By TYLER GRAY
SANDY, Utah – It was a much tougher than expected match for Real Salt Lake, which earned a point in its penultimate home match of the season. Strikes from Alvaro Saborio for RSL and Kenny Cooper for FC Dallas were all that the teams could muster as the match ended 1-1 in front of 20,488 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
It looked for awhile as if Real Salt Lake was going to escape with a win despite playing down a man most of the match, but a timely sub by Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman got the visitors back in the game.
With his team trailing 1-0 in the 70th minute, Je-Vaughn Watson entered for Fabian Castillo. Just two minutes later Watson made a massive run down the right side of RSL’s defense, blowing by Tony Beltran and sending a low cross into the box. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando was able to get a hand to the cross, but the ball fell to a wide-open Cooper at the back post and the striker poked it home, leveling the match at 1-1.
There were a few more nervy moments before the final whistle blew, but neither side was able to break the deadlock.
Real Salt Lake (15-10-6, 52 points) had opened the scoring just 12 minutes earlier, when an opportunistic shot from Alvaro Saborio put the home side ahead.
In the 60th minute, Rimando sent a goal kick long toward Saborio. The Costa Rican muscled Dallas defender Stephen Keel off the ball, took it out of the air, and slipped a shot through the Dallas defense into the back post, beating goalkeeper Chris Seitz and sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy.
Trying to rebound from a forgettable performance in Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final, the Claret-and-Cobalt was forced to play down a man for a full 75 minutes after Abdoulie Mansally was shown a straight red for a vicious challenge on Jackson.
The Dallas forward was chasing down a ball and got a touch to it just before Mansally arrived and upended him.
“I don’t have any issue with it,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “I think it was a really rash tackle that was poorly timed and really endangers the safety of your opponent. So that’s a red card for me and I have no issue with it.”
Rimando was called into action for a few key saves in the first half, and his play alone kept Dallas from seeing the back of the net.
One occasion in particular, in the 34th minute, saw Rimando kick save a one-on-one opportunity from Jackson after the Brazilian got in behind the defense.
It was not the best game for RSL to shake off the disappointment of Tuesday night but it was an encouraging sign for a side that stuck together and earned a tie despite the circumstances.
“Maybe that red card happened for a reason,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. “To sit there and say, ‘ now we have to play 75 minutes. We need to get something from this match.’ For everybody to compete and battle like that, the whole game long, I think it says a lot about the group and it’s a positive.”
The sentiment in the RSL locker room was one of optimism.
“I think it was a bounce-back night for us,” defender Nat Borchers said. “I think that we really did a good job as a group. We didn’t cower back in our own end of the field the whole game. We were able to get pressure on them and get that goal which was huge.”
While a tie is obviously better than a loss, FC Dallas (10-10-11, 41 points) will likely regret not getting more from a match that saw it up a man and outplaying the hosts for much of the night. With just two wins it its last 18 matches, a team that was in first place throughout the spring has plummeted to eighth place in the Western Conference.
With only three matches to play, Dallas sits four points out of the fifth and final West playoff spot and would have to leapfrog the Vancouver Whitecaps, San Jose Earthquakes, and LA Galaxy to secure it.
Real Salt Lake has only two games left this season and will need to beat some long odds to have a chance at the Supporters’ Shield. A feisty result playing down a man for the majority of the match could go a long way toward restoring some confidence and putting them back on the right track.
Here are the match highlights: