SANDY — Taking the podium after a scrappy 2-1 win by his team, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis summed up his feelings in two short sentences.
"I'd like to coach a game here at home where I get to relax a little more," he said. "At some point I hope we can get a game or two where I get to sit on the bench and be quiet in the second half and just enjoy the show."
Unfortunately for him, Saturday was not that night.
Entering the match, all signs pointed to RSL (7-3-1) coasting to three points: the team was coming off a last-minute home victory against Toronto FC and a subsequent week of rest and practice, and was facing a New England team that had scored only seven goals in eight games.
Rarely, though do things work out so smoothly.
With RSL dominating possession early, New England went on a counter attack and netted a surprise goal in the 22nd minute to take a 1-0 lead. Blake Brettschneider took a ball down the left wing, then cut inside of Jamison Olave and Tony Beltran and sent a bullet past Rimando into the far side of the net.
Up to that point, RSL had come away empty on two break-aways by Fabian Espindola and another by Alvaro Saborio. The lead-up was there, but the finishing was lacking.
"Getting behind didn't faze us too much," RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said.
"We were a little bummed because we really wanted a shutout, but our mindset was kind of like, 'Well, now we have to score two.' We knew we'd get one back, and when you get that first one it kind of takes the wind out of their sails."
As it turned out, New England's flash of offense proved to be an aberration instead of the norm.
RSL got on the board 11 minutes later when Saborio slammed home a cross from Kyle Beckerman after the ball bounced around in the box. Then, shortly after halftime, Saborio found the back of the net again with the game's most spectacular goal.
Espindola had been taken down moments earlier, giving RSL a free kick from about 35 yards out on the right side. Javier Morales took the kick and sent it to the far post, where Saborio glided in unmarked and sent it back to the near post and past keeper Matt Reis.
RSL had seized the lead and all the momentum, but that changed quickly when Will Johnson was given a red card four minutes later. Up to that point, RSL had maintained a 65-35 advantage in possession, which evaporated as New England subbed in its leading scorer, Saer Sene — bleached blonde mohawk and neon orange cleats in tow — and pushed forward without abandon. This resulted in several quality opportunities that, thanks to Nick Rimando, came up empty.
In the 72nd minute, Rimando made a diving save on a rocket from the top of the 18-yard box by Diego Cardenas, then followed with a point-blank stop of a header by Benny Feilhaber only seconds later.
"For me, Nick got us the three points," Kreis said. "Without him in goal we'd probably be walking away with one."
Cardenas was sent off in the 82nd minute for a cleats-up tackle on Olave, evening the sides at 10 players each and setting off a wild finish that saw New England send everyone up and Real Salt Lake go on numerous—and fruitless—counterattacks. Saborio and Beckerman had near-goals thwarted by Reis' acrobatic saves before the game ended at 2-1.
Real Salt Lake will next play at Chicago on Wednesday. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m. MT.
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