But I think on the road, the fact that we're six games into the season and we've only played a couple of games at home, it's a proud feeling that we're still undefeated. But taking the lead twice, it would have been nice to keep hold of it and get the three points. —Luke Mulholland
CHESTER, Pa. — In a matchup featuring two United States international midfielders, Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu battled to a stalemate.
Both players scored in the second half, with Real Salt Lake conceding in the 90th minute and settling for a 2-2 draw against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park.
Still unbeaten, though, RSL improved to 2-0-4 overall and finished with a road point against an Eastern Conference team for the second consecutive week.
"I think at the end of the day it was a fair result," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "I think they had several half-chances, and we had a few very good chances. It was a hard-fought game and it looked like there were two teams out there competing extremely hard. But we just have to do a better job of closing out games."
RSL enjoyed the return of fullbacks Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert, who missed last week's scoreless draw at Sporting Kansas City. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando was unavailable, however, with Jeff Attinella standing in for the second straight week. Robbie Findley, Joao Plata and Luis Gil were also unavailable through injury.
There was drama early when Union center back Austin Berry bundled over Olmes Garcia on the edge of the penalty area in the fourth minute. Despite protests from the home side, referee Alan Kelly ruled that the challenge took place inside the box and pointed to the penalty spot.
Alvaro Saborio's ensuing shot was saved by Zac MacMath, but following the play was midfielder Luke Mulholland, who delicately placed the rebound into the far corner to put the visitors up 1-0.
"Obviously we all have confidence in Sabo scoring those," Mulholland said. "But penalties don't always get scored and it's important to follow it through, to follow it up. I was in the right place at the right time. All I did was try to redirect it back on goal and I was fortunate enough to find the bottom corner."
It was the second goal of the year for the RSL newcomer, who began his professional career with Reading United A.C., just one hour outside of Philadelphia.
Cassar's team had a chance to double the lead just 10 minutes later, this time Mulholland pouncing on a Union turnover in the middle of the park. Playing in Garcia, the striker's shot was kept out of the net by a kick save from MacMath.
RSL's failure to add to its lead came back to hurt the team in the form of a 55th-minute Union equalizer. Given space on the right, fullback Sheanon Williams was able to free up Vincent Nogueira, whose perfect driven cross split the RSL backline and found Andrew Wenger at the back post. The Union debutant was free to chest the ball down and beat Attinella at point-blank range.
It was the first goal Real Salt Lake had allowed in the last 290 minutes of play.
Then, with the game knotted at 1-apiece, it looked like RSL had found the winner in the 85th minute. Playing his first minutes of the season, Sebastian Velasquez did well to keep the ball alive during an attack inside the Union's final third. Beating Berry to the end line, Javier Morales found the time and space to play a diagonal ball for the onrushing Beckerman, who beat MacMath at the far post.
But visions of three points were lost in the dying minutes when Edu equalized. It was substitute Cristian Maidana who got the assist, hitting an outswinging corner kick deep into the box. The Union's prize offseason acquisition was unmarked from 8 yards out and snapped a header off the far post and into the net.
"Obviously it's tough," said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "To get a tie on the road, usually in this league you're feeling pretty good about yourself. But we've had this two times through the first six games, where we've had leads really late in the game and we can't seem to pick up all three points.
"I thought we played really good soccer. I thought we got ourselves into some great positions in front of goal and had some good combination play in the midfield. That ultimately has us up 2-1 with seven or eight minutes left in the game, and we can't close it out on a set piece."
RSL returns home for back-to-back home games against Portland and Vancouver.
"In a way, you're disappointed that you didn't get the three points, especially when you take the lead twice," Mulholland added. "But I think on the road, the fact that we're six games into the season and we've only played a couple of games at home, it's a proud feeling that we're still undefeated. But taking the lead twice, it would have been nice to keep hold of it and get the three points."