SANDY — Real Salt Lake’s ambition of making a legitimate push up the Western Conference standings got a huge boost on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Against co-Western Conference leader Kansas City, RSL scored three goals during a 15-minute stretch to end the first half and then held on during a wild second half for the impressive 4-2 victory against one of the league’s best.
The crazy second half featured an Albert Rusnak missed PK that could’ve padded RSL’s lead, two late red cards for Kansas City and then a Luis Silva penalty kick in the 10th minute of stoppage time that sealed the win over rival Kansas City in front of 19,206 fans.
“It means a lot. This is a new rivalry to me over the last year. You see it tonight the passion, the bite,” said RSL coach Mike Petke.
The win extended Real Salt Lake’s home unbeaten streak to eight straight (7-0-1) and helped it vault into fourth place in the West with 26 points. It gets another opportunity to make another statement this Saturday when it hosts new West leader FC Dallas.
“I think it’s definitely a statement. We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve played really well for large stretches of the game but weren’t able to convert our chances and then we end up losing late in the game,” said Baird.
Despite scoring four goals, RSL didn’t get off to the start it wanted.
A defensive breakdown put Real Salt Lake behind just 20 minutes into the match, and it was all the product of ball-watching by Marcelo Silva as Roger Espinoza sent a switching ball to Seth Sinovic. Instead of tracking Kansas City striker Daniel Salloi, Silva simply watched the cross sailed over him.
It left Salloi unmarked eight yards from goal, and he was in perfect position to head home Sinovic’s cross to put the visitors ahead 1-0.
RSL had two terrific chances to equalize over the next eight minutes, but Baird put a quality chance wide and then Damir Kreilach had his shot saved by Tim Melia’s fingertips.
Both of those chances were the result of Real Salt Lake putting high pressure on Kansas City’s backline and forcing turnovers. It was an approach RSL went into the game hoping to exploit, and it started to pay dividends after a sluggish opening 20 minutes.
“Once we started getting that pressure on them, I think we really disrupted their possession and that led to a lot of good possession for us and we were in good opportunities when they opened up,” said Baird.
In the 29th minute, the floodgates opened for Real Salt Lake as it scored three goals before halftime.
Jefferson Savarino delivered the first goal — his first since May 12 — on a deflected shot from the top of the box tying the game at 1-1. Baird did well to keep possession after the initial corner kick, and then when Glad’s shot in traffic was blocked it trickled back to Savarino who uncorked a shot that took a deflection off Ike Opara for his third goal of the season.
Real Salt Lake went ahead 2-1 in the 37th minute on a clinical finish from Baird from outside the box, with much of the credit going to Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza.
While lunging in to clear a throw-in, Espinoza mistakenly tapped the ball into the path of Baird who had a free run into the box. It created a 2v1 situation for Baird and Savarino, but Baird elected to take the shot himself and curled it around Melia for the 2-1 lead.
Shortly before halftime, Park City native Sebastian Saucedo scored his first-ever goal at Rio Tinto Stadium to stretch the lead to 3-1 on a terrific transition goal.
After RSL won the ball deep in its own half, instead of playing a quick hopeful ball upfield to a pair of runners Albert Rusnak elected to square it to Kreilach in the middle of the field. That changed the angle and allowed Kreilach to play a simple ball upfield to Saucedo, who attacked the defender and curled in a shot from the top of the box.
“It’s a dream come true, as a kid I’ve always dreamed of being a professional soccer player and this is my hometown. Not many players get the opportunity to play at home, a lot of players have to sacrifice away from home and I’m lucky enough to have my girlfriend and family and everyone else who supports me,” said Saucedo.Comment on this story
Kansas City pulled a goal back to make it 3-2 in the 65th minute as Opara tapped in a cross from halftime substitute Johnny Russell after Kansas City recycled a corner kick back in the box quickly.
Rusnak had a chance to seal with an 80th-minute penalty kick after Roger Espinoza fouled Baird in the box, but he tried to chip the keeper streak down the middle but Melia never moved and saved it easily.
RSL’s backline did well dealing with Kansas City’s pressure the rest of the game, which got easier when Salloi was red carded in the 90th minute and then Espinoza picked up his second yellow in the 94th minute.