Houston - The Real Salt Lake U-16 Academy team benefited from two lightning delays and rolled to a 3-1 victory over Albertson SC in the first group game of Finals Week on Sunday.
Both delays came in the second half, and for Real Salt Lake they couldn’t have had come at a better time. Before the first break, Albertson SC had equalized in the 60th minute and was riding a wave of momentum. The 17 minute delay crushed their spirit and RSL capitalized on this with the go-ahead goal in the 70th minute from Jose Hernandez. The second break came in the 79th minute for an extended period of 74 minutes. The break was detrimental once again to Albertson SC as RSL emerged the stronger side and scored an insurance goal in the 83rd minute when Bofo Saucedo chipped the goalkeeper from 30 out.
“I definitely think the first lightning break was a lucky break for us,” said captain Jason Eng. “They just tied it up and the momentum was with them,so we got a little lucky with the first break. The second one was the longest. Coach Mike did a good job and so did athletic trainer Marshall who kept us loose and made sure we stayed mentally prepared for the last bit.”
The mood around the team was reserved after the victory, as players and coaches knew the performance they showed tonight wouldn’t cut it in the next game.
“Overall not the best. Maybe similar to playoffs, but not the best start,” said assistant coach Freddy Juarez. “If it’s anything that indicates how the playoffs are, we hopefully will get gradually better as we go on in the tournament. Our style is possession and I don’t think we had too much of the ball today. It was difficult with the opponent we had, but overall we had 3 goals so that worked.”
With three points in hand, Real Salt Lake now sits at the top of Group 1. In the other group game, the Houston Dynamo played Texans SC to a scoreless draw.
Albertson SC came out of the gates and played a very high line with offensive pressure on every RSL defender. This caused numerous breakdowns in transition for RSL who wouldn’t get a handle on the game. However, even with their efforts, it took Albertson SC 18 minutes before they had their first shot that sailed well over the crossbar.
The near-miss woke up the RSL offense. They started to attack with purpose, stretched the field and held possession. Hernandez had RSL’s first shot in the 21st minute, but he pushed the ball wide left.
Eleven minutes later Fito Ovalle collected a ball in the middle and played a diagonal through ball to Diego “Diablo” Silva who was playing left midfield for the third time in the playoffs. He collected the ball on the 18, took a touch and chipped the goalkeeper for his third goal in the past four games.
“I feel great because since I have been playing up every game and I’ve been scoring,” said Silva. “I’m happy to get three points and happy to get my team to the top.”
After the goal RSL dropped the pace. Albertson SC took advantage of this and turned up the heat in front of the RSL goal. RSL goalkeeper Chase Bishov made two big stops in the 46th minute and 48th minute. Another save by Bishov in the 71st minute kept RSL up and goal and a 72nd minute substitution that brought on Evan Waldrep for Silva worked wonders.
Waldrep was aggressive, fast and most importantly made clean passes, never turning the ball over. Damian German had a look in the 74th minute, but his shot was saved. After the final delay, RSL’s defense came up big and absorbed the Albertson SC pressure which resulted in the counter that Saucedo scored.
Next game for RSL is against the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. MT.