Things weren’t going our way for a while, it felt like everything was against us, we weren’t hitting the back of the net, soft goals were going in … it felt good to get that monkey off our back. —RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando
CHESTER, Pa. — In his MLS record-setting 412th start, Nick Rimando showed he’s still got some magic in the hat.
The 37-year-old goalkeeper watched his teammates flip the switch on the Philadelphia Union with two quick goals to open the second half and then sealed the win with a spectacular double-save in the 89th minute, allowing RSL to leave southeastern Pennsylvania with a 2-1 victory on Sunday night.
It’s the 180th career victory in the net for Rimando, now in his 10th season with Real Salt Lake and 17th overall in MLS, equaling the record set by Kevin Hartman during a career spanning 1997-2013.
More importantly, it’s the first win of the month for RSL (9-6-7), which hadn’t picked up three points since beating the New York Red Bulls on June 22, a span of eight games.
That included a stretch where they played four of five at home but were able to emerge only with draws in all four contests, treading water in the MLS’ Western Conference while FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids and L.A. Galaxy all continued to pile up wins.
“Huge,” Rimando said. “Things weren’t going our way for a while, it felt like everything was against us, we weren’t hitting the back of the net, soft goals were going in it felt good to get that monkey off our back.”
Sunday’s result also keeps Real Salt Lake unbeaten in nine matches against the Union, moving RSL to 3-0-6 since Philadelphia’s debut season in 2010.
It was nearly another tie, with Rimando making a huge double-save off a Union corner kick in the 89th minute to preserve the win. After first sprawling to stop a Brian Carroll rocket in the box, he was able to recover in time to deflect a Ken Tribbett attempt and keep the Union down a goal.
“He looked really confident tonight and we looked like a unit out there,” head coach Jeff Cassar said. “Obviously Nick’s in the back there holding it down for us, we couldn’t be more proud of him, and there’s a lot more wins for him to get.”
With leading scorer Yura Movsisyan sidelined due to a hip injury, there was certainly reason to question how Real Salt Lake’s offense would respond on a two-game road swing after a less-than-inspiring homestand.
And indeed, over the first 45 minutes against a Philadelphia Union side desperate for a comeback victory, RSL’s offense looked largely stagnant in front of a crowd of 18,091 at Talen Energy Stadium, falling behind 1-0 on a penalty kick goal by Philadelphia’s Ronald Alberg.
Whatever was said in the halftime locker room certainly worked, as impressive goals from Joao Plata and Javier Morales put RSL up on top.
“It was just keep believing, because I think over the last month we’ve played some of our best soccer ever and we haven’t been rewarded,” Cassar said. “And if we can keep doing what we’re doing, we will be rewarded.”
Rewarded they were, with two goals that few defenses or goalkeepers in any league around the globe could do little to stop.
Plata’s sixth goal of the year, in the 48th minute, was a beauty; his strike from 19 yards out over on the left side of the box curled around Union goalkeeper Andre Blake and ricocheted off the right post into the back of the net.
Morales followed up five minutes later with a rifled shot from just inside the 18-yard box, catching Blake a little forward out of position and putting the ball confidently into the top left corner.
“Two world-class goals, in my opinion,” Cassar said. “Sometimes it takes that to break the dam open.”
Plata's goal was his first since May 28, breaking a stretch of seven played games (nine RSL games) without putting one past an opposing keeper.
Olmes Garcia, meanwhile, tallied his first assist of the season, but he was involved in several plays over the course of the evening. Real Salt Lake came agonizingly close to a goal in the 15th minute when Garcia beautifully led a streaking Plata behind two Union defenders, but Plata’s shot hit the right post.
RSL needs Garcia, a 23-year-old Colombian, to be in top form for however long he’s in the lineup to replace Movsisyan, whose availability for Wednesday’s game at Toronto is still to be determined.
“I thought it was arguably his best game in an RSL jersey,” Cassar said. “He was challenging for balls in the air, he was threatening in behind, he was sacrificing he ended up playing a different position at the end of the game because he had a little more in the tank, and for him to recognize that and follow through with it is something that we’ve been waiting for for a long time, and this is a big, big opportunity for Olmes and I’m glad he seized it.”