Sandy • Real Salt Lake couldn’t crack an undermanned Phoenix FC squad, delivering a late attacking blitz on a backup goalkeeper but failing to find a goal in a 0-0 draw with the USL Pro squad Monday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The match was played nine versus 10 for an entire 45 minutes after a melee during stoppage at the end of the first half resulted in three red cards. RSL lost center back Kwame Watson-Siriboe, while Phoenix FC saw goalkeeper Andrew Weber and defender Renan Boufleur sent off.
Here’s how it happened: RSL’s Chris Wingert said a Phoenix player was holding his jersey in a scrum in front of the RSL goal as they awaited a free kick.
“He’s grabbing me, grabbing me, so I push him off and he went down like he got punched in the face, which clearly didn’t happen,” Wingert said. “So then I’m telling him to get up, he’s making a meal of it. Then a melee ensues.”
Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Velasquez, who was setting up to take the free kick said “at one point I saw they were holding each other’s necks, and obviously they’re going to get a red card for that kind of behavior.”
Weber, the Phoenix goalie, took to Twitter to defend himself after the match.
“I hope they watch the tapes to tonight’s game so they can see that I did not throw a punch and was trying to break it up,” he tweeted at USL Pro officials.
In another tweet, Weber said, an RSL player was “choking out out team mate (sic) and all I did was grab his hand and remove it from our team mates (sic) throat.”
Down a man for an entire half, Phoenix bunkered in defensively against RSL.
Some of RSL’s best chances came from distance. In the 67th minute, defender Carlos Salcedo drilled a shot from outside the box that sailed just over the crossbar. And in the 79th minute, midfielder Khari Stephenson launched a laser on frame only to see it knocked away by the diving goalie.
“We just didn’t come out with the energy that this kind of game needed,” assistant coach Jeff Cassar said afterward. “Because [Phoenix] wanted it. Those guys on the field all want our players’ positions and jobs and they played a little bit more hungry than we did.”
Depth on display
RSL started a strong lineup for a reserve match. Six of the players in Monday’s starting eleven have started for the first team at one point or another this year. Wingert, who has yet to play with the first team this year as he comes back from injury, captained the squad.
Test grade: Incomplete
Real Salt Lake management said it would look at Monday night’s revenue numbers as it gauged the viability of creating its own USL Pro team, possibly in Utah. A crowd of more than 8,200 showed up to the game. But RSL management will be looking at total revenue - the amount spent on tickets, concessions and merchandise - not just people in the seats.
RSL family ties
Phoenix FC’s starting lineup featured a pair of RSL connections.
Weber, the goalie, trained with Salt Lake for a week this preseason in Casa Grande, Ariz. And defender Donny Toia was the first player to ever sign a homegrown contract with Real Salt Lake. He was on the roster for the 2011 season, but never logged a game with the first team.
— Aaron Falk