We were tight, we were organized and we were communicating out there. —RSL's Nick Rimando
SANDY — Just four minutes into Wednesday’s match against visiting New York City FC, Real Salt Lake found itself in an all-too-familiar position — down a goal.
It was the fifth straight game RSL had conceded an early goal, and the third straight game in which it came in the opening four minutes.
A fifth straight loss, however, didn’t follow.
Unlike the previous four outings, Real Salt Lake fought back, and not just on the stat sheet, scoring a goal in each half to rally past New York for a 2-1 victory on a cold and wet night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I think after going down early, they had a different mentality tonight. Not that they weren’t angry before when we gave up these goals, but you could see something a little different tonight in their reactions. No one hung their head and they clawed back and got the equalizer in the first half,” said RSL coach Mike Petke.
Even before Albert Rusnak leveled the score in the 38th minute, the mentality seemed different. Petke liked the way his players essentially threw tactics out the window at that point and simply battled.
“Even though we went down 1-0, I think you saw the pride that we took, and we’ve got to take that confidence into Seattle (this Saturday),” said Nick Rimando.
After battling back for the equalizer by halftime, Aaron Maund scored the go-ahead goal early in the second half as he headed in a Rusnak corner in the 51st minute to make it a 2-1 lead.
Two minutes later, Luis Silva, a halftime sub, nearly added a third but his bicycle kick bounced just wide of the post. Silva came on as a precautionary sub after Movsisyan was kicked in the face on a free kick in the first half.
Despite the lead, there was still much work to do for Real Salt Lake defensively. New York coach Patrick Vieira didn’t start his two leading scorers, David Villa and Jack Harrison, but he subbed them both in the 54th minute.
“It was a little scary looking at these two coming on late in the game, phenomenal players,” said Petke.
Their presence created a huge defensive assignment, but the backline was equal to the challenge.
“We were tight, we were organized and we were communicating out there. Mike stressed a lot in the week of keeping our center backs tight together inside the goal, not getting them spread out and having to chase in the corners,” said Rimando.
It was another record-setting night for Rimando.
In the 15th minute, he made a routine save on New York midfielder Tommy McNamara's shot, but that save was the 1,475th of his career as he passed Kevin Hartman on the all-time list.
Rimando was already the MLS record holder for wins, shutouts, starts and minutes played.
“You play as long as I’ve been playing those records are going to come. It’s special to me, but the three points are the most important right now,” said Rimando.
The three points vault Real Salt Lake into a seventh-place tie with the L.A. Galaxy and Minnesota in the Western Conference.
But it didn’t look promising early.
New York City punished RSL just four minutes into the match after an unlucky deflection from Kyle Beckerman. In what amounted to an unintentional back pass, the ball went straight into the path of New York’s Sean Okoli, who took two touches in front of Maund and slotted in a shot for a 1-0 lead.
“We talk every week about being careful at the back and not being sloppy, and especially at the start of the games, the first goal is crucial in a game and it sets the tone,” said Rusnak.
This time it didn’t define the game. In the 38th minute newcomer Jefferson Savarino, who was making his first start after joining the team last week, made a beautiful cutback move at the edge of the penalty area and laid the ball off to Rusnak.
Rusnak took one touch and uncorked a left-footed laser past New York keeper Sean Johnson to tie the game 1-1.
“To get that goal back, we’re right back in it. We knew in the second half we’re going to come out with a lot of fight and we surely did,” said Rimando.
Real Salt Lake has a quick turnaround with a Saturday afternoon game at Seattle, which lost 3-0 at Kansas City on Wednesday.