COLUMBUS, Ohio — Despite being unable to hold a late lead again, Real Salt Lake completed an arduous two-game trip feeling good after a 1-1 tie at Columbus on Wednesday.
Ethan Finlay scored the equalizer for the Crew in the 88th minute — the eighth time this season RSL has allowed a goal after the 75th minute — to counter a Luis Gil score in the 56th minute that snapped a Salt Lake 275-minute goalless streak.
“It was probably the correct result at the end of the day, but if we can do a better job in the last five minutes of games we’d have a much better record,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. “We could have won this game. That was a positive.”
RSL (6-1-7) was coming off a 4-0 loss at Seattle last Saturday. With an eye on Saturday’s home game versus Portland, Salt Lake rested six starters but still came within a few minutes of ending a six-game regular-season losing streak at Crew Stadium.
“We had some guys who normally don’t play a lot,” RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella said. “They fought. The normal starting 11 can look at that, look at an inspired group, and know they’ve got to be ready to go Saturday.”
Attinella, playing because starter Nick Rimando is with the U.S. World Cup team, made four outstanding saves in trying to preserve the 1-0 lead, beginning with a denial of a Dominic Oduro break in the 64th minute.
In the 76th, Attinella went airborne to parry a Hector Jimenez strike and two minutes later got his left hand on a curling shot by Justin Meram before making a point-blank save of Adam Bedell in the 87th.
But the Crew kept pressuring and Finlay ultimately scored his third of the season. He took a through ball from Ben Speas on the right side and dribbled just inside the penalty area before chipping the ball over Attinella, who had six saves.
“I wish I could’ve made one more, but we’ll definitely take a point,” Attinella said.
He credited Finlay for a quality finish but questioned himself for coming out to challenge.
“Maybe I’d stay deeper initially, but they had a guy running on my right side as well so I felt I had to make him do something,” Attinella said. “I tried to make him beat me in a really special way and he did it.”
Until that point, it appeared RSL was going to sneak out with a win because it had done nothing offensively until the 55th minute when it created a free kick, a left corner kick, then a right corner kick in rapid succession.
It was the latter that led to the goal. Javier Morales took the corner, but it was cleared outside the box by Crew defender Josh Williams. Abdoulie Mansally sent the ball back in with a wicked half-volley that goalkeeper Steve Clark pushed to his left.
Gil was 6 yards from goal and ahead of four Crew players for his second goal of the season, his first since the fourth game on March 29 against Toronto FC.
“It was a good strike by Abdoulie Mansally,” Gil said. “I just pounced on it when I saw it coming. You sniff those out. You want those. It was a good strike and a good follow as well. We had a lot of guys up there.”
It was the fourth time in seven home games that the Crew (4-5-5) allowed the first goal.
Earlier, however, it looked like RSL would go down 1-0 after conceding a penalty kick for the second straight match when former Crew defender Rich Balchan fouled Agustin Viana off a corner kick in the 11th minute.
Federico Higuain, who serviced the ball that Viana was attempting to head when he got tangled with Balchan, shot the ball over the goal into the bleachers for his first miss in four PK attempts this season.
That play ultimately haunted the Crew.
“I’m proud of them the way they fought back, but the other side is you’re disappointed we’re in that position in the first place,” Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We’re on the sideline celebrating a tying goal, but we should have been in a different position.”