Joao Plata’s lone goal highlights Real Salt Lake’s draw against New York Red Bulls

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Sandy — Real Salt Lake (8-4-9) earned a hard-fought 1-1 tie against the New York Red Bulls (5-6-10) Wednesday night in front of a loud, sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium.

RSL coach Jeff Cassar praised his team’s play despite its lone goal ending in a draw.

“I felt we were good on both sides of the ball tonight; I couldn’t ask more from our players. They only had one shot on goal tonight, so defensively we were very strong; attacking wise we were very good as well,” Cassar said. “Overall, I am pleased with the team’s performance. I do think if we play like [tonight], we will end up winning a lot more than we end up tying.”

RSL capitalized early off the nifty play of Javier Morales after he moved through several defenders and ripped a hard shot, prompting Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles to make a diving kick save. RSL’s Chris Wingert gained possession after it ricocheted off several players and made a quick pass to teammate Joao Plata.

Plata created space through heavy traffic after a quick move to his left. His right foot blast found the right corner of the net at the 18th minute, giving RSL the early lead and his ninth goal of the season.

Plata’s relentless runs kept the Red Bulls defense busy the entire game. Cassar expects nothing less from his forward.

“He’s just deadly right now. Most of his shots are on target, and tonight was no exception. He’s hungry, he wants to keep scoring,” Cassar said. “Joao [Plata] is very engaged … and really put a lot of pressure on New York.”

RSL forward Joao Plata advances the ball toward goal in the first half against the NY Red Bulls on July 30th. (Ari Davis)
RSL forward Joao Plata advances the ball toward the goal in the first half against the New York Red Bulls on July 30. (Ari Davis)

The Red Bulls equalized in the second half at the 57th minute as former English premier league great Thierry Henry scored off teammate Tim Cahill’s assist. Cahill gained control of the ball inside the box and flicked the ball behind him to a wide-open Henry, who kicked the ball past Rimando in the right lower corner of the net.

“He’s a world-class player; one touch and he scores a goal,” Morales said of Henry’s abilities.

RSL missed an opportunity to regain the lead at the 71st minute off a Plata corner kick. Unmarked with no one near him, Chris Schuler rose up and unleashed a hard header on target, but Red Bull goalie Robles made a diving save on the goal line.

Plata’s positive impact on the team each game impresses the winger — the man who set Plata up for his goal.

“He’s just feeling it, and it is not a surprise. He hits the heck out of the ball and is sharp around the goal. This guy is a goal scorer,” Wingert said. “He’s got an unbelievable fighting spirit and competes like crazy. He’s a beast, and I love playing with him.”

Plata pushed for another potential scoring run late in the 86th minute. He charged down the sideline and crossed the ball to an open Robbie Findley. Robles charged the ball and was able to secure it before Findley could get a cleat on it, preventing the go-ahead goal.

RSL team morale remains high despite missing out on several scoring opportunities to win the game. RSL defender Nat Borchers is confident the team will capitalize on those opportunities as the season continues.

“We had a pretty good game [tonight], and I think that we’re doing the right things; we created some great chances, and we just got to keep pushing through it,” Borchers said. “That just means we’re going to keep creating chances and we’re going to get those goals.”

Real Salt Lake looks to maintain a foothold on second place in the Western Conference when it travels to Denver, Colorado, to play for the Rocky Mountain Cup against rival the Colorado Rapids on Aug. 2.

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