Frisco, Texas • It’s Texas. What can go wrong for Real Salt Lake, will go wrong.
In the chamber of horrors that is FC Dallas Stadium, it seemed like more of the same Wednesday evening when an agonizingly borderline call handed FC Dallas a penalty kick that it turned into a lead just before halftime. RSL went to the locker room trailing, shocked and staring dead into the eyes of a three-game losing streak.
But the Texas curse — the one that has kept RSL winless in 19 games in the state, including an 0-8-2 record at Dallas — took a little bit of a hit thanks to a stirring second half that led to a 1-1 draw that left coach Jason Kreis satisfied, if still less than fulfilled.
“I’m pleased with the point but I wanted all three,” Kreis said. “I think with a little bit more and a little bit better, we walk out of here with all three.”
His club was within an inch of doing just that. In the waning moments of the first half, a seemingly harmless bouncing ball off a Dallas free kick barely brushed the elbow of RSL defender Tony Beltran in the penalty area, and referee Geoff Gamble immediately whistled him for a handball — and a penalty kick for FCD.
“I cleared [the ball] off somebody and it came back and barely grazed my elbow,” Beltran said. “There was really no chance for me to get out of the way of that ball.”
Dallas midfielder Brek Shea buried the penalty for the game’s first goal, putting RSL where it always seems to be at Dallas — behind. And, as in Saturday’s loss at San Jose, it left Kreis to rally his troops after a demoralizing goal before halftime.
“I just asked the guys for just a little bit more and a little bit better,” the coach said. “For the second week in a row, we get scored on right before halftime, and that can be mentally draining. But we kept together and played a much better second half. … We just have to figure out a way to stretch that 45 minutes to 90.”
Taking advantage of a 23-mph wind at its back in the second half, RSL turned around a game that FC Dallas seemed to be controlling, even with forward Blas Perez — who leads FCD with three goals and three assists — out due to a league-imposed suspension. RSL was outshot 9-2 in the first half but reversed that total after halftime, putting pressure on the Dallas defense with strong scoring chances from midfielder Will Johnson and forward Alvaro Saborio.
Finally, in the 72nd minute, Real Salt Lake broke through. Johnson received a pass with his back to the goal, then wheeled and slid one down the middle for Emiliano Bonfigli, a rookie from Argentina who entered the game two minutes before. Bonfigli broke past FCD defender George John and sent a left-footed shot past backup goalkeeper Chris Seitz to tie the match with his first career MLS goal.
RSL had a late chance to grab the win when Saborio broke into the clear on a counterattack and found himself one-on-one with Seitz, but the keeper — playing in place of injured starter Kevin Hartman — came off his line to smother the ball before Saborio could get the shot away.
Still, a tie on the road — especially in Texas — was enough to put a smile on the faces of RSL’s players.
“This team has the experience of going all over North and Central America and getting points on the road in tough places to play,” Johnson said. “We’re an experienced team. We expect to get points, and this just validates our belief that we’re a good team and we know how to play on the road.”
RSL 1, FC Dallas 1
Real Salt Lake 0 1 — 1
FC Dallas 1 0 — 1
First half » 1, FC Dallas, Shea 2 (penalty kick), 45th minute.
Second half » 2, Real Salt Lake, Bonfigli 1 (Johnson), 72nd.
Goalies » Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando . FC Dallas, Chris Seitz.
Yellow cards • Johnson, Real Salt Lake, 28th.
Referee • Geoff Gamble. Assistant referees • Joe Fletcher. Philippe Briere. 4th official • Drew Fischer.
Real Salt Lake • Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Will Johnson (Jonny Steele, 83rd), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Luis Gil (Ned Grabavoy, 55th), Paulo Junior (Emiliano Bonfigli, 69th), Alvaro Saborio.
FC Dallas • Chris Seitz, George John, Ugo Ihemelu, Bobby Warshaw (Hernan Pertuz, 80th), Jair Benitez, Zach Loyd, Brek Shea, Daniel Hernandez, Carlos Rodriguez (Jackson, 56th), Scott Sealy (Jonathan Top, 68th), Fabian Castillo.