It’s often said in sports that “winners find a way, and losers find an excuse." For defending MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake, they’ve been finding a way to win throughout this 2010 season, and Saturday night's 2-1 victory on the road at New England was another example.
RSL looked exhausted and were chasing much more than they are used to. The Revolution seemed intent on keeping the ball away from the champs, who are accustomed to controlling the ball and the pace of play. From the early moments, it looked like a result for the visitors was going to be a long shot at Gillette Stadium.
“I was very concerned that we wouldn’t have the necessary energy to finish up what’s been a very trying and difficult travel schedule,” RSL manager Jason Kreis told ESPN 700 Sports Radio after the game.
But as the match marched into the middle portion of the second half, and just when it looked like a scoreless draw would be a best-case scenario for RSL, defender Nat Borchers rose up to break the deadlock with a reverse header that was almost identical to his equalizer against Colorado last weekend.
“I don’t think it’s anything other than being in the right place at the right time,” Borchers mentioned on ESPN 700 Sports Radio. “[Javier Morales] put in a great ball and all I had to do was put my head on it.”
After the Revolution mounted a furious reaction to tie the score, a draw once again seemed inevitable until striker Alvaro Saborio put RSL ahead with a header off a Morales corner kick. The goal in the 84th minute would prove to be the game-winner and gave RSL an important three points in their pursuit of the Supporters' Shield. They temporarily lead that race pending Sunday's result from the Los Angeles SuperClásico between the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA.
The Revolution, no longer in playoff contention, may have had the better of play in the field, outshooting RSL 19-4 on the night, but they fell victim to one of Real Salt Lake’s strongest weapons this season: set pieces. The visitors' two goals – one from a free kick just outside of the area, and the other off a corner kick – were the 12th and 13th from set pieces during league play for the club.
“Our guys are really, really pleased,” Kreis said of the mood in the locker room following the match. “I haven’t seen them this pleased in a long time. I think they are extremely happy that they battled back … and also just to be done with this extremely difficult stretch is pleasing to the guys as well.”
With just three league matches and one Champions League match remaining on the schedule, the load will seem much lighter than the grinding 14 games in a 56-day stretch that ended Saturday night. However, Borchers cautioned that his team has no room to take it easy.
“It’s definitely an easier schedule as far as the number of games coming up," Borchers said, "but it’s by no means an easy stretch of games.”