Sandy — Real Salt Lake (7-3-7) got a much-needed 2-1 win against the New England Revolution (7-7-2) July 4 in front of a sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium, as it welcomed home two USMNT members.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalie Nick Rimando returned to the lineup for the first time since the end of May. RSL managed a 1-3-2 record in its last six matches without their services. Both players were ready to help the team on short rest since leaving Brazil.
“It’s all about how we want to try to improve our performance, and that’s what the main goal was,” Beckerman said. “Improve performance, and the results will come.”
Beckerman immediately put his talents to use, playing instigator for much of the first half on an energized Salt Lake squad. But New England keeper Bobby Shuttleworth denied several early RSL attacks, kick-saving a shot by Beckerman in the eighth minute and denying a shot off the foot of Devon Sandoval in the 23rd.
RSL midfielder Javier Morales was glad to have Beckerman back on the field for tonight’s match, and when asked why the team had such tremendous energy his answer was simple: Kyle Beckerman.
“He is huge for us and is an unbelievable player; he is always in the right spot. It is easier to play with him because he assists me all over the field,” Morales said.
The Revolution’s defense cracked under relentless RSL pressure in the 34th minute when RSL defender Chris Schuler was fouled in the Revolution penalty box, setting up a penalty kick for Morales. Morales unleashed a cannon that ripped left of Shuttleworth into the back of the net. It was Morales’ fifth goal of the season.
New England equalized off a set-piece three minutes later off a free kick. Revolution defender Chris Tierney placed the ball far post in the penalty box as fellow defender Darrius Barnes rose up and headed the ball perfectly, burying it in the top-left corner of the net. RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said the team works on defensive set pieces, but Tierney made a fantastic play under pressure. The RSL defensive unit kept the Revolution quiet for most of the game despite giving up the goal.
“I thought the defensive line was incredibly strong; the whole back four and Kyle as a unit was really solid,” Cassar said.
During the first half a broken play almost resulted in a four-on-two breakaway for the Revolution. Schuler made a successful charge to clear the crossed ball, stopping the possible threat. The Revolution had another opportunity in the 62nd minute when a Revolution midfielder was left alone racing down the sideline. RSL defender Nat Borchers closed the large gap and was able to poke the ball away for a corner kick.
“There was no quit in Borchers,” Cassar said. “For him to get all the way back and defend the play was amazing.”
Borchers credited the principle of team defense as the reason he made the big play.
“We’re one the few teams in the league that are always tracking back or always trying to cover for each other; that is the kind of team we are,” Borchers said. “We are helping each other out, trying to get back and get numbers behind the ball. That is why we are so good.”
Rimando contributed to RSL’s impressive team defense. He saw nine shots on goal, blocking three of them. None more important than his diving save in the 53rd minute. With the score notched at 1-1, Revolution defender Jose Goncalves received a pass from midfielder Kevin Rowe. Goncalves was able to chest trap and control the ball for a strong shot on the lower-right post. Rimando made the diving save, and the ball bounced off the post and rolled along the goal line until cleared.
“Coming back was about just coming out and helping out the team win games,” Rimando said.
RSL took command of the match at the 65th minute off another penalty kick opportunity. Revolution midfielder Tierney made an illegal tackle on RSL midfielder John Stertzer in the penalty box. RSL forward Joao Plata was called to take the shot and did not waste the opportunity. He ripped the ball into the top-center of the net for his seventh goal of the season, giving RSL the lead for good.
“Joao was threatening all night long and was making fantastic runs,” Cassar said. “I was really pleased that he put it in on the defensive end too to close out the game.”
The Revolution applied pressure again immediately after the goal. Tierney crossed the ball in front of the goal to find diving Revolution forward Rowe. The shot, however, went wide right of the goal.
Cassar and the RSL team are happy to have Rimando and Beckerman back for the remainder of the season.
“Having Kyle (Beckerman) and Nick (Rimando) coming back, giving us that extra boost of confidence and calmness on the ball, helped out tremendously tonight,” Cassar said.
Real Salt Lake, fighting for another playoff berth, has an opportunity to make it two wins in a row when it faces Landon Donovan and the L.A. Galaxy on July 12 in Carson, California.