SANDY — Olmes Garcia didn’t even play the first 60 minutes of Real Salt Lake’s game against the L.A. Galaxy Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. But once the 20-year-old Columbian entered the match, he made all the difference for RSL.
Garcia scored two goals in the final 10 minutes as RSL took an important 3-1 victory over the Landon Donovan-led Galaxy, who fell seven points behind Salt Lake in the MLS standings. With the victory, RSL improves to 8-5-3 on the season and with 27 points is just one point behind first-place FC Dallas in the Western Conference standings heading into a two-week break from MLS action.
Garcia, who joined the team in late February, scored in the 84th minute on a shot off his back of all places, and then added the clincher in stoppage time. Afterward, Garcia expressed thanks to many people.
“To score twice is something beautiful,’’ he said through a translator. “I’m thankful to the people who come to support us. I’m thankful to my teammates — they help me and we win tonight. I’m thankful to God I have the opportunity to score.’’
RSL’s three goals matched last week’s output in a 3-0 victory over San Jose as well as a 3-2 win over Atlanta in a U.S. Open Cup match. Coach Jason Kreis credited all of his forwards for the recent offensive explosion.
“I think they’re all working extremely hard and they’ve all had moments the past several weeks where they’ve been excellent,’’ Kreis said. “I think we’re in a good place at that position.”
But he had special praise for Garcia, who has now scored four goals in nine games this season.
“He has all the tools: He’s an excellent dribbler, an excellent striker of the ball, excellent finisher, excellent passer. ... He’s got it all,’’ Kreis said. “The only question mark comes down to desire and he’s got that by the boatload.’’
RSL dominated the action early Saturday, keeping the ball on the Galaxy defensive side of the field, but couldn’t score until the 44th minute. That’s when Khari Stephenson took a pass from Robbie Findley from 5 yards beyond the penalty box and fired a shot that rolled past L.A. goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
It appeared Salt Lake would take a 1-0 lead into halftime, but with just seconds remaining in stoppage time, Donovan scored for L.A., thanks to a fortunate bounce off the head of RSL defender Nat Borchers.
A long pass came toward Donovan right at the top of the 18-yard box. It hit off Donovan, then like a pinball went off Borchers' head and right back to Donovan, who had a wide-open shot. The veteran calmly put it past RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
“To give a goal away such as that, at home, right before halftime can be a real killer,’’ said Kreis. “But the players here are so experienced ... that I don’t need to say it. So my halftime speech was about where we could get at L.A. better.’’
Findley was playing well for RSL, having produced the first-half assist and a couple of shots on goal. However, Kreis felt like he was “a bit sluggish’’ and replaced him with Garcia in the 61st minute.
In the 84th minute, Kyle Beckerman laid the ball off to Javier Morales at the top-left corner of the penalty box and Garcia scored on a "header" just outside the goal box.
“When Kyle passed the ball to Javy I was watching the ball and I asked him for the ball. He gave me a great pass and I touched it with my back,’’ said Garcia, pointing to his back and laughing.2 comments on this story
Then in stoppage time Garcia added his second goal off a beautiful pass from Morales as he streaked down the right side. After taking the ball, Garcia was one-on-one with the 'keeper, and he slid his shot through the legs of Rowe and into the goal.
“This is my job — to score. I am here to apply my skills,’’ Garcia said.
RSL returns to action Wednesday with a U.S. Open Cup fourth-round match against the Charleston Battery of the USL Pro at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL’s next MLS game is June 22 against Seattle.