Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake entered Saturday's match against FC Dallas undefeated at 6-0-5 with 23 points, two behind Seattle for second place in the Western Conference. A win Saturday held a lot of promise. It would push RSL past Seattle, which tied Vancouver earlier in the night, and would put the Claret and Cobalt in a three-way tie for most games to start a season unbeaten, with the L.A. Galaxy (who did it twice, in 1996 and 2010) and the Kansas City Wizards (2000).
The first half was evenly matched with both teams getting four shots off. Dallas came in Saturday after a midweek tilt with Los Angeles, but looked stronger than RSL might have expected.
It didn't take long during the second half for the exhaustion to show up for Dallas, and it was content to fill the backfield and play for its third tie, which it finally earned after three official minutes of stoppage time and another five of Dallas extra-time injuries and substitutions.
Jeff Attinella's fingertips went 1-on-1 with Fabian Castillo in the 38th minute, as the speedy midfielder found his way through Beltran and Schuler for his first shot of the night. Attinella's fingers won the first tilt. His 53rd minute save on Tesho Akindele showed tremendous quickness, and was his best of the night. Man of the Match.
FC Dallas may have the speediest attack in Major League Soccer. With Tony Beltran matching up against Fabian Castillo and Chris Wingert matching up with Je-Vaughn Watson in the Oscar Pareja 4-2-3-1 formation, both will sit back defensively more than usual, and with speedster Tesho Akindele floating with Blas Perez along the defensive line, Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers had their work cut out for them.
Tony Beltran started the game a little uneasy, clearly having watched film of Fabian Castillo smoking right backs throughout the league with his speed and quickness. He laid back a little too much, making the right side of RSL's attack less balanced than usual. By the 25th minute he was back on the attack. His finest play of the game came on defense when in the 66th minute he pinned his ears back to interfere with Tesho Akindele's point-blank shot on goal.
Chris Schuler is 6-foot-4, nearly 200 pounds, and has to have size 13 boots, or bigger. At that size, you expect him to be on the field because he's a bruiser. And he is, but you wouldn't expect to see the touch, the quickness and the softness he displays on the field. And he's just rarely out of position. Saturday, it was all on display as RSL broke down Dallas' crowded attack with relative ease, thanks in large part to great stops and even better passing from Schuler.
Nat Borchers and Dallas' Blas Perez chirped at each other all night long. Borchers bleeds cobalt and sees claret, and anyone who threatens his team is his enemy, Perez included. He wasn't too friendly with Tesho Akindele either. But when your center back can back the mouth up with the physical brand of soccer Borchers plays, somebody's smiling, even if it's not Borchers.
Chris Wingert went down, dazed and confused, in the 27th minute on a hard challenge at midfield with what appeared to be a Dallas elbow to the left eye. But Wingert has played through worse. He bounced back relatively quickly and even seemed to draw strength from it, closing out the game with a gritty performance.
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