PARK CITY With just three goals in its past six matches, Real Salt Lake is clearly in a scoring rut. For whatever reason, though, the struggles aren't transferring over to the reserve team.
Yura Movsisyan tallied a hat trick and Tino Nunez chipped in with two goals to lead the RSL Reserves to a 5-3 win over Houston at Quinn's Junction on Friday morning.
"These reserve games turn into goalfests, and who knows why?" said Real assistant coach Brian Johnson. "The only reason you can come up with is there's a lot of younger players, a lot of development, a lot of learning, and you're going to get chances."
In RSL's past four reserve games, which have all been played in Park City, the average combined score is 6.75 goals. That includes a 5-2 win over Los Angeles, a 4-0 win over San Jose and a 5-3 loss to FC Dallas. If goal scoring is what fans crave, reserve games are where it's at.
"Defensively, things are looser in these games," said Johnson. "You almost want to get some first-team guys to come out and get some opportunities. You get more opportunities to score in these games than you do in the first team, and confidence is a huge thing."
Beating Houston on Friday morning was critical to keep Salt Lake's hopes alive at winning the Western Conference Reserve Division. RSL (3-1-1) moved into second place with the win and now only trails Houston (4-1-1) by three points in the standings. This year's reserve schedule consists of two games (home and away) against the other six Western teams.
Despite the offensive onslaught, it took Real Salt Lake a while to get going after Houston pulled ahead 1-0 in the eighth minute.
The 8:30 a.m. kickoff may have had something to do with it, but RSL finally shed the morning rust right around the half-hour mark. Nunez leveled the score in the 32nd minute on an assist from Movsisyan, and shortly before halftime Movsisyan again set up Nunez, who uncorked a 25-yard blast to put RSL in front 2-1.
Former Real Salt Lake forward Kyle Brown equalized early in the second half, but Movsisyan quickly regained the lead with an easy finish after Houston defender Erik Ustruck fell down in the middle of the box.
Within minutes, Houston scored again to level the score at 3-3.
It was shortlived euphoria for Houston, however, as Real Salt Lake dominated the final 30 minutes with Movsisyan scoring a pair of fantastic goals, set up respectively by Tony Beltran and Adam Acosta.
"To be honest, a game is a game. You have to show up every game. You can't come out here with the mentality that it's just a reserve game," said Movsisyan. "A lot of us, this is where we prove our point and prove we need to play. I think a lot of us did a good job proving to the coaches that we deserve our chances."
When given opportunities earlier this year in first-team games, Movsisyan didn't perform all that well. He's hoping things will change in the second half of the season after missing over a month with a knee injury.
"When you don't play for a month and a half and just watch, you just learn," he said. "I learned to have patience, not to rush into things, not to force things, just play smart."
For him, it's all about being confident and playing relaxed.
Johnson believes Movsisyan has played well in previous reserve games this year, but when he gets on the field in first-team games he looks extremely uncomfortable.Perhaps his three-goal, two-assist performance on Friday might help relax in future games.