SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Depending on your perspective, Saturday's match in miserably wet and rainy conditions in San Jose brought back memories of some of Real Salt Lake's most unforgettable moments in franchise history.
For RSL originals, both players and fans alike, no one will ever forget that fateful night in New York in 2005. The franchise's inaugural match was marred by rain and winds approaching 60 miles per hour, a match that should've been cancelled but was played anyway and inevitably finishing scoreless.
As bad as conditions were in San Jose during RSL's 1-0 victory, Andy Williams said they paled compared to the New York.
"I think New York was a lot worse. The wind and the rain was 10 times worse, but it was colder here," said Williams, the last remaining RSL player who participated in one of the worst matches in league history.
Coach Jason Kreis played in the match as well, and even though he admits the conditions in New York were much worse, Saturday reminded him of last year's match at Cruz Azul more than anything else.
Within 15 minutes of kickoff, puddles of standing water were strewn around the field as the match quickly became a comedy of errors.
"It reminded me very much so of our game last year at Cruz Azul, another game where it was raining tremendously and the wind was against us and we're trying to withstand a lot of pressure and hold a lead," said Kreis.
In Mexico City, it couldn't hold onto a 3-1 lead and lost 5-4. On Saturday, RSL absorbed tremendous pressure from San Jose and held on for the 1-0 victory.
"Typically we (hold a lead) pretty well in our possession, and we bring on some players to get behind their backs. And today, just as it was at Cruz Azul, it was almost impossible to possess the ball, and it was impossible to get the ball in behind their backs with the wind against us," said Kreis. "Those two things meant we were going to have to deal with a lot of attacks from them, a lot of crosses, a lot of shots. Tonight, we ultimately did a little better job than we did last year at Cruz Azul."
A little luck never hurt either.
With gusting winds blowing rain in his face the entire second half, Rimando found himself under constant pressure the final 20 minutes after RSL bagged the 1-0 lead in the 63rd minute. He saved seven of those shots in the final 19 minutes, and is the first to admit he was lucky to turn them all away.
"Definitely some luck involved. Sometimes when they hit those balls and they're moving, you just want to get a piece of the ball. Sometimes they end up in the back of the net, today was my day. Luck was on my side today," said Rimando.
One shot in particular had San Jose bemoaning its bad luck.7 comments on this story
Sam Cronin's long-range effort in the 75th minute danced in the wind as it approached Rimando, handcuffing RSL's keeper whose only option was to bat it away. He deflected the shot into the ground, which then bounced over his left shoulder and narrowly over the crossbar.
"With rain and win, you can't really see much, balls dipping and diving," said Rimando. "Sometimes I was trying to catch them when I shouldn't have caught them. Sometimes I was dropping them when I should've caught it. Again, I think luck was on my side today."
Rimando made 10 saves to earn the shutout, and as spectacular as he was, none of his teammates were surprised. After all, he backstopped an RSL defense in 2010 that set a new MLS record for fewest goals allowed in a season with 20.