For a split second, Real Salt Lake thought they had battled themselves into second place in the Western Conference with a win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Midfielder Kyle Beckerman knocked a loose ball into the back of the net off a Javier Morales corner kick to take a 1-0 lead in the 72nd minute. While the celebration ensued, the referee called a late offside on Beckerman annulling the goal and a RSL win.
As Real felt an opportunity slipping away, the team from Salt Lake went on the offensive and produced several scoring chances late, but they couldn’t get the final touch and finished the 90 minutes plus in a scoreless draw.
What a difference a couple of days can make. After the draw with San Jose on Wednesday, RSL made a quick turnaround as they welcomed the New England Revolution to Salt Lake on Saturday. The Revolution came in boasting one of the best records in MLS, and after an early goal it appeared that New England would hand Real another setback.
Fortunately for RSL, an own goal tied the game just minutes later, when Morales’ corner kick deflected off a Revolution defender and found its way into the back of the net. A slight concussion to forward Robbie Findley left RSL fans leery heading into the second half. However, Findley’s replacement, Tino Nunez, turned out to be the difference maker as RSL notched the 2-1 win.
Nunez scored the first goal of his MLS career in the 60th minute, countering the disappointment from earlier in the week with both the elation of beating the best team in Major League Soccer and moving up to second in the Western Conference with 19 points, just two behind the L.A. Galaxy with 21.
“Huge win. Very, very pleased with the players,” said RSL coach Jason Kries. “What’s most pleasing about tonight is how we handled ourselves when we had a one goal lead. It shows that we’re learning and improving.”
As RSL nears the midpoint of the season, they will be treading
unfamiliar waters. They will be seriously competing for a playoff spot in the second half of the season. After a road game with the Kansas City Wizards, RSL returns to Rice-Eccles for back-to-back home games with the Houston Dynamo and the Columbus Crew. For Real Salt Lake this is a chance to gain ground on the Western Conference race before its schedule becomes a lot less favorable.