SANDY — Earlier in the week, Real Salt Lake coach Jeff Cassar said that Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman probably wouldn’t play less than 48 hours after returning from Brazil.
In the end, though, he was always going to leave the final decision up to them. They’re veterans and Cassar trusts their judgment entirely.
Friday morning he sent out a quick text to both Beckerman and Rimando and asked if they wanted to start against New England that night, and not surprising they both said yes.
“I hadn’t played a game in a while, and I wanted to get back. I’ve been itching to get out on the field,” said Rimando.
A sell-out crowd of 20,513 was certainly glad they did.
Spurred on by its pair of U.S. national teamers, RSL dominated the visiting Revolution at Rio Tinto Stadium Friday night and capitalized on a pair of penalties to secure the much-needed 2-1 victory.
“It was more important that we wanted to come back and help the team no matter what the results were. Results are going to go up and down throughout the year. Every team is going to go through a time. It just so happened it happened when we left. We just wanted to try and improve our performance,” said Beckerman.
They did that in a big way. With Beckerman patrolling the midfield, RSL dominated possession throughout the night, finishing with a 61-39 percent edge. It also had a 14-9 edge in shots.
RSL needed a little help from the referee to secure a pair of penalty kicks, but they were probably deserved after the club dictated the pace most of the night.
“We’d been gone for a while, and we missed the guys and we missed playing in front of our home crowd, and that was a big part of it. We wanted to get back out there,” said Beckerman.
With the victory, RSL snapped its five-game winless streak dating back to May 17 and moved into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference with 28 points through 17 matches.
Cassar credits a strong performance throughout for earning the full three points in a match defender Nat Borchers tagged beforehand as a "must-win" game.
“What I was really pleased with was how we started the game and how we finished the game. We were really aggressive trying to play in their end,” said Cassar.
Lately, RSL has expressed frustration it's been on the wrong end of numerous referee decisions, but that certainly wasn’t the case in the 34th minute. When New England defender Darrius Barnes undercut Chris Schuler on a corner kick, the ref immediately pointed to the spot.
Javier Morales calmly stepped up and buried the penalty kick — his fifth goal of the season — giving RSL the early 1-0 lead.
New England answered back just two minutes later on a superb set piece delivered by Chris Tierney. His in-swinger from the right flank drifted perfectly in the path of Barnes, who redeemed his PK mistake two minutes earlier with a diving header past Rimando, leveling the score at 1-1.
RSL has struggled to defend set pieces throughout the season, and it happened again on Friday.
“It’s something we stress every week, all week. We have to give a little credit to the service from Tierney. (It) was fantastic,” said Cassar.
Real Salt Lake was on the front foot most of the match prior to the goals, but after conceding and equalizing in quick succession the Revs settled in and played even for a brief spell.
Early in the second half, New England was very unlucky not to go ahead when Jose Goncalves banged a shot off the right post. Incredibly for RSL, after the rebound glanced off Rimando’s back it rolled harmlessly across the face of the goal before being cleared away.
In the 65th minute, RSL again benefitted from a referee decision — but this one was a no-brainer as Tierney foolishly tripped Luis Gil in the box. This time Joao Plata stepped to the spot and blasted a PK past New England 'keeper Bobby Shuttleworth for the 2-1 lead.
RSL has now been awarded five penalty kicks this season while conceding just two.
Late in the match Cassar inserted Ned Grabavoy, Cole Grossman and Abdoulie Mansally into the match to help RSL protect the one-goal lead, and unlike previous occasions this year it took care of business.
Real Salt Lake returns to action next Saturday when it travels to the StubHub Center to face the L.A. Galaxy.
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