SANDY, Utah – Nobody in Rio Tinto Stadium had a bigger smile on his face on Thursday night than Olmes Garcia. Maybe nobody in Utah.
Real Salt Lake's 21-year-old Colombian forward hadn't scored a goal in more than a year coming into the team's game against the Montreal Impact. On Thursday, he scored two – a 70th-minute header that put his team ahead of Montreal, and a 92nd-minute blast that put the game away.
RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said Garcia's performance in the 3-1 win over the Impact was, “fantastic, threatening, quality. The two goals were world-class. And he also worked very hard on the defensive side. Just a great night for him.”
And all in barely more than half an hour of play – Garcia was subbed in for Robbie Findley in the 59th minute after Findley cramped up.
“We had scouted Montreal and felt like if we had fast, explosive players and really stretched them over the top, it would be beneficial for us,” said Cassar, who started the speedy duo of Findley and Joao Plata up top.
Putting Garcia in didn't sacrifice any speed, either, which proved to be the difference in the game.
“It was key tonight and it's going to be key in the future,” Cassar said. “It was just a fantastic spark when he came into the game.”
That spark came after plenty of agonizing, with Garcia's last goal in an RSL uniform coming on July 13, 2013. Cassar said that Garcia has been working with assistant coach Paul Dalglish on “a lot of finishing. And he's been looking brighter and brighter.”
It certainly didn't hurt RSL's chances when Montreal midfielder Issey Nakajima-Farran was red-carded out of the game in the 65th minute for a studs-up challenge on RSL defender Chris Schuler. Both of Garcia's goals came while RSL was a man up.
“It changed the game,” Cassar said of the ejection. “It deflated them a little bit. It's a team that's not getting the results that they want, then that happens. Heads go down. Energy level drops a bit. And that give us that extra bit of spark, which we needed a little bit.”
Garcia's brace, along with midfielder Luke Mulholland's third-minute goal, broke a bit of a scoring drought for Real. The Claret-and-Cobalt had scored only one goal from the run of play in their last four games, and Cassar was tired of hearing about it.
“The message is – we scored three goals from the run of play in one game,” were his opening remarks to the media.
Then a big smile come over his face -- and maybe just the slightest look of relief.