Last week, Real Salt Lake had a two goal lead that many packed inside Rio Tinto Stadium mistakenly thought it wouldn’t relinquish. On Saturday, May 3 at the Chicago Fire, RSL found itself in the same position as last week -- except this time it was the opposite.
Down 2-0 going into the second half, Real Salt Lake held a sizable advantage in possession -- perhaps its best offensive showing in weeks -- and it showed, as Joao Plata’s brace and Alvaro Saborio’s emphatic half-volley into an open net gave RSL a 3-2 victory at Toyota Park.
18 shots on goal seemed to spell the difference for the visitors in claret and cobalt. But, it wasn’t always easy street for Real Salt Lake, as the winless Fire proved they were going to make life difficult.
Major League Soccer MVP Mike Magee opened the scoring for Chicago, when in the 22nd minute he side-footed a Fire shot into the net that RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando had parried away. Up 1-0 early, the Fire were hardly done.
In minute 31, the Fire got the cushion they needed when a cross into the six-yard box found the forehead of Ecuadorian striker Juan Luis Anangono -- who flicked it home for a 2-0 advantage. Chicago was now up 2-0 going into halftime, a dangerous lead to hold as RSL found out last week against Vancouver.
Yet Chicago almost found a way to win its first game in the 63rd minute coming out of the halftime whistle. Magee got around RSL defender Nat Borchers and found himself face-to-face with Rimando, who got as big as he could at the top of the RSL penalty box.
Magee tried chipping Rimando, but Nick’s big right paw got in the way of Magee’s delicate delivery, deflecting the Fire’s chance to put the game away as the ball bounced off the top crossbar and just off the goal line.
That half-chance was all RSL would need, because in the 72nd minute and after repeated attacks on Chicago’s end, the claret and cobalt made one of their 18 chances stand. Some nifty interplay between RSL midfielders and forwards dislodged Chicago’s backline -- and Plata slotted home a goal to make it 2-1.
In minute 90, substitute Olmes Garcia -- who came on in an attack-minded transition with midfielder Sebastian Velasquez when RSL were down 2-0 -- looped a cross from the left wing into heavy traffic in the six-yard box.
The ball inexplicably shot past several Chicago defenders and the melee the ball -- and Garcia’s chip -- caused ended when Saborio somehow collected the ball on his chest in a half-chance and ripped a half-volley into the roof of the net to tie the game at 2-2.
The Fire stayed under fire down the left flank for the next three minutes as RSL pounded forward with numbers -- and one decisive pass after another behind Chicago’s beleaguered backline. The last pass was the best for RSL, a delicious left-footed delivery from Saborio.
“That’s what we wanted to do, possess into those areas and try to work it around to get not just a whipped in ball from wide, but a nice service from ten, fifteen yards inside,” Cassar said at the post-game press conference.
Much of the work Saturday was done by Plata, who caused headaches for the Fire all night. On this last offering of his, he got around his defender and raced towards the far post looking to do something with Saborio’s cross. That he did, skillfully side footing Saborio’s offering into side netting for a 3-2 lead -- and minutes later, a 3-2 win that left RSL unbeaten through nine games.