SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake fought back hard to earn a last-second equalizer on Seattle in their home opener Saturday night. And the play that salvaged the point was a combination from two of RSL’s more recent acquisitions: Costa Rican forward Álvaro Saborío and young Argentine midfielder Nelson González.
Saborío saw action for the second consecutive week after getting the start, and an assist last week in Houston. He came off the bench in this one and played a key role, heading in the winning goal in the dying seconds.
Meanwhile, González, the man who delivered the ball, was pressed into action after halftime after a first-half injury to Ned Grabavoy, courtesy of a strong tackle by Sounders defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.
Saborío is an accomplished international striker who has scored goals in bunches for club and country, and one who’s starting to turn his new teammates into believers.
“I’d put my money on that he’ll score a lot of goals this year for us,” winger Will Johnson said after the match.
Saborío’s goal came with about 30 seconds left in stoppage time, when RSL appeared headed for a rare home loss. The defending MLS champs had earned a corner kick and threw all bodies forward in a last-ditch effort for an equalizer.
The 21-year-old González had taken a majority of the corner kicks in the second half, and confidently trotted to the corner right of goal to take this one. The ball just cleared the initial group of defenders with good pace, and Saborío rose up to meet it and managed to hit what Johnson called “a fantastic header, absolutely world-class.”
Both players contributed greatly in the second half. Saborío nearly had the equalizer a few moments before, and helped the team maintain possession in the opposing end. González was active all night, putting pressure on the right side of the Sounders back line with his tenacity and pace in the midfield.
The contributions of Saborío, González and veteran midfielder Andy Williams showed how far the team has come since its inaugural season in 2005.
“In the beginning we had just 11 starters and that’s it, but now our bench is pretty deep,” said Williams. “Same thing last year in the MLS Cup final, and we start the first home game with the same thing.”
Coach Jason Kreis likely will need more heroics from his newer recruits and his bench. RSL’s depth looks like it will be tested after first-half injuries to Javier Morales (groin) and Grabavoy (sprained MCL), both of which Kreis deemed “pretty serious.”
For the second consecutive week, Real Salt Lake gave up two goals, with only two shots on goal. But that they’re keeping quality chances to a minimum is a good development. Still, what worries Kreis is where the goals are coming from.
“Both of these goals came off of dead-ball situations, one of them off of a throw-in,” he said of Seattle’s tallies, “And we talk about these details a lot around our club, so that was very disappointing.”
Still, thanks to Saborío and González, that last-second equalizer Saturday night helped RSL’s strong home-field advantage intact. Whether they got away with one against Seattle or not, they may have found new weapons upon whom to rely.