RSL notes: Win was a massive shot in the arm
By JUSTIN JOHNSON
While it's far, far too early in a long season to celebrate much, Real Salt Lake's shocking come-from-behind result against Portland could become a massive shot in the arm.
So often in sports, especially at the professional level, momentum is a critical component in finding success.
With about 90 seconds left in regulation, RSL was facing a two-match losing streak, and the prospect of having its early-season momentum, garnered by multiple-goal wins over high-spending Los Angeles and New York, snuffed out before the calendar turned to April.
Jonny Steele changed all that.
Entering as a 78th minute strategic substitution for defender Tony Beltran, Steele artfully stepped through the Timbers' defense in the box and smashed home a 15-yarder that drew the scoreline even in the 89th minute.
While Real had the run of play in the match at that point, it was a stunning change that quieted Portland's sellout crowd.
"I just came into the game and looked to make an impact, and that's what happened," Steele said. "We got the goals we wanted. I happened to be in the right spot to score the goal, and that moment really gave us the buzz to get going the rest of the way."
Keeping their foot firmly on the pedal, RSL raced into command of the match when team Kyle Beckerman hit an open volley into the back of the net in the third minute of stoppage time.
"We had to try to keep pushing," Beckerman said. "We would have been OK with a tie, but we are fortunate to come out with a win."
And just like that, within a span of five minutes, Real's early-season momentum was restored, sending the Utah side soaring into a pair of short-rest matches this week at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"We will take some confidence boosts from this, and, of course, winning gives that to you," Beckerman said. "(Now) we have to turn around and get ready for the game on Wednesday, because it doesn't stop."
It certainly doesn't stop, but grinding out a road win over one of the league's best home-field teams sends Salt Lake into Wednesday's clash with league newcomer Montreal with a full sail of steam.
Switching it up
After starting the same lineup in each of Real's first three matches, RSL boss Jason Kreis shook things up a little on Saturday night.
Midfielder Javier Morales and forward Alvaro Saborio, who have both seen action off the bench while recovering fitness after injuries, made their first start of the season, as did defender Nat Borchers who took to the first for the first time in 2012.
All three players went the full 90 minutes of the match, while midfielder Will Johnson also made his 2012 debut off the bench in the 59 minute as he replaced Luis Gil, and earned the assist on Steele's equalizing goal.
You can follow Justin Johnson on Twitter at: @jjohnson801 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.