Heart of the Lion: RSL Fight for Draw with TimbersFor the 1st time in arguably the last month, Real Salt Lake showed urgency on field
by Whitney OBannon | Friday, August 23, 2013
Odds were stacking up quickly against Real Salt Lake Wednesday night – and they were heavier and thicker than a wall made of steel bricks.
Only 10-men in RSL claret. Down 1 goal. Three out of RSL's 4 best players out.
Despite these odds, RSL stole back the momentum in stoppage time, leading to Cole Grossman's second-ever MLS goal. In the 93rd minute, Grossman collected a rebound off Portland's keeper Donovan Ricketts and then promptly took a left-footed shot to the near post, tying the game 3-3. The shot was not powerful, but placed perfectly out of reach for the seasoned keeper.
The equalizer was enough to earn RSL a point on the road and remain on top of the Supporters' Shield race.
High drama soccer
Wednesday's drama-filled game was a sneak peek into the playoffs yet to come.
Emotions ran high from the players of both teams all the way to the very last fan in the stadium. In the race for the Supporters' Shield and only 5 points separating Real Salt Lake from 8th place L.A. Galaxy, the stakes were high.
The game certainly did not disappoint.
Veteran referee Ricardo Salazar had his hands full and might need to take a few days off after showing a straight red card and pointing to the spot twice.
The penalty kickers were both handled easily by 2 of the best players on the field, 1 by RSL's Javier Morales and 1 by Portland's Diego Valeri, and offset each other. The real drama unfolded when Yordany Alvarez went in hard for a tough challenge in the 79th minute, coming up with no ball and a lot of midfielder Diego Chara's leg. Alvarez had his 1st start since serving time, a 3-game suspension, for a dangerous challenge against the New York Redbulls.
Tied at 2-2, the game was already a thriller. But Portland saw an opportunity against a 10-man RSL squad and put the pressure on. In the 86th minute, Portland's substitute forward Kalif Alhassan found himself alone and unmarked in the box. Alhassan pushed the ball far post, beating Attinella and putting his team up 3-2 with mere minutes remaining.
Thanks to a long pause for a potential injury to Ricketts, both teams were awarded 6 minutes of extra time. The time clearly benefitted RSL at that point. A stoppage time goal by RSL substitute Grossman, capped off the high-quality soccer match.
Waking up with RSL
RSL received a wakeup call last Saturday in its worst defeat of the season, a 4-2 loss to the L.A. Galaxy. It went a little like this:
Ring … ring.
Who is it?
The L.A. Galaxy.
Just thought you should know, teams don't win the Supporters' Shield skating by each week. Here's your blowout loss, now put it in your back pocket and move on.
It seems that is exactly what RSL did.
Sitting atop the Supporters' Shield standings for several weeks now, Real Salt Lake has done just enough to stay there. No more and no less.
When RSL's 11-game unbeaten streak was halted by Sporting Kansas City at home just over a month ago, in a match that many deemed as the most important of the season thus far, the Claret and Cobalt lost all urgency. The loss to Sporting deflated a squad that appeared untouchable midseason.
The next week Alvaro Saborio returned in his 1st match back for RSL since serving his international duty and recorded a hat trick against Red Bull New York, but Real Salt Lake gave up another late goal for a 4-3 defeat. The next week, a tie with Colorado. Then a non-league win in the U.S Open Cup, which didn't boost the team as needed. Next, a bare-bones 1-0 victory over Houston with the only goal coming off a PK. And finally the blowout, wake-up call loss to the Galaxy.
Although no real impressive victories in recent games, RSL managed to do just enough to stay afloat in the Suppporters' Shield standings. However, just skating by and relying on the other top teams to get unfavorable results will not end pretty for RSL. The team needs to take control of their own destiny as the season winds down.
For the first time in a month, RSL did not settle for a tie or bite their tongue in order to swallow another loss – the men in red fought for the 3-3 tie. And although it was another tie, the spirit in Real Salt Lake seemed to change – the life was pumped back into the heart of the lion.
NEXT UP: August 24 – Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah. 9:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live.