Real Salt Lake used second half goals from the Argentine duo of MF Javier Morales and FW Fabian Espindola to push past a pesky Charleston Battery (USL Second Division) side via a 3-1 victory on Matchday #2 of the Carolina Challenge Cup at Blackbaud Stadium. FW Robbie Findley's second goal of the tournament gave RSL an early lead, but the hosts equalized through MF Rudolph Mayard and kept things even heading into the final quarter-hour on a soggy St. Patrick's Day evening in the South Carolina lowcountry.
It was Findley kicking off the scoring just like he did in last Saturday's CCC opener against D.C. United, albeit this time much earlier in the proceedings. Rookie MF Collen Warner created the chance in the 10th minute by finding Findley with a quick through ball at the top of the area, and a touch later the RSL striker was in perfect position to slot a low shot from 11 yards out past Battery netminder Reese Crowther, giving the Utahns a 1-0 advantage. That chance was indicative of RSL's swarming pressure on the ball and repeated pushes into the Charleston half of the field, but after 25 minutes that pressure would fall off, the game on the slick field evolving into a series of siding challenges and broken possessions for the middle third of the match.
Charleston would pounce on a Real Salt Lake defensive error in the 36th minute, when DF Nat Borchers' back pass put GK Nick Rimando under pressure, resulting in Battery FW Levi Coleman sweeping in and dispossessing at the edge of the RSL area. His cross found Mayard, and, with Rimando scrambling back into position, the Battery midfielder was able to send his well-struck shot from 15 yards high into the roof of goal, evening the proceedings at 1-1, which is how the match would enter the halftime break.
After beginning the match with a blend of youth and experience, a "line change" at the hour mark would see Real Salt Lake finish with a fairly representative first-choice line-up over the course of the last 30 minutes. The changes once again sparked RSL's attack, the MLS side dominating possession and cutting off Charleston's repeated attempts at quick counter-attacks to control play in the final third of the contest.
It was a lengthy string of possession that led to RSL's winning goal in the 76th minute, the play starting with MF Will Johnson rewarding DF Robbie Russell's run down the right flank with a perfect diagonal ball across the field. The right back laid off a ball for MF Andy Williams deep into the Battery area, from where he cut a square ball into the six that Morales was able to easily tap in for the go-ahead tally.
Real Salt Lake would salt it away as the game slipped into stoppage time with Morales playing provider this time, his long ball over the top springing Espíndola behind the Battery backline. The Argentine striker would finish with authority from 12 yards out, ending the scoring and providing a goal that could make the difference in the tournament standings come Saturday's third and final doubleheader.
Real Salt Lake News & Notes
• Real Salt Lake's mass substitution in the 60th minute included the debut of FW Álvaro Saborío, who received clearance to play in the hours leading up to the contest.
• Real Salt Lake will conclude its run in the seventh annual edition of the Carolina Challenge Cup this Saturday, March 20, by taking on fellow MLS side Toronto FC. A live streaming video feed of the 3:00 p.m. MT kickoff will be available courtesy of Toronto FC TV, with a link to be provided from RSL's Behind the Shield blog, located at www.RSLtotheCore.com. Fans will also be able to follow match events as they happen through Real Salt Lake's official Twitter feed at www.Twitter.com/RealSaltLake.
• With D.C. United beating Toronto FC 1-0 in the nightcap, Real Salt Lake (1-1-0, 3 pts.; +1 Goal Differential) enters Saturday's match against TFC in second place in the Carolina Challenge Cup standings, its three points sitting three behind leaders D.C. United (2-0-0, 6 pts.; +2 GD) and two up on Toronto (0-1-1, 1 pt.; -1 GD,) and Charleston (0-1-1, 1 pt.; -2 GD).
• With the first tournament tie-breaker being goal differential, an RSL win over the "Reds" on Saturday coupled with a Battery upset over United will result in the CCC trophy being hoisted by the Utah side for a second consecutive spring.
RSL Quote Sheet - Head Coach Jason Kreis
On the first 60 minutes of the contest:
"I thought there were a lot of good things, actually. I was pleased to see that group of players have a pretty positive outing. Obviously not pleased with the way we gave away the goal. I thought they had about three good chances, all of which came from us making really bad plays with possession in our own half of the field, and the goal was obviously the critical one."
On mistakes in the defensive third costing the team for a second straight match:
"There was a difference; [on Saturday night] it was a defensive play. The one that happened today was almost an offensive one, where we have the ball and give it away in our own box. It's two veteran players involved in that play and it's not going to happened very often - if anything they were a little too relaxed in that situation. But we had a good reaction by our group as a whole and obviously we feel good about the result."
On the string of possession that resulted in Morales' game-winner:
"We stress to our players time and time again that soccer is a simple game. If we play what's in front of us and we play it quickly and we move things will open up and we'll have all kinds of options, and that was a great example of it."
Thoughts on the performance of the group in the last half hour:
"I did see what I was looking for out of them. To put them into a difficult situation where we're tied and it's cold and rainy and they've been sitting there for 60 minutes after training some this morning, they reacted very well. But I think there were certainly some positive things from the first group as well."
Real Salt Lake 2010 Preseason Recap
Real Salt Lake 3 : 1 Charleston Battery
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Blackbaud Stadium - Daniel Island, SC
RSL - Robbie Findley (Collen Warner) 10
CHAR - Rudolph Mayard (Levi Coleman) 36
RSL - Javier Morales (Andy Williams, Robbie Russell) 76
RSL - Fabian Espíndola (Javier Morales) 91+
Real Salt Lake Line-up (4-4-2): GK-Nick Rimando; DF-Tony Beltran (Robbie Russell 60), DF-Nat Borchers, DF-Chris Schuler (Rauwshan McKenzie 33) (Jamison Olave 60), DF-Nelson Gonzalez (Will Johnson 60); MF-Ned Grabavoy (Andy Williams 33), MF-Jean Alexandre (Kyle Beckerman 60), MF-Luis Gil (Chris Wingert 45), MF-Collen Warner (Javier Morales 60); FW-Robbie Findley (Fabian Espíndola 45), FW-Cristiano (Álvaro Saborío 60)
Charleston Battery Starting XI (4-5-1): GK-Reese Crowther; DF-O'Brian Woodbine, DF-Yeniel Bermudez, DF-Nigel Marples, DF-Mike Zaher; MF-Alioune Gueye, MF-Jon Gruenewald, MF-Stephen Armstrong, MF-Pierre-Rudolph Mayard; MF-Amaury Nunes, FW-Levi Coleman
Real Salt Lake 2010 Preseason Schedule (subject to change)
Feb.13-27: Preseason Trip #1 to the Francisco Grande Resort in Casa Grande, Ariz.
Sat., Feb. 20 - RSL 1 : 2 Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Fri., Feb. 26 - RSL 0 : 0 Colorado Rapids
March 5-21: Preseason Trip #2 to Charleston, S.C.
Sat., Mar 6. - RSL 2 : 1 College of Charleston - Patriots Point Athletic Complex/Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
7th Annual Carolina Challenge Cup - Blackbaud Stadium in Daniel Island/Charleston, S.C.
Sat., March 13 - RSL 1 : 2 D.C. United
Wed., March 17 - RSL 3 : 1 Charleston Battery
Sat., March 20 - RSL vs. Toronto FC - 3:00 p.m. MT
Sat., Mar. 27: MLS First Kick 2010, Presented by Dick's Sporting Goods - RSL at San Jose Earthquakes (7:00 p.m. MT, live on Fox Soccer Channel)
Thur., Apr. 1: Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo (7:00 p.m. MT, live on ESPN2)
Sat., Apr. 10: Real Salt Lake 2010 Rio Tinto Stadium opener v. Seattle Sounders FC (7:00 p.m. MT)