Real Salt Lake entered Saturday’s match against the Philadelphia Union as one of two remaining unbeaten teams in Major League Soccer. As of the end of Match Week 6 and following FC Dallas’s loss, RSL now stands as MLS’s lone unbeaten squad, a notable accomplishment given the side’s particularly difficult opening schedule. RSL returns home to Utah with another road result in its pocket and now sits on 10 points (2-0-4), an excellent place to be after a grueling opening stretch.
Though that isn’t to say the Claret-and-Cobalt are altogether satisfied by their record. RSL has only trailed for a total of 5 minutes all season and has led in every match. Players and fans alike have been left with a sour taste in their mouths as two RSL draws came after conceding goals in the final five minutes of matches.
Saturday’s match in the City of Brotherly Love was the second of those two draws. RSL led the Union for 54 minutes on Saturday, including almost all of the first half after Luke Mulholland slotted home a rebound conceded by Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who, moments before, had stoned Alvaro Saborio’s 6th-minute penalty kick.
Philadelphia equalized in the 55th minute, when the Union capped off a textbook counterattack. Vincent Nogueira placed a picturesque ball just over the top of RSL’s back line and picked out recent acquisition Andrew Wenger, who deftly settled the ball and passed it under the arm of an onrushing Jeff Attinella.
RSL reclaimed the lead in the 85th minute, when a failed Union clearance left the ball at the feet of Javier Morales near the 6-yard box. Morales turned and found the late run of Kyle Beckerman, and the RSL captain hit the ball first time, beating MacMath with a shot to the back post.
But the Salt Lake lead was short lived. Just five minutes later—and only seconds before stoppage time—Cristian Maidana’s corner kick found the head of Maurice Edu. The Union midfielder had been left unmarked on the set piece, and his header from the penalty spot found the inside of the post before deflecting into Attinella’s goal.
Although RSL doubtless feels frustrated at having left points on the field, the squad has nevertheless managed to steal points in all four of its opening road matches, including clashes with the LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting KC, and now the Philadelphia Union.
Real Salt Lake returns home this coming Saturday, April 19, for a bout against its 2013 Western Conference Finals foe, the Portland Timbers.
- Referee Alan Kelly had a good look at three possible penalties during the match. He called one of them, a foul committed by the Union’s Austin Berry on RSL’s Olmes Garcia at the top of the box. By my view, Kelly was reasonably right on all of them. Berry’s 5th minute foul on Garcia was a full step inside the box. The other two—a possible trip by Luke Mulholland in the 71st minute and a possible trip by Nat Borchers in the 91st minute—were borderline enough that the officials might not have considered them fouls. Of those two, the Borchers trip seemed most likely to be a foul. As Borchers and Union striker Leo Fernandes chased a long ball deep into the RSL defensive third, Borchers cut behind Fernandes and clipped the forward’s left leg. However, even if a foul had been called, it would have occurred about a yard outside the penalty box. So, ultimately, Kelly did alright on penalty calls/non-calls.
- After his stellar 8-save shutout against Sporting KC, Jeff Attinella did not register a save in this contest. That’s not a knock on Attinella: the first Union goal came in a one-on-one that was difficult to stop, and the second goal was so perfectly placed a save was likely impossible. Some days you look like Superman; some days you face shots Superman himself couldn’t stop. (Cue Marvel Comics fans telling me there’s no shot Superman couldn’t stop.) (Cue Marvel and DC Comics fans telling me the Superman isn’t part of the Marvel Universe.)
- Perennial thorn-in-RSL’s-side Conor Casey almost managed to hurt RSL again this game. Twice. Unfortunately for Casey, his finishes were lacking, as his header deep into stoppage went wide of goal and his attempted shot from 8 yards out in the 79th minute went well over the bar and almost found its way into the Delaware River.
- RSL broadcaster Brian Dunseth (@OriginalWinger) is a fan favorite for his in-match participation in a fan-run drinking game called “Drinking with Dunny” (which has its own Twitter feed, @DrinkWithDunny). Dunny was in rare form on Saturday. A number of phrases picked for Saturday’s competition were references to the Adam Sandler movie “Happy Gilmore,” submitted by fans throughout the week under the hashtag #DunnyGilmoreQuotes. Among the highlights from the game: Dunny first referred to Luke Mulholland’s put-back goal as a “tap taparoo”; he then stated that Philadelphia might complain that Mulholland entered the box early to collect the saved PK, because “he shouldn’t have been standing there”; he ultimately deadpanned that all Mulholland had to do was “taaaaap it in.” The crazy quotes weren’t limited to Happy Gilmore references: “eye-of-the-tiger mentality,” “cracked like the Liberty Bell,” “dueling like Geno’s and Pat’s in the midfield,” and “beautiful as whiz on a cheesesteak” all made appearances, along with a host of Dunny’s trusty standbys, like “skill check” and “snap-down header.”
- As a final note, Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath kicked the goalposts last night after each RSL goal. Is that just a thing he does? Or was he just really frustrated this game?