By TYLER GRAY
SANDY, Utah – It was a hero’s welcome for Real Salt Lake’s two national team players but they would have to get past a talented New England Revolution side full of young talent.
RSL took advantage of two penalty kicks to down the Revolution 2-1 on a sultry fourth of July evening. New England tied the match in the 37th minute off a free kick but spot kicks from both Javier Morales and Joao Plata would prove to be the difference in the end.
When asked at practice earlier in the week if Kyle Beckerman or Nick Rimando would start, head coach Jeff Casar replied, “Probably not.”
So what changed the rookie head coach’s mind?
“It was really just communication with those two. Once I talked to both of them and I was able to hear their voices and feel that they wanted to be, not that they had to, it was a no brainer. After talking to the coaches, it was something the team needed. It needed that little pick-me-up.”
RSL looked brighter right from the opening whistle. Their passing and movement was noticeably sharper, pinning the Revolution in their end for most of the match.
“Obviously having Kyle and Nick coming back and giving us that extra boost of confidence and calmness on the ball helped out tremendously,” Cassar said. “But I think what I was really pleased with is the way we started the game and the way we finished the game. We were really aggressive in trying to play in there end.”
RSL got their breakthrough in the 35th minute when Revolution defender, Darrius Barnes, committed a foul in the box. Barnes appeared to undercut RSL defender Chris Schuler as he attempted to rise up and get his head to the incoming corner kick and referee Alan Chapman whistled for a penalty.
Morales was the man who would step to the spot and give RSL the lead, calmly slotting a low shot to the right of a diving Shuttleworth.
Barnes redeemed himself when he flew through the air and connected with Chris Tierney’s dipping free kick in the 37th minute. He headed the ball past USMNT goalkeeper Nick Rimando and silenced the sellout crowd only moments after he was whistled for a penalty in his own box.
Shuttleworth had displayed some impressive saves for most of the first half, keeping the Revolution in the match up until that point with some sharp goalkeeping, parrying away a Luis Gil shot and squashing a number of dangerous balls from the home side.
The New England goalkeeper would be beaten from the spot again, however, in the 65th minute.
RSL midfielder John Sterzer got a touch to the ball in New England’s penalty area and Tierney’s tackle got all of Sterzer and none of the ball, eliciting a second penalty whistle from Chapman.
Plata blasted his PK attempt into the back of the net to give RSL its second and final goal of the evening.
It was Plata’s seventh goal of the season and it vaulted him to the top of RSL’s scoring list for the season, passing the injured Alvaro Saborio. The victory ended a five-match losing streak for the claret-and-cobalt and proved to be a good welcome home gift to its World Cup Returnees.
RSL defender Nat Borchers stressed the importance of the win after a stretch of bad results for RSL.
“It’s great,” Borchers said. “This was an important game for us just to get out of the rut in terms of results and build our confidence again.”
Here are the match highlights: