MONTERREY, Mexico - Real Salt Lake came away from Monterrey with one of the results that Coach Jason Kreis said earlier in the week would be acceptable: a draw. Now they have destiny in their own hands thanks to a marvelous equalizer from midfielder Javier Morales, whose late strike gave RSL a 2-2 scoreline to take back to Utah.
“The result, that’s huge,” said Kreis. “Now there are three results that will advance us: nil-nil, one-one, or any kind of win.”
Although Monterrey created a number of chances, goalkeeper Nick Rimando felt that his squad earned a just result in the contest.
“We deserved to get a tie here, if not a victory,” said Rimando, who came up with four big saves in the match. “We had two unlucky bounces that they got their goals on – a penalty kick and a missed play, and we scored two beautiful goals.”
Rimando dismissed the notion that the result came down to good fortune.
“There’s no way we feel like we got lucky coming out of here with a tie,” Rimando insisted.
Real Salt Lake took the brunt of a potent Monterrey attack in the initial minutes, before adjusting and playing solid for much of the first half despite giving up the first goal.
Kreis indicated that his team was caught a bit off guard by los Rayados attack initially.
“They pinned us back, and pinned us back, and were throwing so many numbers forward,” said the RSL coach. “We’re not used to seeing that to be honest. When they’re throwing the outside backs forward on every single play, the numbers just look different than what we’re used to.”
Kyle Beckerman agreed that they had to adjust to their opponent.
“We didn’t really know what these guys were,” Beckerman explained. “And then in that first half we felt like ‘hey we’re better than this team, let’s go.’”
The second half had a different feel as Monterrey controlled much of the play and put RSL on the back foot.
“The second half I think we just ran out of gas,” Beckerman said.
Stellar work along the back line by Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers – who scored RSL’s first goal – cleaning up some potential chances helped to keep the visitors in the thick of things.
Rimando was particularly proud of the fight he saw from his teammates.
“I think five years ago, we put our heads down,” he said, noting the grit and maturity of the team. “We have the players up top and in the midfield to make special plays and that’s what happened.
The final goal of the night was one such of those special plays.
“Javier got the ball, and had a great touch,” Rimando described of the equalizing score. “And [he] cut a player and hit home with what could be a decisive goal in the series.”
Morales noted that he had a quick change of mind in the moment.
“In the beginning when I got the ball, I thought about the shot,” explained Morales, “but when the defender came too close, I cut and then took the shot.”
Beckerman wasn’t surprised with the result. “I knew he was going to score. I knew it was going in once he got the ball. It was great! It was awesome!”