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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Saucedo (23) celebrates scoring a goal in the first half of an MLS game against Atlanta United at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Friday, May 24, 2019. Real Salt Lake won 2-1.

SANDY — There wasn't a pot of gold — or a pot of goals, as someone cleverly joked — at the end of the rainbow that magnificently arched over and behind the east of Rio Tinto Stadium after Friday night's rainstorm during Real Salt Lake's game.

There was what amounted to be a golden goal after the rainbow ended, though.

With mere seconds remaining in stoppage time, RSL pulled off a stunning 2-1 victory over Atlanta United FC when Jefferson Savarino's cannon of a foot blasted in a game-winning goal and sparked a loud stadium celebration.

" If we’re going to win a 2-1 game … I'd rather we win like that for the fans. It was very exciting. "
RSL coach Mike Petke

Before the Venezuelan's heroics, it appeared Real would only emerge from this match with a tie and 1 point after Atlanta's Josef Martinez poked in a hard-fought goal in the 78th minute.

"It was kind of bitter to concede a goal with the performance that we were doing for so long," RSL's Albert Rusnak said. "But I think today it was meant to be the 3 points. It was meant to be to finish like this."

Considering how well RSL played most of the night, that would have been a waste. Instead, the home team earned its third straight win in the most exciting way possible.

"I have a very happy team in there (the locker room) for one reason — the only reason is that we deserved that win, 100 percent," RSL coach Mike Petke said. "There’s not relief for that goal. There’s justification."

Petke was impressed that his team didn't slouch shoulders or give up after that disappointing Atlanta goal nor after an excellent look by Rusnak sailed over the crossbar halfway into the three minutes of injury time.

Like that beautiful rainbow that illuminated a dark sky over the Wasatch Mountains, RSL did what it took to transform the gloominess into a shining moment.

"If we’re going to win a 2-1 game … I'd rather we win like that for the fans," Petke said. "It was very exciting."

Elated RSL players converged on Savarino after he took a centering pass from late-sub Everton Luiz, shook off an Atlanta defender and then twisted his body before firing the ball into the back of the far side of the net past the outstretched hands of goalie Brad Guzan.

It was Savarino's second goal of the season but definitely his most remarkable one — and certainly the highlight of the season for a suddenly clicking RSL club that improved to 6-6-1.

"Literally the whole bench went crazy," RSL's Sebastian Saucedo said. "I can tell you that we played very well offensively and defensively. I felt we didn't deserve to lose, honestly. We should have scored two or three, but honestly Savarino's goal was enough.

"That," he added, "was an unbelievable goal, to win like that."

Each team had some early chances, but about the time the bright rainbow was causing a spectacle above the stadium, Saucedo lit it up inside the RioT. He took a sweet cross-field pass from Rusnak, cut to the middle and then fired a zinger from the top of the box through three Atlanta players and past Guzan to put RSL up 1-0.

In his second game back, goaltender Nick Rimando made two saves with one punch.

Atlanta, the defending MLS champion, dropped to 6-5-2.

Petke admitted it's early in the season, but this win fired his team (and fan base) up like no other so far.

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"It’s the most exciting moment we’ve had this year, 100 percent," he said. "As far as the games go, it’s one of the better games we’ve played in 90 minutes. This year I’ll put it No. 1."

The referee blew the final whistle just after Atlanta kicked off to begin its ensuing possession, and the RSL celebration continued.

"We kept pushing and going," Petke said. "It’s a great moment this year, an exciting moment this year, but we hope we have many more good moments."

RSL will have a couple of chances in the next week back East, with a game at Montreal on Wednesday followed by a trip to New York on Saturday.