Dec 8, 2013, 9:44 PM EST
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The general mood around Real Salt Lake’s locker room after Saturday’s MLS Cup final was one that rued their missed chances. In addition to losing the title game in a 10-round penalty kick shootout, the team hit the woodwork three times in the match’s first 73 minutes. On a number of occasions, the Western Conference champions were within inches of avoiding extra time, even if their hosts seemed to generate more good chances over the match’s 120 minutes.
No doubt, had Robbie Findley or Javier Morales finished into their open nets in the 29th and 73rd minutes, Real Salt Lake could have been celebrating come minute 91, but to label those bad breaks is a little misleading. Perhaps this a bit pedantic, but there is a difference between bad luck and not finishing your chances, and when you miss an empty net, it’s the latter. Hitting the post isn’t bad luck. It’s a missed shot.
Likewise, attributing a shootout loss to bad luck is also slightly skewed. Just because the probability of winning a shootout might fall close to 50 percent doesn’t mean the “coin flip” analogy is a good one. When you toss a true coin in the air, you have no real control if it lands on heads or tails. Players do have some control over whether they make their penalty kicks, and while the nature of a shootout means we probably won’t get enough kicks to determine if one team is truly better than the other, the process almost always tells us which team took their five (or, in this case, 10) kicks better.
On Saturday, Sporting performed better in the shootout, and it wasn’t just luck. Álvaro Saborío and Lovel Palmer’s misses represented a lack of execution, while Jimmy Nielsen’s saves on Ned Grabavoy and Sebastian Velasquez were the combination of research, intuition, luck, and execution.
There were a couple of areas where factors beyond RSL’s control may have cost them. The weather (and its resulting influence on the surface) was a potential advantage for Sporting Kansas City, whose familiarity with the environment and turf appeared to help early. But in the second half, the conditions worked in Real Salt Lake’s favor, with Jimmy Nielsen unable to move effectively in a frozen south penalty box. The conditions could have differentiated the teams, but that’s not how it worked out.
Then there was the controversial second half non-call on Aurélien Collin, who was already carrying a yellow card. His takedown of Robbie Findley just before his game-tying goal would likely have drawn a caution under other circumstances; namely, if Collin wasn’t already in danger of being sent off. If you feel a yellow is a yellow regardless of the situation, Hilario Grajeda should have sent the Sporting defender off. Unfortunately (like it or not), you’ll have trouble finding an official who has such an unsympathetic implementation of the rules. Right or wrong, Collin stays on in that situation in almost any other postseason game.
So it’s unclear where Real Salt Lake suffered any bad luck. And although there were a couple of instances that could be described as bad breaks, the better terminology is missed opportunity. Real Salt Lake’s undoing on Saturday was their failure to make the most of their chances, not the coins flipping in Sporting’s favor.
Sporting didn’t win by much, but they did win in a way that transcended fortune or luck. They deserve the respect of having their performance acknowledged.
Feb 28, 2015, 8:20 AM EST
How to watch every single PL game during Week 27 live online or via the app.
Feb 28, 2015, 7:33 AM EST
How will Pardew get on as he returns to Upton Park? Watch live online, here.
Feb 28, 2015, 7:20 AM EST
Beckham chats with Sky Sports in the UK about his dream to play soccer, ‘that’ catch and much more.
Feb 27, 2015, 11:46 PM EST
Louis van Gaal speaks of Manchester United’s mindset at this stage of the season.
Feb 27, 2015, 10:50 PM EST
Celtic released a statement that urged fans to join hunt for the people who set off fireworks in Europa League competition and violated UEFA’s code of conduct.
Feb 27, 2015, 10:10 PM EST
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Feb 27, 2015, 9:15 PM EST
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho asserted the Premier League’s reputation is at stake with Nemanja Matic’s ban.
Feb 27, 2015, 7:32 PM EST
Freddy Adu will have a shot to revive his career in Sweden.
Feb 27, 2015, 6:48 PM EST
Bale and Ronaldo are set to perform in Sunday’s match vs. Villarreal after not taking part in full training sessions this week.
Feb 27, 2015, 5:40 PM EST
Bayern Munich unsurprisingly improves on their position in league competition.
Feb 27, 2015, 4:50 PM EST
Quick look at Americans utilizing their talents overseas.
Feb 27, 2015, 4:20 PM EST
Citizens, Red Devils and Toffees will all bag big wins this weekend, according to PST’s Editor and Lead Writer.
Feb 27, 2015, 3:50 PM EST
Preview of West Ham-Crystal Palace match airing live on NBCSN this Saturday morning.
Feb 27, 2015, 3:16 PM EST
In our latest with Stoke City and U.S. national team star Geoff Cameron, we sit down in his house and watch Arsenal’s clash with AS Monaco.
Feb 27, 2015, 2:55 PM EST
The PST Extra crew dissect the key areas as Liverpool host Man City on Sunday.
Feb 27, 2015, 2:25 PM EST
Watch United vs. Sunderland live on NBCSN and online via Live Extra at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.
Feb 27, 2015, 1:48 PM EST
Mourinho speaks about Chelsea’s aim to lift the League Cup at Wembley this Sunday.
Feb 27, 2015, 12:44 PM EST
Where and how to watch all the Premier League games during Week 27.
Feb 27, 2015, 12:01 PM EST
Blatter: “The World Cup will not go on until the 23rd, definitely not.”
Feb 27, 2015, 10:56 AM EST
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