LATE GOAL SENDS REAL SALT LAKE TO 1-2 DEFEAT AT FC DALLAS IN WEST SEMIFINAL LEG ONE
After FW Fabian Espíndola Tally Five Minutes In, Defending Champs Can’t Hang on for First-ever Result in Frisco;
Nothing but Win Will Do for RSL in Next Saturday’s Decisive Leg Two at Rio Tinto Stadium
FRISCO, Texas (Saturday, October 30, 2010) – Real Salt Lake came firing out of the gates in Leg One of its Western Conference Semifinal Series against FC Dallas, but a late goal for the home side in both halves would give Dallas a 2-1 win in front of 11,003 fans at Pizza Hut Park. The result, RSL’s ninth loss in as many games at FC Dallas across regular season and postseason play, means that only a win in Leg Two next Saturday, Nov. 6 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy (8:00 p.m. MT kickoff) will do if the defending champs are to carry on in the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Despite claims this week of coming to Texas and possibly sitting back in a defensive posture, Real Salt Lake instead seemed intent on imposing its will from the opening whistle – and it didn’t take long for the strategy to pay dividends. Just five minutes in, FW Fabian Espíndola ran onto MF Andy Williams’ looping ball and cut inside before unleashing a left-footed shot from 20 yards into the upper left corner of goal, giving the champs a dream start to the series. Real Salt Lake nearly escaped into the locker room with an advantage, but former Claret-and-Cobalt striker Jeff Cunningham would have his say just before the half, barreling his way through three defenders inside the area before finishing low past GK Nick Rimando to even the match in the 44th minute.
With FC Dallas gaining more and more momentum in the second 45 minutes, Real Salt Lake was dealt a severe blow when MF Javier Morales picked up a second yellow card and subsequent ejection in the 69th minute, forcing him to miss not only the final quarter of today’s affair, but also next Saturday’s second leg in Sandy. However, referee Kevin Stott would not take long to bring the sides back to square, judging Dallas MF Atiba Harris’ high elbow on an aerial challenge with RSL MF Will Johnson on the bench sideline a straight red card offense just six minutes later to set up 10-v-10 soccer for the final 15 minutes. Leg One’s decisive moment came in the 88th minute, when FC Dallas substitute attacker Eric Avila punctuated a quick build-up through the middle with a stunning blast from 22 yards that flew past a diving Rimando and inside the far left post.
Real Salt Lake Match Notes
- The Western Conference Semifinal Series is contested as an aggregate goals series in which no weight is placed on away goals. Should Real Salt Lake record a one-goal regulation win over FC Dallas in next Saturday’s second leg in Sandy, the squads will then square off in a 30-minute mini-game (played in its entirety) to determine a series winner. Should that end even, the teams will then decide advancement to the Western Conference Championship by kicks from the penalty spot.
- The red card issued to Morales (two cautions received) happened to be the first one shown to an on-field player for Real Salt Lake this season, occurring in the squad’s 41st game across all competitions (Espindola was shown a red card while on the bench on Sept. 22 @ Árabe Unido). Morales was shown his first yellow for a minor altercation with FC Dallas MF Daniel Hernandez in the 49th minute – for which the FCD captain also received a caution – and was issued the second for a reckless foul as he entered a 50/50 challenge against MF Dax McCarty with a high boot in the 69th minute.
- Next Saturday will not mark the first time Real Salt Lake will not have the services of Morales in postseason play, as the Argentine playmaker was forced from last year’s MLS Cup final against the LA Galaxy at Seattle’s Qwest Field after just 22 minutes in due to injury.
- Tonight’s loss marked the first defeat for Real Salt Lake in Conference Semifinal Series action, dropping its first round record to 3-1-1. However, this is not the first time RSL has trailed in an aggregate goals Semifinal Series, as the Utahans fell behind 1-2 after giving up a pair of first half goals in last year’s Leg Two at Columbus, only to storm back for three unanswered scores across the final 50 minutes to post a 4-2 series win (3-2 W in Leg 2).
- The defeat was also the first for Real Salt Lake in a non-home playoff contest, the team’s record in away and neutral affairs dropping to 1-1-3. The squad is now 3-2-3 in its eight career MLS Cup Playoff contests.
- Espíndola’s 5th minute tally was his first-ever MLS Cup Playoff goal in now seven such appearances, and was the fastest playoff goal scored by RSL (Morales – 37’; 11/05/09 @ CLB, West Semifinal Leg 2). Espíndola returned to the starting line-up today after missing RSL’s regular season finale last weekend at Colorado (caution accumulation).
- The assist by Williams was his first for Real Salt Lake in his eighth postseason appearance for the Utah side (also has one goal scored in postseason play – 11/05/09 @ CLB, West Semifinal Leg 2). His eight helpers from 19 MLS Cup Playoff contests ties him with LA’s Landon Donovan for the seventh most in MLS postseason history in the category (1-RSL, 1-CHI, 6-CLB).
- MF Will Johnson played the final 22 minutes of the contest, making his fifth appearance off the bench this season. The Canadian international had been hampered this week by a strained left hamstring suffered during training on Tuesday.