Real Salt Lake has definitely proven since its inception that winning doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and in RSL's case years to figure it out.
Amid a tumultuous week in which coach Jason Kreis was suspended and captain Carey Talley was traded away, RSL might've taken a step in the winning direction Saturday night.
The rational according to Kreis, his team found a way to win ugly. The overall quality of the soccer wasn't that great for Real Salt Lake, but it found a way to eke out a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas and move within one point of the Western Conference lead.
"Honestly, I think that's
probably one of the worst games we've played this season," said Kreis, who watched the game from the Rice-Eccles Stadium press box. "In some ways, maybe that's a good thing. Maybe we need to learn how to win ugly."
Kreis said the possession was loose all over the place, particularly in the first half, and his players had a hard time connecting a simple 10-yard pass.
Nonetheless, his team enjoyed a 1-0 lead at the half. Even after blowing the lead an a crazy goal by Kenny Cooper, RSL continued to scrap. That's why most players in the locker room are convinced Saturday's win could be a turning point.
"We actually stepped over a hurdle tonight. Now we can look forward, knowing we can win games like that," said Kyle Beckerman, who scored the game-winning goal in the 73rd minute. "There's going to be games like that, especially on this turf, you just have to come out to find a way to win."
That's precisely what RSL (2-3-2, 8 points) did, and now it only trails Colorado and FC Dallas by one point for the Western Conference lead. Coincidentally enough, Real pays a visit to Colorado for this Thursday's ESPN2 game of the week.
For Salt Lake's sake, hopefully Dema Kovalenko has the same hunch next week as he did this week.
"I just knew we were going to win. It was a good week of training," he said. "It was ugly, but it doesn't matter. It's good to win games like this to see what type of team we have."
Kreis actually had his team come out in a 3-5-2 formation this week in hopes of countering FC Dallas' 3-5-2 formation. It slightly backfired as Dallas came out in a 3-4-3, but it was RSL that drew first blood.
RSL opened the scoring in the 27th minute thanks to several fortuitous bounces. FC Dallas keeper Dario Sala came off his line to clear an RSL long ball at the top of the box, but his clearance attempt bounced off two teammates and then to a waiting Javier Morales, who tapped it into the vacated net for the 1-0 lead.
Just before halftime, Kreis made a switch back to a 4-4-2 formation in hopes of settling the game down a bit, with Dallas outshooting RSL 11-8 in the opening half.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Cooper, Dallas' leading scorer, equalized on a ridiculous shot from an impossible angle a shot a coach never wants to see a player take. Standing virtually on the endline, and with RSL keeper Nick Rimando hugging the post, Cooper unleashed a shot that crept through the narrowest of openings above Rimando's shoulder to level the score at 1-1.
Salt Lake nearly regained the lead four minutes later as Kovalenko had a shot cleared off the line by Dallas defender Duilio Davino. It merely delayed the heroics for Beckerman, who ran onto Andy Williams' chipped pass over the top of the defense and finished it in the 73rd minute for the 2-1 lead.
With Dallas frantically pushing bodies into the attack in the final 10 minutes for the equalizer, RSL hunkered into its defensive shell and held on despite two quality stoppage time chances for FC Dallas.
E-mail: [email protected]