Real Salt Lake survived on Saturday, May 24, finishing against FC Dallas in a 0-0 tie. In a game that many expected RSL to win going away, the claret and cobalt struggled to finish their scoring chances. Luckily for RSL, so did FC Dallas.
Despite keeping the ball for 66 percent of the match RSL couldn’t put the ball in the net on Saturday--though certain situations may have kept the claret and cobalt from scoring. One was holding midfielder Cole Grossman who was in for Kyle Beckerman--away on World Cup duty with the U.S. national team.
Grossman handled a free kick taken by midfielder Javier Morales, a wicked in-swinger that fell to Grossman’s feet at the corner of the six yard box near the end line. Grossman fought to stay inbounds, lofting an off-balance chip over FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz but it wasn’t high enough to clear Seitz's outstretched hands.
In such a situation it may have been better to play the ball back towards onrushing RSL teammates but Grossman saw forward Devon Sandoval waiting on the goal line just behind Seitz and decided to go for something more cheeky.
The gamble didn't pay off and RSL squandered its best scoring chance of the game. After forward Joao Plata exited with a hamstring injury shortly before halftime, RSL had lost its leading scorer as well. Things were not going smoothly for a team that had been averaging over two goals per game going into Saturday’s holiday slug fest.
That is, except for the Real Salt Lake defense. Overshadowed for much of the season by a resurgent offense, the RSL back line and goalkeeper were the heroes of the game on Saturday, turning back several FC Dallas scoring chances as the second half began.
The first came in the 53rd minute, as FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele shook off RSL defender Chris Wingert inside the penalty area long enough to get off a blast from near the six yard box, which RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella stopped at the near post.
The second in the 66th was much more dangerous. FC Dallas midfielder Fabian Castillo had been giving RSL defenders fits with his individual brilliance. None was more apparent than when he wriggled free of his defender on the right wing as he approached the end line.
His out-swinging cross found Akindele but luckily for RSL, another defender got in Akindele’s way as he shot, sending the ball wide of the partially open net. FC Dallas may have thrown numbers behind the ball to prevent RSL from scoring--but it was RSL’s defense that saved the day and preserved the club’s 12-game unbeaten streak which now ties a Major League Soccer record.
“They had six staying back and four staying up high. It’s about how quickly we move the ball, and I just think we didn’t move it quickly enough and sharply enough tonight,” RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said at his post-game press conference. “We have to tip our hats to Dallas for coming here and trying to get that road result, which they did. But it’s something we’ll work on as we move forward.”
RSL next travels to Seattle later this week to take on the league-leading Sounders.