Kansas City, Kan. • The Cinderella story of 2009 is a memory Real Salt Lake and its followers forever will cherish, and RSL had six starters take the pitch at Sporting Park against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday who took to the turf in Seattle four years ago when the franchise won its first title.
Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Robbie Findley started the match against the L.A. Galaxy, a Cup victory sealed in penalty kicks. Ned Grabavoy was a second-half sub for coach Jason Kreis, and Tony Beltran, a rookie in 2009, was in the 18, but he didn't see the field.
"It feels different in that it's not our first time there," Kreis said earlier this week. "It felt like last time. It was just an absolute whirlwind. There was so much going on and such a short break between our conference final in Chicago and several days later, we're getting on a charter plan to Seattle. ... We know what to expect. We know all the details we need to sort out. We know how all that's going to go."
Veterans return for the big one
RSL star forward Alvaro Saborio returned to game action for the first time in four weeks following a hip flexor injury sustained in RSL's second leg victory over the Galaxy on Nov. 10. Saborio led RSL in scoring this season, putting in 12 goals in just 16 regular-season matches due to injuries and international call-ups.
Rookie Devon Sandoval, who helped pace RSL into the MLS Cup final, didn't dress due to exacerbating a fractured bone in his right foot, which he played on the final month of the season.
Defender Chris Wingert returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Leg 1 against Portland in the Western Conference final, a match in which he suffered a broken rib and pneumothorax during a tackle on Timbers' star Diego Valeri.
A traveling band
Despite frigid temperatures and the dreaded TicketGate issue with discontinued tickets, RSL traveled a band of fans that was expected to reach 1,500 inside the confines of Sporting Park, according to the RSL communications team.