Between the mistakes, the coaching change, more mistakes, a pair of trades and then even more mistakes, it's been a ridiculously frustrating season for Real Salt Lake this year.
For one night at least, RSL put all that consternation to rest with its first win of the season. It wasn't easy by any means either, but for a team on a 15-game winless streak dating back to last year, could one expect anything less?
After dominating the first hour and taking the lead on a pair of goals from newcomer Robbie Findley, Real Salt Lake survived five minutes of stoppage time to beat red-hot D.C. United 2-1 at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday night.
"The monkey's off the back right now, but we know the next game is ahead of us," said Real midfielder Carey Talley, who played for the first time in a month because of a leg stress fracture. "With the performance we put out tonight, the hard work, the effort, that's going to be expected of us every game, and it should be."
The result reiterated just how unpredictable soccer can be.
At the start of the year, the talk locally was about how great RSL would be with players like Freddy Adu and Chris Klein at the two wide midfield positions. Three months later, and with both players elsewhere, RSL finally won a game.
"I think bringing in some new blood, maybe that's what it takes sometimes," said Talley. "It's not a knock against either one of those guys, but the kid came in, and what a great debut."
Just days after Adu joined the Under-20 U.S. National Team in preparation for the FIFA World Youth Championships, RSL traded Klein to the Los Angeles Galaxy in exchange for Findley and Nathan Sturgis. Findley made it look like a brilliant trade by scoring in the 41st and 50th minutes to give Real a 2-0 lead.
Those two tallies put RSL in unfamiliar territory.
"It felt extremely good to go into halftime with a 1-0 result, that was a new feeling for me," said Kreis, who picked up his first coaching win. "Having the lead was a new feeling for me, thinking about making changes in a defensive manner, that was a new feeling for me tonight, but hopefully we're going to have a lot more."
Throughout the difficult times this year RSL tried to remain positive, insisting that once it won one game, more would follow. Its next match is on the Fourth of July against Toronto FC.
Real opened the scoring Saturday shortly before halftime on exactly the type of goal the Galaxy burned it with last week.
Midway through the first half of last Sunday's game, and the score level 1-1, the Galaxy's Edson Buddle outran RSL defender Danny Torres to a booted clearance from Abel Xavier and ended up scoring on the breakaway.
Against D.C. United, Real defender Jean-Martial Kipre sent a ball over the top of D.C. United's defense, and new teammate Robbie Findley beat Bobby Boswell to the ball and buried the breakaway.
Five minutes into the second half, Findley scored on another breakaway, the product of an outstanding give-and-go with Alecko Eskandarian. After Findley received Eskandarian's return pass in the midfield, there wasn't a D.C. defender within 15 yards, which made for an easy finish.
"I told Robbie before the game, I think he's faster than all their backs and look to get behind," said Eskandarian.
For a team that's already given away a win and a draw by surrendering stoppage time goals this year, things got a bit scary when miscommunication in the box allowed D.C. United's Luciano Emilio to cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 87th minute.
In the first minute of stoppage time, D.C. nearly equalized after a bad giveaway by Mehdi Ballouchy, but Guy-Roland Kpene's shot sailed over the crossbar.
After that, RSL did an admirable job milking the clock.
"Certainly the misplay at the end of the game is something we've got to clean up," said Kreis. "If we're up 1-0 at that point, we'd be really snowed under and again I would've been coming in here with my tail between my legs feeling bad for myself and the team."
Instead, the team is feeling like the 2007 season isn't a wash after all.ENDLINES: Kyle Brown made his RSL debut by entering the match for Eskandarian in the 84th minute ... Kipre's assist was his first MLS point.
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