By TYLER GRAY
SANDY, Utah - Darren Mattocks ignited a wildfire at Rio Tinto Stadium when he drew a penalty and converted for the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.
Real Salt Lake rallied from the one-goal deficit via a late Joao Plata strike, cancelling out Mattocks’ 73rd minute penalty kick. The match ended tied at 1-1 but was overshadowed by some uglier moments.
Vancouver struck first in the 73rd minute thanks to the dangerous speed of their forward and the questionable decision of the man in the middle.
Mattocks was running full speed at RSL defender Nat Borchers, bearing down on goal, when it appeared that Borchers poked the ball away cleanly and nullified the threat. Referee Edvin Jurisevic saw things differently, however, and he blew the whistle and pointed to the spot.
“It’s not a PK,” RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said of the controversial call. “It’s 100 percent not a PK – I just watched it again. I wish the referee would, you know, be positive [about a call like that]. I went up to him afterwards and asked him ‘are you sure about that call?’ He said ‘pretty sure.’ It’s a PK in the box – you need to be sure.”
Mattocks buried the ensuing penalty kick low and hard as goalkeeper Nick Rimando guessed the wrong direction and the sellout crowd let Jurisevic know how they felt.
That’s when things began to get interesting
A scrum ensued as RSL tried to restart at midfield. Vancouver players were in the center circle and appeared to try to impede the kick when a shoving match broke out. Rio Tinto Stadium security staff had to insert themselves into the fray to finally settle the players down.
“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Borchers said after the game. “Two teams that want to win, you’re going to have a lot of words exchanged, and physical confrontation is just normal.”
The questionable call seemed to galvanize RSL as they began to play with much more energy when they were finally able to start play again.
Cassar removed defender Tony Beltran in the 78th minute and brought on substitute forward Olmes Garcia to provide more of an attacking punch. Within minutes, the move paid off as the home side equalized through the feet of Plata.
“It’s not something that I want to do all the time, putting three in the back – especially against a team that played with three up top – but it’s something that we needed. It brought in a lot of energy and it really was threatening,” Cassar said.
It was a good passing sequence that finally led to the breakthrough for RSL. Kyle Beckerman provided the assist when he played the ball to Plata out wide.
“It was just a play where I tried to get it off Luke [Mulholland],” Beckerman said. “I saw Javier [Morales] play it in to Luke [Mulholland], and that I was going to receive it back from him. He got the ball off to me, and I heard Plata screaming for it. I knew he was wide open, so I just played it.”
RSL’s leading goalscorer struck the ball powerfully and his shot sailed into the side netting of the far post to the delight of the 20,265 in attendance.
RSL continued to push for the winning goal, including an attempt at the spectacular when midfielder Luke Mulholland tried a bicycle kick on a full volley. Fortunately for Vancouver, Mulholland’s attempt was off target.
Real Salt Lake hosts the Montreal Impact for a midweek match. The Whitecaps host FC Dallas next weekend.
Here are the match highlights: