With a number of key players missing, Real Salt Lake were going to need an unlikely hero to get a result against the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night, and in the end they found one as unlikely as any: Cole Grossman.
Down a goal and down a man on the road, RSL threw numbers forward searching for a result after the Timbers took an 85th-minute lead. And eight minutes later Grossman, making just his second appearance of the season as a late substitute, found himself in the right place at the right time after Luis Gil’s cross was deflected to him.
The RSL newcomer one-timed a shot to the near post, beating Timbers 'keeper Donovan Ricketts, allowing his team to leave Portland with a 3-3 draw on just his second-ever MLS goal.
“The ball just popped out to me,” Grossman said in the postgame TV interview. “I just tried to keep it on net and luckily I hit it with the left foot and it went in. So I’m happy to help the team in any way I can.”
It’s been a long road back for the St. Louis native, who suffered a concussion against FC Dallas on March 23, but the former Columbus Crew man says that all the hard work he’s put in since then has paid off.
“It feels great," he said. "I think that anybody that has had a concussion knows it’s a tough process; long road. It’s been hard for me. Some days you feel great. Some days you don’t feel so great. It feels good to help the team in this game and just keep fighting and work my way back into the 18.”
RSL head coach Jason Kreis spoke highly of the play of Grossman, and revealed that he wasn’t surprised that he was able to get the goal.
“Cole has been playing extremely well in trainings lately,” said Kreis, “scoring lots of goals. So it didn’t surprise me that the ball comes onto his foot and he knows what to do with it.”
Grossman is the 16th player to score for RSL this season, showcasing the impressive depth that the Claret-and-Cobalt have built up all year long. RSL were missing stalwarts Kyle Beckerman (suspension), Alvaro Saborio (injury) and Nick Rimando (stomach virus), but Kreis said that it was nothing new.
“Been there, done that,” said Kreis. “Some of the best players on our team have missed games for one reason or another. We just look down the sideline and say, ‘OK, it’s your turn.’”
And on Grossman's turn, he took full advantage.