SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union both entered Saturday’s matchup missing several first choice players, but they battled in exciting fashion to a 2-1 result at Rio Tinto Stadium.
With the win, RSL climbed up the Western Conference table, leapfrogging the Colorado Rapids to take over fourth place and the top spot in the wild card race for the playoffs.
Real Salt Lake appeared to be headed for a cruise control victory after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the opening 26 minutes of the match via Kyle Beckerman and Chris Schuler, but Sebastién Le Toux put Philadelphia back in the match with a goal in the 30th.
The first goal came off of a corner kick by Beckerman in the 18th minute. The midfielder played it short to Paulo Jr. and then looped around toward the top of the penalty area. After receiving the return pass, Beckerman found himself unhindered, took a few touches to size up his shot, and unleashed a wicked blast into the upper right corner that left Union ‘keeper Faryd Mondragón helpless.
Just eight minutes later, RSL earned another corner in the Philly end. Beckerman again gave the delivery, this time picking out the head of 6-foot-4 Schuler, and the towering center back easily connected with the ball to guide a header past Mondragón.
The Union, though, refused to go down without a fight and Le Toux cut the deficit in half at the half-hour mark. Justin Mapp broke free down the left side of the field, and delivered an early cross to the Frenchman, who was making the run into the right side of the penalty area. Le Toux first-timed his shot to beat RSL goalie Nick Rimando.
It appeared that the home side was going to push back to a two-goal advantage shortly after. In the 38th minute, Fabián Espíndola picked off a pass, sped towards the goal, and chipped Mondragón, who came off his line to thwart the attempt. As the ball floated towards the net, a Philly defender Stefani Miglioranzi managed to knock it wide just before it reached the goal mouth.
The Union’s best chance to equalize came in the middle of the second half. After some nice interchange, Mapp ran beat RSL’s Tony Beltran to a loose ball in the box, opened his hips, but let loose a soft shot that Rimando had no trouble stopping.
In the 68th minute, Espíndola returned the favor at the other end. The forward pounced on a pass and sped past three defenders and into the box. Union ‘keeper Zac MacMath, who made his MLS debut after coming on for Mondragón at the start of the second, kept out Espíndola’s first attempt but spilled the ball. The RSL attacker picked up the rebound, rounded the young goalie, and again shot towards goal only to have his second shot blocked by Danny Califf.
Real Salt Lake next travel to Seattle to take on the Sounders, who currently sit on the second spot in the Western Conference. Their match is set for Sept. 10 at 4 pm ET.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, will have two chances to snag some points this week. The Union host New England on Sept. 7 at 8 pm ET, then prepare to receive Portland three days later at 7:30 pm ET.
RSL -- Kyle Beckerman 3 (Paulo Araujo Jr. 3) 18
RSL -- Chris Schuler 2 (Kyle Beckerman 8) 26
PHI -- Sebastien Le Toux 4 (Justin Mapp 3) 30
RSL -- Robbie Russell (caution; Reckless Foul) 35
PHI -- Danny Califf (caution; Tactical Foul) 67
Philadelphia Union -- Faryd Mondragon (Zac MacMath 46), Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Stefani Miglioranzi, Michael Farfan, Justin Mapp (Roger Torres 68), Sebastien Le Toux, Kyle Nakazawa (Freddy Adu 59), Amobi Okugo, Veljko Paunovic, Danny Mwanga.
Substitutes Not Used: Gabriel Farfan, Juan Diego Gonzalez, Jack McInerney, Zach Pfeffer.
Real Salt Lake -- Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Chris Schuler, Robbie Russell (Blake Wagner 89), Andy Williams, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil, Collen Warner (Ned Grabavoy 73), Paulo Araujo Jr. (Cody Arnoux 66), Fabian Espindola.
Substitutes Not Used: Rauwshan McKenzie, Alvaro Saborio, Donny Toia, Tim Melia.
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Referee's Assistants: Frank Anderson; Paul Scott
4th Official: Allen Chapman
Time of Game: 1:52