SANDY, Utah — The nickname possibilities are endless: Man of Steele, Jonny on the Spot, Dear John.
Regardless, Real Salt Lake’s Jonny Steele’s name will be mentioned more than once in the coming days after his stoppage-time strike gave RSL a 3-2 win over Toronto FC.
It was all very similar to what happened in Portland a few weeks back, when Steele came on as a second-half sub and scored a very late equalizer.
Full Match Highlights
“Maybe now he’ll be the Super Sub,” head coach Jason Kreis said in his postgame remarks. “I know that Jonny is going to want more minutes going forward and if he keeps contributing in that fashion then he’ll get more consideration. I’m really pleased with his calmness on the ball to strike that and make sure he caught the frame.”
The match-winning play actually owes a debt to Kreis' tactical shift: going with three in the back. The midfield pushed further up in search of more offense and the winner, and it is no surprise that three midfielders made the goal. Javier Morales started the play with a rainbow flick to himself over the head of a defender and then a marksman-like cross to Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman stretched to settle the ball and dropped it back for Steele to take the strike.
“I saw it coming across,” explained Beckerman. “At first I’m thinking to try and take a trap and try and turn quick, and Jonny screamed. It happened so quickly. I just laid it off, and he did the rest.”
Steele has now played in eight of the club’s 10 matches so far, mostly as a late substitute. Still, his first few minutes on the pitch weren’t so comfortable.
“I was struggling to breathe right there when I came in,” Steele said. “I think it was the travelling and the altitude. Obviously it’s hard. The first couple of touches I got, I gave the ball away so I was under pressure straight away, and I said, ‘I have to do something here or I’m going to get taken off.’ And I banged it in.”
The goal, of course, doomed Toronto FC to a seventh straight loss, a record-tying streak to open a season. The TFC players felt they had enough chances to win the match, while Kreis clearly saw it the other way around.
“On a different night, I think we win that game handily,” he said after the match. “I think on the other side of that, we could have lost that game, because we took a ton of risks at the end. Fortune favored the bold, I guess. When we’re at home, we go for three points, and nothing less is acceptable.”
The three points were important to RSL beyond just doing what is acceptable at home. They keep RSL tied on points with Western Conference leaders San Jose, who won earlier in the day. Real are behind on goal differential, plus the Earthquakes have two games in hand.
“It’s good to get the three points, keeping us up with San Jose,” Steele said. “It’s a big three points for us.”