If there has been one constant for Real Salt Lake this season it’s that every home game has had it’s own particular form of drama. Whether it has been Real’s or their opponent’s play, the physicality of the games, or questionable officiating, the thrills at Rio Tinto Stadium have been never ending.
And this Saturday night was no different as RSL hosted Toronto FC on a clear but rather brisk spring evening in the Salt Lake Valley. In front of a less than capacity crowd Real, Toronto, and the officials all did there part to ensure that RSL’s 5th home game of 2012 was a satisfying nail biter.
Heeding the “encouraging” words of their head coach Jason Kreis, Real’s offense forced the issue early in the first half with midfielder Kyle Beckerman scoring the opening goal with an assist from Chris Schuler in the 7th minute off a corner kick.
Thereafter the game blogged down in feisty physical challenges from both sides along with a smattering of questionable officiating calls. Particularly confounding (and infuriating to the home crowd) were a multitude of off-sides calls on Real which could have effectively broken the game open in the first half…though RSL players never allowed frustration to get the better of their play.
In spite of lacking a single victory (or tie) this season and the frustration of missing a plenalty kick the 18th minute, Toronto displayed the fortitude to keep the game close throughout the first half. Consequently, less then three minutes into the second half of play the visiting team was able to equalize the match behind the goal of midfielder Eric Avila who maneuvered past three RSL defenders and curved his shot around the outstretch arms of goal Nick Rimando for the tie.
Real quickly resume the lead however with a long cross in the 57th minute that barely missed the leg of forward Alvaro Saborio only to deflect off Toronto defender Richard Eckersley’s knee and finish in the back of the net… Saborio would take full credit in celebration.
The goal did nothing to quench the RSL players’ thirst to add to their lead, and the team became what Kreis would later describe as “tactically sloppy” during the remainder of the second half…craving a third goal instead of ensuring that Toronto didn’t score one to level the match.
The result was one misstep on a corner kick in the 77th minute that allowed defender Doneil Henry to place a header on net, leaving everyone at Rio Tinto wondering if Real would have to settle for a tie and only one point.
But as Kreis stated in his post-game press conference; “…when we play at home we go for three points and nothing less.”
Searching for the game winner, Kreis substituted in midfielder Jonny Steele and Luis Gil to reinvigorate the attack. Rolling the dice, Real threw players forward into the fray, leaving its defense open to counter-attacks that might have cost them the game.
Despite countless attempts, the goal still did not come and when the game entered four minutes of injury time one could feel the tension and anxiety within the crowd peak.
The desired result would eventual come from the Man of Steele himself, who’s left foot once again saved a game for RSL. With less than a minute to play, Steele connected with a pass from Beckerman at the top of the box, sending the ball to the back of the net.
Kreis characterized the goal as a sign of the team’s maturity and self belief.
Indeed during the final minutes of play RSL showed no signs of desperation, but only the confidence that victory would eventually be had.
But in victory there is always defeat and Steele’s last minute goal was a crushing blow to Toronto, with half of the players falling to the ground in disbelief and with the knowledge that their woes this season were not at an end.
Aside from providing Real with a much needed three points to remain tied atop the Western Conference with San Jose, the victory gives the team positive momentum heading into a week off where they’ll be able to recuperate from their recent road trip and more importantly work on correcting the mistakes displayed in those games.
Next up for RSL will be the the New England Revolution who are currently second to last in the Eastern Conference, but a team that has historical given Real trouble at home (3-2-2 lifetime record at home vs. Revolution).
Image Gallery from Saturday Night’s Game:
Copyright © sports-glutton.com, 2010-2012. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from sports-glutton.com is strictly prohibited.