SANDY — Looking back on Wednesday’s draw in Columbus, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Jeff Attinella wouldn’t have done things any differently.
When Ben Speas slipped a through ball up the right wing to a streaking Ethan Finlay in the 88th minute, Attinella reacted immediately and came racing off his line to put pressure on Finlay. The substitute calmly chipped the ball over RSL’s 'keeper for the late equalizer.
“The guy had runners coming, he was in alone. I tried to make him do something really hard and he did it. It was a good finish. If I’d sat back deep on my line then he could’ve played the ball across to a runner for a tap-in,” said Attinella. “Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other person.”
Despite the frustration of conceding its fourth late equalizer of the season, in many ways RSL deserves its own tip of the hat following Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Columbus.
Playing a new formation with realistically seven reserves on the field, RSL secured its first result at Crew Stadium since the 2006 season.
The late goal took some of the bite out of the gutty performance, but not all of it.
“When you’re in that position you want to get three points, but it’s a really tough place to get three points,” said Attinella. “We’re in a position to win each game. We’d rather be the people defending a lead than the people always chasing it.
“I know people are probably frustrated with it, so are we, but it’s something we’re going to get better at.”
Real Salt Lake hopes for another opportunity to protect a lead this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium against the visiting Portland Timbers, which history says it will.
Since dropping its first ever match to Portland in April 2011, RSL is unbeaten in 11 straight against the Timbers over all competitions. That includes a 1-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium back on April 19 this season.
It did take two miraculous Nick Rimando saves late in the game to preserve that victory, otherwise Real Salt Lake would’ve been bemoaning even more lost points.
“It’s a team we’ve got to respect. It’s a team we’re playing at home, and we’re going to come out guns ablazing for sure,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar.
While RSL prepares for its third game in eight days, Portland has had a week to stew about a disappointing 4-3 loss at home against Vancouver in which it fell behind 4-1 in the first 49 minutes.
The loss was Portland’s first since April 19 at Rio Tinto Stadium, snapping a six-game unbeaten streak. RSL defender Nat Borchers expects a confident Timbers squad this weekend despite last week’s loss.
“In the last four or five games they’ve been doing well. They maybe haven’t got the results they’ve wanted, but they’ve been playing good soccer and scoring goals,” said Borchers.
Portland has scored 10 goals in its past four matches, while RSL has scored just once in its last three as it continues to adjust without its World Cup trio.
Real Salt Lake could get a boost from Joao Plata, who Cassar said is in contention to play this weekend after missing the past two matches with a hamstring injury picked up against FC Dallas on May 24.
After Saturday, RSL will take a three-week break from MLS play because of the World Cup, but will still play a U.S. Open Cup match at lower-division Atlanta on June 14.
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