Real Salt Lake got their first win in Texas last night with an outstanding performance against FC Dallas. After a rocky start, with Dallas throwing men forward and challenging our defence, RSL plunged into the attack in a break off a missed free kick that left Javier Morales nutmegging a defender and past goalkeeper Raul Fernandez for the first goal in the 39th minute. Josh Saunders had an outstanding night, making save after save. However, a minute after Javi’s amazing goal, he went down in pain after punching away yet another attempt at his goal. Our lead looked even more precarious with Josh finishing out the first half having Carlos Salcedo taking the goal kicks. In the 50th minute, Josh went down again after trying to take his own goal kick, and was subbed out by newcomer Jeff Attinella making his MLS debut. Attinella performed surprisingly well, continuing where Josh left off and made several big saves of his own. Joao Plata came on in the 61st minute, but it wasn’t until Olmes Garcia lit up the field as soon as he set foot on it in the 70th that we saw the game really open up. Garcia made an immediate impact, charging the ball upfield and earning a free kick just outside the penalty box. Not ten minutes later, Abdoulie Mansally finds Ned Grabavoy at the top of the box to notch an assist in Grabavoy’s fourth goal of the season. Garcia wrapped up the game with the third goal of the night after an amazing setup play from Javier Morales, finding Gil outside the box who crosses it to Plata and Joao volleys it backwards back to Olmes who fires it home. And for once we got to see Olmes and Joao do their celebration dance with both of them on the field at the same time.
All the headlines are going to say that Real got their first win in Texas, but that wasn’t even the interesting part of the game.
No diamond? No problem!
Jason Kries debuted a new formation that we’ve maybe only seen a few times before this season at the end of the match when RSL was more or less closing up shop; a 4-5-1 that had Yordany Alvarez and Grabavoy as the two defensive midfielders, Sebastian Velasquez, Luis Gil and Javi in the attacking part of midfield, and Robbie Findley starting the game as the lone striker. It was a rough start without Kyle, with the midfield going too fast or too slow — Beckerman has a way of controlling the pace of the play — but 3 away goals in 94 degree heat somewhere RSL has historically had problems getting three points is nothing to complain about. Once they found their stride, they were able to pull away and take the win despite having less possession, fewer passes and fewer shots on goal.
Mansally, too, had an excellent night, showing his speed and range of abilities on both sides of the pitch and made the most of his start in Chris Wingert’s usual left back position. On the other hand, but for his involvement in the last goal of the night in the 90th minute, Gil was practically invisible on the field except when he was missing a pass.
With Josh Saunders out, we’re going to be seeing a lot of Jeff Attinella, at least through the end of the month when the CONCACAF Gold Cup finishes and Nick Rimando comes back. Official word from the team indicated a sprained LCL — which would hopefully be much better than a torn ACL, an injury that could easily have him out for the rest of the season — but a better prognosis should come after he goes in for MRIs. In an interview before the game, Josh had said that he really wanted to make up for his last appearance against FCD, his first in an RSL uniform, in which they left with a 2-0 shutout, so it was heartbreaking to see him have to leave the field in those circumstances. Nevertheless, Attinella was thrown into the fire last night and proved himself a more-than-capable backup keeper (or backup-backup, as the case may be) and I’m happy to have him on the roster.