Sandy • The fans were anxious. The game was all but dead.
Surely, Real Salt Lake was sunk.
But after twice giving up the lead at home on agonizing mistakes by its backup goalkeeper, the team miraculously found a way to steal a victory when defender Nat Borchers fired a loose ball into the top corner of the net in stoppage time to beat FC Dallas 3-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.
“To be a season-ticket holder right now,” coach Jason Kreis said. “We’re giving them their money’s worth, for sure.”
While Borchers raced madly across the grass in celebration and 19,341 fans erupted in jubilation — “I just was running as hard as I could, and I got tired,” he joked — goalkeeper Kyle Reynish exhaled deeply at the other end of the field, knowing he would not wind up the scapegoat for uncharacteristically letting in two equalizers in a 10-minute span late in the game.
“I definitely got bailed out by the guys, there,” Reynish said.
In the chaotic end, RSL won its sixth straight home game against FC Dallas, improved to 9-3-2 and extended its overall unbeaten streak to six games. It also vaulted back into first place in the MLS Western Conference, two points ahead of San Jose — though the Earthquakes play at Sporting KC on Sunday.
Alvaro Saborio scored twice for RSL, which was playing its only league game in a five-week span without four regular starters — midfielders Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman, defender Chris Wingert and goalkeeper Nick Rimando — who were either out injured or away on international duty.
Both times, Saborio gave his team a lead that it normally would make stand up at home.
But twice, Reynish couldn’t stop the Hoops.
He managed to parry a shot by FC Dallas’ Matt Hedges in the 75th minute, but he did so from just inside his own goal. Then, after Saborio had quickly scored his second goal, Reynish was caught flat-footed in the 85th minute as a shot by Blas Perez deflected off his right hand and into the net.
“He probably needed to do better,” Kreis said.
Nevertheless, he was off the hook as soon as Borchers rode stunningly to the rescue. His game-winning goal from the left side of the penalty box was his first of the season; Saborio has six now to lead the team.
“It was just fortuitous,” Borchers said. “I was just waiting for the ball to drop to my feet. I try to get as close to goal as I possibly can, and I think I just got really fortunate on that play.”
“Really,” he added, “that was the only shot I could hit, from that angle.”
While RSL enjoyed its massive relief, FC Dallas watched its winless streak stretch to nine games (0-6-3) since April 14. The Hoops have struggled with injuries this season, and played their third game in eight days without suspended national-team midfielder Brek Shea.
“I thought we did enough to come away with a point,” coach Schellas Hyndman said.
Alas, RSL had some magic in the air … or maybe it was just experience. The team has pulled out three 3-2 victories already this season with thrilling goals in stoppage time.
“I’m hoping for a calm one, at some point,” Kreis said, “when we put somebody away.”