SANDY, Utah – A cautionary tale of getting down early at home and chasing the game in the middle of a week turned into a persevering 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls for Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Second-half sub Jordan Allen brought the right amount of spark and luck for the game-winner as RSL remained unbeaten at home this season. A lethargic and forgettable first half gave way to an aggressive second half for the hosts and their starters.
"Guys have played some unbelievable minutes and still had energy towards the end of the game," Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar said following the game.
In RSL’s stretch of three games in eight days, Wednesday’s game depended on some 90-minute performances from players who had already gone 210 minutes over the past week. Cassar kept his lineup largely intact from the weekend's draw against Portland, but that wasn’t apparent in the second half.
"We were just imposing our will,” Cassar said. “They were changing their formation, changing their strategy, trying to bring players on. I really liked what we did in the second half.”
Midfielder John Stertzer had to come on in the 14th minute for the injured Sunday Stephen and Allen entered the game in the 60th minute, moments before the RSL attack ended New York’s 472-minute shutout streak. Stertzer assisted on Yura Movsisyan’s header to equalize the game at 1-1.
"I thought each sub brought something to the game and that's important.” Cassar said. “John was very, very good tonight. I thought Jordan was very exciting and brought exactly what we needed to the game.”
Allen found exactly the right angle in the 87th minute to score the game-winner. He one-timed a Tony Beltran pass at the top of the box after narrowly avoiding teammate Olmes Garcia. His shot deflected off New York’s Chris Duvall and nestled in the back of the net for the final 2-1 margin.
"The biggest thing was trying to get Olmes out of the way,” Allen said. “In the end, I almost kind of pushed him out of the way like he was a defender."
Allen has now scored three goals and assisted on another in 10 games and six starts this season. The youngster has worked his way into being the first sub off the bench in most games and has found that spark that he can provide.
“The most important thing when I’m coming off the bench is to come in and be myself," Allen said. "When you do come off the bench everybody is looking to you for fresh ideas and fresh energy. It's a big move when you come in and today, luckily I was able to help out."
Real Salt Lake travel to FC Dallas on Saturday in their lone road game over the next three weeks.