Real Salt Lake (RSL) defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy in penalty kicks last night to win their first ever MLS Cup Trophy and three former Blue Devils took part in the celebration. RSL head coach Jason Kreis, a 1995 Duke graduate and one of the top MLS players of all-time, steered the team to the championship in just its fifth season in Major league Soccer. Kreis started every game during his four-year tenure at Duke while scoring 39 goals and amassing 38 assists during that time. He was named an All-American in the 1992, 1993, and 1994 seasons and was drafted 43rd overall by the Dallas Burn in the 1996 MLS Draft. Kreis spent the next decade amassing goal after goal and is currently third all-time in MLS history with 108 career goals. In 2007, Kreis took over as RSL head coach and brought home Utah's first professional sports championship in a thrilling manner last night.
After 120 minutes of up and down action, the Galaxy and RSL found themselves tied at a goal apiece and headed to a shootout to decide a winner. After five penalty shots each, the teams were still tied and the game entered a sudden death shootout. On the seventh penalty kick, RSL goalie Nick Rimando saved a low shot from Galaxy striker Edson Buddle and up stepped defender Robbie Russell, a Duke graduate, with a chance to win the game. Russell struck the ball into the lower left corner of the net as the Galaxy keeper dove the opposite direction and Russell collapsed on to his knees in celebration. Moments later, his teammates arrived and tackled him to the ground in excitement.
Russell started 73 0f 75 games at Duke and tallied 12 goals with 15 assists during those four years. He was named a 2nd-team All-American in his junior and senior seasons and was named to the All-ACC team during all four seasons at Duke. After eight seasons overseas, Russell signed a contract with RSL in 2008 and started 18 games this year at right-back for Kreis's team.
RSL also possesses another Duke grad in General Manager and Vice President Garth Lagerway (1995) who took over the operations in 2007 and quickly turned the team into a champion. Lagerway played four years at Duke and spent time on multiple teams in MLS as a backup goalkeeper before retiring in 2000 and heading to Georgetown where he received a law degree.