Felt good today. I haven’t had the best of luck with saves lately on PKs, it’s good to get the monkey off my back and help my teammates in a must win really. We wanted three points bad. —RSL keeper Nick Rimando
SANDY — Immediately after walking into the postgame press conference Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, Jason Kreis jokingly asked reporters if anyone had any Tylenol.
It seemed an odd request considering Real Salt Lake had just taken care of business against Chivas USA with a 1-0 victory, but Kreis quickly rattled off reason after reason.
“I really felt like that was one of the most complicated games I’ve coached against,” said Kreis. “Some of the tactical decisions they were making are stuff you just don’t see in our league too often, we don’t see teams try to come and be that aggressive as they were here.”
RSL is used to teams hunkering in defensively at Rio Tinto Stadium and counterattacking, but under enigmatic first-year coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, the Goats certainly didn’t sit back on Saturday. They came to play, shifting shapes aggressively in the second half and causing a real tactical headache for the home side.
Though the end-to-end action wasn’t necessarily ideal for him, Kreis acknowledged it was probably thoroughly entertaining for the 14,900 fans in attendance.
“If you didn’t enjoy watching that game, you should probably think about not watching soccer anymore,” said Kreis.
The end-to-end action kept RSL keeper Nick Rimando busy all night, and he agreed it was one of the busiest games he’s ever had at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“They’re a very good team, a changed team. Very good players on their team that have a lot of energy and pressure you. Definitely haven’t played a team like that this year,” said Rimando, whose first-half heroics were once again the difference maker for RSL.
His penalty kick save against Edgar Mejia in the 36th minute kept the game scoreless, which would have been a dagger for RSL completely against the run of play.
RSL had chances to break the deadlock prior to the PK save. Olmes Garcia hit the crossbar in the sixth minute, Alvaro Saborio chipped a close-range shot over the crossbar in the 15th minute and then Luis Gil’s first-time shot was saved miraculously by Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy.
Again in the 33rd minute, Kennedy came up with a huge save on Saborio.
When presented with his big moment in goal after a hand ball in the box by Ned Grabavoy, Rimando was equal to the challenge.
“I just kept on second-guessing myself in PKs lately leading up to this one today, and I just kind of stuck to my guns and really committed myself to going to my left, and kind of opened up early and I was there to save it, said Rimando, who has saved 18 PKs in his career.
“Felt good today. I haven’t had the best of luck with saves lately on PKs, it’s good to get the monkey off my back and help my teammates in a must win really. We wanted three points bad,” he added.
With the victory, RSL improved to 3-3-2 and kicked off its three-game homestand with the three points it was looking for.
After coming up empty on so many quality first-half chances, it took Real Salt Lake just eight minutes into the second half to break down Chivas’ backline.
Thirty seconds after Garcia clanked his second shot of the game off a crossbar, Javier Morales scored his first goal of 2013, heading home a Saborio cross while standing unmarked at the top of the six-yard box.
Saborio is usually on the receiving end of Morales' assists, and afterward Morales joked that it’s about time RSL’s leading scorer returned the favor.
“I told him, finally you give me an assist and I score,” joked Morales afterward.
Chivas didn’t wait long to begin attacking with three forwards after going down 1-0, but Kreis thought his team did just enough defensively to hang on for its second shutout of the season.
Real Salt Lake returns to action next Saturday when it hosts MLS Cup champ L.A. Galaxy.