KANSAS CITY, Kan. Reaching first place in the Western Conference for the first time in franchise history will have to wait for Real Salt Lake, which lost Saturday, 1-0, to the Kansas City Wizards.
The game seemed destined to end in a scoreless draw based on the solid defense of both teams. But an own goal by RSL defender Tony Beltran in the 89th minute gave the Wizards the edge they needed to claim three points.
The loss ended a five-game streak without a loss for Real Salt Lake while the Wizards ended a streak of seven games without a victory. A victory by RSL would have boosted them into first place in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer.
"I think we expected to get something coming here and the confidence was high. This is going knock the confidence a little bit," RSL forward Kenny Deuchar said. "But we've shown in the last few games that we can live with the best and beat the best. So we still really have that confidence, and hopefully we can carry that on to the next game."
The play that led to Beltran's own goal was a set up by a foul that gave Kansas City a free kick about 25 yards from goal and near the left corner of the RSL penalty area.
Davy Arnaud swerved a right-footed free kick into the area to which Beltran's head beat the head of Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad. But Beltran was unable to direct the ball away from goal.
"I don't know if I would necessarily fault the final touch that ends in the back of the net," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "I would have to look at why we give that free kick away at such a dangerous spot at such a dangerous time of the game."
On the other end of the field, RSL had chances to score late in the second half, but it was unable to finish. All four of Real Salt Lake's shots on goal came in the final 26 minutes.
Substitute Tino Nunez took advantage of a mistake by Conrad to get a shot on goal in the 74th minute. Conrad failed to control a cleared ball along the touchline, and Nunez scooped it up, but Wizards goalkeeper Kevin Hartman saved the shot taken in the penalty area.
Andy Williams had a chance to put Real Salt Lake on the board in the 79th minute, but he shot wide left from the right side of the area.
Substitute Yura Movsisyan, who came in for Deuchar in the 69th minute, had two shots on goal in the final seven minutes, both saved by Hartman.
"I thought we did all the necessary stuff that you need to pick up a result on the road," Kreis said. "I thought we were together, we worked very hard, and we created enough chances to score that goal that would have taken us over the top. In the end the quality of final touch wasn't there again for us tonight, and we paid for it."
Wizards coach Curt Onalfo showed he was serious about attacking the RSL defense when he turned in his lineup card before the game. Instead of paring forward Claudio Lopez with either Scott Sealy or Ivan Trujillo, Onalfo started both Sealy and Trujillo in hopes of stopping a a scoreless streak that had become 320 minutes by the beginning of the game.
"I wouldn't say that tactically they did anything that really put us back on our heels," Kreis said. "I would say that Lopez was extremely dangerous for them tonight. When we turned the ball over, I thought he was finding spaces that were very dangerous for us. I don't think we were mindful enough of where he was tonight."
But the RSL defense did stop the Wizards until the own goal.
"It's a tough thing to swallow, but I have my teammates behind me and the coaching staff," Beltran said. "We just have to lift ourselves up and take this game for what it's worth, a learning experience."