In a chance to disprove the MLS cynic, Real Salt Lake came into last Monday’s match against Toronto FC looking to defend its home field and first place in the Western Conference with a win. Having been a laughing stock of the MLS in its first four years, RSL proved its relevance with a 2-1 win over Toronto.
In need of the win, RSL came out looking to attack as it controlled possession and created several scoring chances in the first half. A point-blank touch by forward Robbie Findley caromed of the post while Kyle Beckerman’s blast from 35 yards out sailed just high. The defense did its job allowing just one shot-on-goal in the first 45, but luckily escaped giving up a goal late in the half when Toronto midfielder Laurent Robert’s header deflected off the crossbar.
Finally, in the 63rd minute, and after several near misses for RSL, defender Chris Wingert sent a ball through the box from distance, finding fellow defender Jamison Olave waiting to deliver the header that resulted in his first career MLS goal.
“I was really excited to see him score a goal,” said RSL head coach Jason Kries. “I have known all along that he could be dangerous for us on attacking corners.”
The goal gave Salt Lake the lead early in the half, but was taken away in the 84th minute when Toronto’s Amado Guevera scored on a free kick beating RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando in the left corner to knot the score at 1-1.
In a defining moment of the season RSL rallied to regain the lead in the 87th minute, when forward Robbie Findley delivered the knock-out punch as he slid through the box, putting the ball in the back of the net to secure the 2-1 victory.
“To give up a goal like (we) did late in the game, and to react the way they did just makes me incredibly proud to be leading this group, but also to feel like I am a part of this group,” Kries said. “People out there need to wake up a little bit and realize that this is good soccer team, and now a winning soccer team.”
With the win Real holds onto first place in the West, and also for the first time in team history has a winning record at 7-6-6. Heading into the second half of the season a lot of the way RSL finishes will have to do with how it performs on the road. The first big road test will come Aug. 16, when Real travels to take on second place Houston.