rose to the top of Major League Soccer -- an unexpected turn for a franchise which struggled mightily in its early years.

To understand the psyche of Real Salt Lake fans now you first must consider the utter desolation of the early years.

The best thing worth remembering was Jason Kreis breaking scoring records and topping it off in distinctive fashion.

Besides that there were seemingly endless late-game collapses and a bruising fight over new stadium.

All of that seemed like ancient history when RSL snuck into the 2009 playoffs and then outclassed every opponent, including the LA Galaxy featuring the mighty stars David Beckham and Landon Donovan.

The final dramatic climax came with a late tying goal, a historic whiff by Donovan, spectacular saves by MVP Nick Rimando and the winning shootout goal by Robbie Russell, an outside fullback.

RSL coach Jason Kreis
RSL coach Jason Kreis

Call it a Cinderella, rags-to-riches, David versus Goliath story. Whatever you call it, one word applies: Champions.

The only thing missing Jason Kreis -- now the dapper, stoic coach -- did not do a back flip, but fans knew he was doing back flips inside.

He said, "Thank you so, so very much all the fans for all your incredible support for five years. It's been unbelievable through thick and thin, I know it!"

Next year promises to be notable for the team as it defends its title. Its home-opener is April 10 versus Seattle. Plus 2010 is a huge one for fans of the beautiful game. In June -- in South Africa -- the USA competes in the world's biggest sporting event: the World Cup.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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John Daley

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