Kind of like Willy Wonka, you go out and buy $100 in candy bars and no wrapper, and then you just casually buy one when you think all the tickets are found and lo and behold there’s one there. —RSL coach Mike Petke on wasted chances
SANDY — After playing out of his mind for 84 minutes, Minnesota keeper Bobby Shuttleworth showed he was human for one erroneous second late in Saturday’s match against Real Salt Lake.
Yura Movsisyan was in prime position to pounce on that bizarre mistake, and in the process helped RSL earn a much-needed 1-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium after the club’s defensive train wreck in Texas two weeks ago.
Real Salt Lake dominated the match, outshooting Minnesota 29-5, but as the minutes ticked away and the match remained scoreless, it looked like coach Mike Petke’s team might have to settle for just one point.
Many of those 29 shots missed the target on a poor finishing night for the home team, and when the players did hit the target, Shuttleworth’s diving heroics kept the ball out of the back of the net.
That changed in the 84th minute on what should’ve been a routine save.
Shuttleworth went down to save Justen Glad’s initial header on a corner kick, a shot that took a deflection off a Minnesota defender. RSL’s players immediately appealed for a hand ball, including Movsisyan who turned to yell at the ref while standing just in front of Shuttleworth.
When he turned back around, the ball was dribbling out of Shuttleworth’s arms and Movsisyan was there to poke in the winner, his first goal since April 15.
After so many wasted chances it proved to be a strange winner, one Petke compared to a classic children’s book.
“Kind of like Willy Wonka, you go out and buy $100 in candy bars and no wrapper, and then you just casually buy one when you think all the tickets are found and lo and behold there’s one there,” said Petke.
For an RSL team that gave up 11 goals in two games in Texas two weeks ago and leads MLS with 35 goals against, it was a massive result as the club hits the exact midpoint of the season with 17 points and sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference.
Beating last-place Minnesota was an important step as the club looks to build momentum into the second half of the season.
Keeping a clean sheet was priority No. 1, according to Petke on Saturday, and he made sure his defensive midfielders played a little deeper to limit Minnesota’s chances going forward.
It wasn’t a hindrance going forward either as Real Salt Lake flourished with Jefferson Savarino attacking midfield while Albert Rusnak is away with the Slovakian Under-21 National Team.
RSL’s two best chances of the opening half came two minutes apart midway through the half, and it was Luis Silva who was denied both times. Shuttleworth denied him on a diving save in the 23rd minute after great build-up between Joao Plata and Silva.
A minute later, Silva had another great chance after stepping around the keeper, but before he could get off the close-range shot, Minnesota defender Sam Cronin swept in and tackled the ball away for a corner kick.
Real Salt Lake kept peppering Minnesota’s back line in the second half with Savarino, Brooks Lennon, Plata and Luke Mulholland all forcing saves from Shuttleworth.
A little miscue opened the door for the winner.
The return of Justen Glad to the starting line-up was a massive boost defensively for RSL.
A defensive mainstay last year, Glad injured his knee in the preseason while he was away with the Under-20 U.S. National Team in March. He was finally healthy to play a few weeks ago, but he was again away at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea.
During his debut 90 minutes in 2017, he brought an obvious calming presence to an RSL back line that has been bleeding goals this season.
“I thought he did exceptional. As young as he is, he calmed things down defensively for us centrally. It was a little bit of a piece that we were missing,” said Petke. “The kid is wise beyond his years with his communication and his experience.”
Real Salt Lake returns to action next Saturday at San Jose, the beginning of a stretch with three of four games on the road.