KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Real Salt Lake were just minutes removed from suffering a crushing penalty-kick shootout loss in MLS Cup, but you would never have been able to tell from the face of manager Jason Kreis.
During his postgame press conference on Saturday, Kreis beamed with pride at the performance of his squad in 2013, a year many expected to be a rebuilding season after the departure of four veteran players.
"I think that we were in a no-lose situation in this match," Kreis commented after a 7-6 shootout defeat. "Just by getting to this final was a remarkable statement about what this group of players has been able to do and what this group of men has been willing to do together.
"So for me, to lose on penalities is difficult, hard to swallow. Been to a lot of finals and not won enough, but I’m so proud of what the group has done all year that it’s going to be quickly forgotten in my mind."
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While Kreis may be able to brush it off, for some of the players it's a loss that will linger. Especially when you consider that RSL had two goals called back for offside and they hit the post three separate times during regulation: Robbie Findley (29th minute - watch it here), Kyle Beckerman (62nd minute - watch it here) and Javier Morales (73rd minute - watch it here).
“The bounces didn't go our way," Beckerman told the media. "We hit the post three times. I haven't seen the replay of [Alvaro Saborio's] second goal, I hope it was offside.”
"Then to go to PKs and come back and have a chance to win it. It’s just difficult," noted midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "We won’t sleep well for a few weeks for sure."
And the memory that will be haunting the players is the penalty kick shot by RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez, who had a chance to win MLS Cup for his team in the eighth round of the title-deciding shootout. But Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen proved the hero and stopped his shot (watch it here).
But that won't change Kreis' opinion of "a special group" that exceeded his expectations and ensured that 2013 would be for him "the funnest season I've ever been a part of."
"Frankly, I thought we played outstanding tonight," Kreis said. "It wasn’t like we came here to defend, bunker in or try to break them on a counter. I’m really proud of this group and I think it’s a fantastic soccer team."