Hunter Martin, Getty Images
Midfielder Michael Farfan #21 of the Philadelphia Union battles for possession with forward Fabian Espindola #7 of Real Salt Lake during a game at PPL Park on June 11, 2011 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The game ended 1-1.
CHESTER, Pa. — It wasn't the perfect result, but Real Salt Lake will take it.
Getting a 1-1 draw for Real Salt Lake against the East-leading Philadelphia Union and their rabid "Sons of Ben" followers here Saturday night will make the long trip back home almost enjoyable.
"Going into this set (of road games) my goal for us was to get two points or more," said RSL coach Jason Kreis, after his team overcame a dreadful first half in which it easily could've been down two or three goals rather than one to earn the stalemate on Fabian Espindola's goal. "We did fall a bit short (losing 2-1 to Columbus Wednesday), but sometimes it's more important how you play.
"This really gives us something to build on."
RSL bounced back from that brutal first half, where the Union had one apparent goal disallowed on a questionable offsides, hit the post on another try, while goalkeeper Nick Romando had to come up with a couple of brilliant saves to keep it 1-0. The team's second-half effort should help keep RSL's spirts' high — especially with three players missing the game due to International commitments.
"Right now we're going through a tough time," said midfielder Kyle Beckerman. "We've lost some guys to the Gold Cup, though it seems pretty much every team goes through that.
"So any points you can get on the road are big."
The way this one started, though, RSL sure seemed headed to its third loss in four games. Just past the 22-minute mark the Union struck when Sebastien Le Toux beat Romando, only to have the offsides flag go up, nullifying the score.
But there was no question of legitimacy just two minutes later when Keon Daniel headed home Michael Farfan's cross.
That flustered Real Salt Lake, which began to unravel.
"We were stretched out," said Kreis. "We weren't keeping the ball at all.
"We were allowing them to play in our end of the field and gave them too much space. We were way under the gun. Philadelphia had a very fine first half. They should've been two or three up."
Perhaps. But the scoreboard at swank PPL Park, just off the banks of the Delaware, read only one-nil, meaning RSL was still very much alive.
"Jason said we needed to put out the extra yard," said RSL central defender Jamison Olave. "They had put a lot of pressure on us, but he reminded us we were still in the game and it was only 1-0."
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Not for long, as Real Salt Lake came out fired up for the second half, not only limiting Philadelphia's scoring chances, but earning the equalizer at the 54-minute mark off the counterattack of a Union throw-in.
"I was able to take the ball to the center past the defense," said Espindola, whose sharp-angle shot from outside the box that beat Faryd Mondragon gave him the team lead with three goals. "I was looking at the keeper. That's why I put the ball to the far post. Luckily it went in.
"But they played so well in the first half and we played horrible. The second half we took better care of the ball. And after we scored they didn't take any chances."