SANDY — In a matter of four stunning days, Real Salt Lake went from a potential commanding lead atop the Western Conference standings to second place.
It began on Wednesday with a collapse against the Los Angeles Galaxy, and then visiting San Jose adding to RSL’s misery with a 2-1 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium in front of 18,050 fans.
With the victory, San Jose leapt RSL into first-place in the Western Conference with 33 points, with RSL right behind with 32. The loss was RSL’s third straight at Rio Tinto Stadium over all competitions.
MLS-leading goal scorer Chris Wondolowski scored the game winner in the 84th minute, his 13th of the season.
After 74 minutes of scoreless soccer, the teams combined for three goals in the final 15 minutes. The late goals were vintage San Jose, which has now scored 12 goals this season in the final 15 minutes of matches.
RSL dominated the proceedings throughout the early portions of the second half but squandered chance after chance to take the lead — thanks in large part to superb defending from San Jose’s Jason Hernandez.
After absorbing pressure for 15 to 20 minutes, San Jose finally found the breakthrough it was looking for in the 75th minute as Alan Gordon slipped in behind Nat Borchers on a free kick and headed the ball past Rimando.
Just four minutes after going down a goal, Javier Morales leveled the score at 1-1 with a superb curling free kick that sailed just over San Jose’s wall and under the cross bar.
The celebration was short-lived though for Morales who was making his first start since May 9.
In the 84th minute, San Jose regained the lead on another set-piece defensive breakdown for Real Salt Lake. Gordon was in perfect position to get a head on Justin Morrow’s deep throw-in, and MLS leading goal scorer Chris Wondolowski was right there to tap it past Rimando for the winner.
RSL’s best chances came during a flurry midway through the second half.
Will Johnson missed a golden opportunity in the 58th minute when he hesitated to pull the trigger on a close-range shot, instead choosing to try and dribble around San Jose keeper Jon Busch. In the split second it took to create space to shoot, San Jose’s Hernandez closed Johnson down and blocked his shot. Javier Morales’ rebound was blocked as well.
Four minutes later Morales had another rebound opportunity, but his curling shot sailed just over the crossbar.
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