Sometimes, coaching is all in the substitutions. Simple as that. Forget the drills during the week. The set-piece plans on the chalkboard. Studying video late at night.
In the end, it comes down to putting a player on and taking a player off.
For Real Salt Lake, who came back late to beat the Portland Timbrs, 3-2, on Saturday night, that was very definitely the case, as RSL coach Jason Kreis threw newcomer Jonny Steele and regular striker Fabian Espindola on with the hope of changing the game.
“Tonight the guys who came off the bench were arguably the most important players we had,” Kreis told Salt Lake’s ABC affiliate, KTVX. “Whether or not you’re starting or coming off the bench, you’ve always got to be ready to contribute.”
Steele was obviously ready. After subbing on in the 78th minute, he scored the equalizer in the 890ht minute, the first goal of his MLS career.
“Jonny’s goal I thought was a terrific goal as well,” Kreis said. “Very, very well taken.”
Steele’s goal required some poise and nifty footwork. But once it was in the net, RSL were like a new team.
“It was great,” captain Kyle Beckerman, who later scored the winner, told KTVX. “It was just what we needed. The guys that came off the bench give us that boost that we need, and he did just that. He slotted a classy ball through to really turn the tide, I think, because I felt when we got that, we could get the winner.”
Espindola, who came on in the 70th minute after starting RSL’s first three matches, was pivotal on that winner. He got past the defense on the left edge of the box, and chipped a ball back to the top of the area that Beckerman volleyed in for the 3-2 win.
“I knew he saw me with his vision that he has,” Beckerman said. “He just put it up … and I had a hit at the ball, and luckily it went in.”
“Obviously to have [Espindola] out there, you know he’s capable of pulling off a special play,” Kreis said, “and tonight he did it again.”