July 14, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Real Salt Lake
FRISCO, Texas - Real Salt Lake (11-5-4, 37 points, West #1) extended its club-record unbeaten streak to 11 games across all competitions on Saturday night, overcoming five key absences to beat FC Dallas (8-5-7-, 31 points, West #2) 3-0 at FC Dallas Stadium.
The victory - the team's first ever in Texas and 100th in MLS regular season play - extends RSL's lead at the top of the Supporters' Shield standings, putting the Claret-and-Cobalt four points ahead of second-place Sporting Kansas City. RSL now has a six point lead in the Western Conference race over second-place sides FCD and the Portland Timbers. The Utah side now has the most points per game of any team in the league.
Unfortunately, the Claret-and-Cobalt didn't escape the match unscathed, as GK Josh Saunders had to leave the match with a left LCL sprain early in the second half. Normal third-string GK Jeff Attinella performed very well in relief of Saunders, making three big saves and keeping the clean-sheet in his MLS debut.
With Captain Kyle Beckerman, DF Tony Beltran, GK Nick Rimando and FW Alvaro Saborio all unavailable due to international duty and DF Lovel Palmer suspended for the match, RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis ran out an unfamiliar looking lineup, starting the game in a seldom-used 4-5-1 formation. The Claret-and-Cobalt took a while to adapt to the tactical switch, beginning the game on the back foot and nearly conceding on several occasions in the opening 30 minutes.
Dallas's first chance came in the sixth minute. MF Fabian Castillo had the look, getting loose on the right wing before cutting into the box and ripping a left-footer that looked ticketed for the far post off of FCD FW Kenny Cooper.
Castillo had another opportunity five minutes later. The Colombian attacker again raced down the right side, ripping a shot on frame that Saunders parried over the bar.
Cooper missed a golden chance in the 19th minute. Dallas MF Jackson got free in the right side of the box near the end line, squaring a low cross into Cooper inside the six. Fortunately for RSL, the big striker couldn't put his shot anywhere near the target, popping it well wide of the mark.
Cooper had another big miss in the 27th minute. Castillo again got free in the right side, cutting a cross to the middle that Cooper volleyed wide from six yards out.
RSL started taking more initiative following Cooper's second miss, registering half chances in the 35th and 36th minutes before taking the lead with a quick counterattack in the 39th. The play began deep in RSL's end when FCD DF Jair Benitez drilled a 25-yard free kick into the RSL wall. The Claret-and-Cobalt quickly broke, with MF Javier Morales eventually picking up the ball on the left flank. The Argentine playmaker dribbled into the area and brilliantly shot through the legs of Dallas DF Zach Loyd and inside the far post from 15 yards to give RSL the lead.
Saunders initially suffered his injury in the 41st minute, landing awkwardly and twisting his left knee after coming off his line to attempt to punch out a cross. He immediately went down but continued playing after receiving treatment. He started the second half in net but went down again in the 49th minute after taking a goal kick, eventually subbing off for Attinella in the 51st.
Attinella had his first significant action in the 64th minute. Castillo got in yet again, dribbling into a dangerous position in the left side of the box. He looked to be in a good position to shoot, but Attinella was quick off his line, stripping the ball away with a sliding challenge.
RSL gave Attinella an insurance goal in the 79th minute, when MF Ned Grabavoy finished a fine move to double the Claret-and-Cobalt's advantage. Morales started the play, slipping DF Abdoulie Mansally in on the left flank. Mansally collected the ball and smartly cut a pass back to the top of the box for Grabavoy, who took a touch and slammed a half volley into the top-right corner from just beyond the spot.
Attinella came up with a huge stop in the 88th minute. Castillo picked up a loose ball on the right edge of the area, hitting a first time cross to substitute MF Ramon NuÃÂ±ez just outside the six. NuÃÂ±ez snapped a solid header that looked ticketed for the roof of the net, but Attinella reacted quickly, pawing the attempt up and over the bar.
Substitute FW Olmes Garcia made it 3-0 in the 90th minute. Morales again started the play, playing MF Luis Gil through in the right side of the box. Gil lofted a cross to the middle, where FW Joao Plata fortuitously whiffed an attempted volley to allow the ball to slip to the back post to Garcia, who slotted a half volley home from 12 yards out.
Real Salt Lake will return to action next Saturday, July 20, when it will host Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City at 8:00 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium. Next Saturday's match will be followed by postgame fireworks in celebration of Pioneer Day.