KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Disappointment, frustration, utter heartbreak. This was all Real Salt Lake had known and experienced in six previous visits to Children’s Mercy Park.
The Claret and Cobalt shook off all of that ugly history — not to mention a depleted roster — in a dominating 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night.
Real Salt Lake (2-0-2) was phased by nothing while handing SKC (3-1) its first loss of the season. It was the club’s first victory at Children’s Mercy Park, and first in Kansas City since 2009, when SKC played its home matches at a minor league baseball park.
Real Salt Lake outshot (15-9), outhustled and flummoxed its Western Conference rival for the better part of 90 minutes, as evidenced by eight offside calls against SKC.
It was a statement, made without key players Kyle Beckerman, Jamison Olave, Juan Manual Martinez (all out for disciplinary reasons) and Javier Morales (broken ribs).
“I don’t know it was the team learning something about ourselves, or everybody else learning something about the team,” Real Salt Lake captain and defender Tony Beltran said. “I think these guys know we’re capable of this and we believed in ourselves, and that’s why we’re on such a high right now, because we wanted to make this statement, to everybody, that over the course of the season these guys can contribute.”
The Claret and Cobalt dented the scoreboard in the 29th minute when 19-year-old Justen Glad picked up the first goal of his MLS career. Joao Plata played in a beautiful in-swinger on a free kick.
Glad was one of multiple Real Salt Lake players to get free behind SKC’s back line, and he easily headed it in. Glad was so happy afterward that he had to be reminded who picked up the assist on the goal.
“Obviously it was Luke (Mulholland) who played in the ball. No? It was Plata? Well, Plata played in a great ball,” Glad said with a smile. “Perfectly placed. Aaron (Maund) was right in front of me. If he didn’t have it, I had it. If I didn’t have it, Yura (Movsisyan) was right behind me and he had it. I think as a group we had the drive, the fight and the commitment.”
Real Salt Lake had failed to cash in on multiple prime scoring chances after halftime before Mulholland made something from nothing.
Mulholland cut short an SKC counterattack in the 79th minute, intercepting the pass outside the 18-yard box and firing a shot back through traffic and past SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia for a 2-0 lead.
The Claret and Cobalt came to Kansas City having coughed up 2-0 leads in two previous matches this season. If there was any angst after SKC converted a penalty kick in the 93rd minute, it didn’t show.
“It wasn’t going to happen again. There’s no way the team was going to let that happen,” Glad said. “There was no way any team member was OK with that happening again.”
Real Salt Lake should have more weapons at its disposal — a renewed sense of confidence chief among them — when it returns home for next Saturday’s match against Colorado.
“Myself and the staff believe in all of our players stepping up. But this kind of result in this kind of scenario, it doesn’t make me believe in them more, but it can really help the players believe in themselves and their abilities,” Real Salt Lake manager Jeff Cassar said. “When one steps down, one steps up. That happened tonight, and I’m really proud of the guys What they did tonight was really seize the moment, and I’m happy for them.”
Glad remembers watching that epic MLS Cup loss in December of 2013. Saturday’s memories will be much happier.
“You can tell when you’re on the field there’s a disliking of each other,” Glad said. “This game is massive for us, and it felt good to get a ‘W’ here.”