Real Salt Lake broke the “Curse of Rio Tinto” Thursday by winning a meaningful match at home against the L.A. Galaxy 2-0.
Salt Lake had previously lost numerous home matches 1-0 when things counted the most. The most recent example was the US Open Cup Final this season against the league’s worst squad – D.C. United. But, on this night, the players and coaches of Real Salt Lake got to celebrate in front of their fans.
The win, which took extra time to achieve, means Salt Lake will advance to play the Portland Timbers in the side’s fourth conference final in six seasons. The first leg of that series will be held at Rio Tinto Stadium this Sunday at 7 p.m. MT.
Salt Lake was powered by goals from the next generation of Real Salt Lake stars: Sebastian Velasquez and Chris Schuler.
Real Salt Lake came out attacking with Robbie Findley and Alvaro Saborio trying to stretch the back line and the rest of the squad playing quick balls over the top to them. That opened up space for the supporting cast to come in behind and make trailing runs. Kyle Beckerman was the first to really take advantage of this in the 4th minute, collecting a ball in space and cracking a shot from 21 yards out that Jaime Penedo was able to save.
Los Angeles sat back and attempted to counter, though early attempts ended with poor shots nowhere near the target. The first good chance for the visitors came in the 9th minute when a handball from Velasquez just outside the box gave Juninho a free kick from 19 yards out that missed just over the crossbar.
Salt Lake had a great opportunity in the 11th minute when a corner kick from Javier Morales fell to Beckerman. Beckerman played the ball to Saborio, who lifted it up for Findley; however, the World Cup veteran was unable to get on the end of it to put the ball on frame.
Beckerman got Salt Lake’s second shot on frame of the night, another distance shot when a blocked Luis Gil attempt fell to him in the 16th minute. Beckerman forced Penedo to make a diving save to keep the match scoreless.
The sides traded counterpunches, but neither created a solid threat until Velasquez equalized the series by heading home a cross from Chris Wingert in the 35th minute.
That proved to be the last good chance of the half as Salt Lake held off a furious rally from the Galaxy and ended the half up 1-0 (and tied on aggregate).
The second half opened just as the first, with the first good chance coming in the 53rd minute with a Morales free kick that the wind carried a foot too far for Nat Borchers to head into the goal. Still, Penedo was forced to make a diving save to keep the ball out of the Galaxy net.
The Galaxy counter-attack started to kick into full gear around the 65th minute when the visitors made their first major threat of the evening.
It came in the 65th minute when Rimando made a diving grab on a cross from Robbie Rogers but lost the ball. Landon Donovan tried to shoot the rebound but Rimando stuffed him, and then Schuler made a diving tackle to clear the ball to safety.
Salt Lake would eventually begin to control the run of play again.
Findley created a chance in the 72nd minute, dribbling into the box from the left side and fighting off contact to put a hard shot at the near post that Penedo had to dive to save.
Schuler got involved in the attack in the 75th minute when he headed a Morales corner kick off the crossbar; however, the rebound was not put away and eventually cleared safely.
Saborio hit the post in the 78th minute when he pounced on a loose ball and struck it from distance. The ball beat the keeper but could not get around the woodwork.
Real Salt Lake appeared to score a goal in the 85th minute when a free kick from Morales found its way into the back of the net; however, Baldomero Toledo whistled a phantom foul that negated it.
That was the last big chance of regulation and so the match went into extra time.
Real Salt Lake took advantage in the 102nd minute when another Morales free kick found Schuler at the back post. The centerback put the shot away to give Salt Lake the lead.
Saborio went down injured in the 110th minute of play, leaving Salt Lake to finish out the match with 10 men. Still, the home side held on, and will now prepare for the Portland Timbers on short rest.
Category: Game Review