Sandy • Fireworks eventually filled the night sky over Rio Tinto Stadium.
But first there were plenty of explosions on the field. After a perfect June, Real Salt Lake kicked off its July 4 vacation by battling back twice from deficits to draw 2-2 with the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night.
The outlook was bleak at first for RSL. After Sebastien Le Toux found the back of the net in the first half, and RSL defender Lovel Palmer found his way into the referee’s book with a red card, Salt Lake was down a goal and a man late in the game.
When RSL finally found the equalizer, it lasted only a matter of seconds.
But down 2-1 late in stoppage time, a handball call put Javier Morales at the spot. The Argentine midfielder, wearing the captain’s armband, stutter stepped at the ball and then pinged it off the right cross bar and into the side netting.
“To get it to 1-1 and feel like we’re in control of this game even though we’re down a guy, and then to concede literally seconds later, that would take the air out of some teams,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. “To keep fighting like that, I think it says a lot about our group.”
It was Philly’s Conor Casey who lit the first fuse even before the sun had fully set. The former Colorado Rapid ran onto a ball sent down the right flank, maneuvered past a sliding Carlos Salcedo and found Le Toux standing in front of the goal. The Frenchman beat backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders to put the Union up 1-0 in the 13th minute.
RSL coach Jason Kreis looked for a spark of his own when he brought Luis Gil and forward Olmes Garcia on in the second half. But a questionable red card on Palmer in the 59th minute seemed like it would douse any momentum RSL was building.
Gil, making his first appearance for Real since leaving for the U-20 World Cup last month, tied things up with a 75th-minute header off a Morales corner kick.
The sellout crowd of 20,446 was still singing when the Union’s Casey took advantage of a defensive letdown to recapture the lead less than a minute later.
Salt Lake was without usual defensive starters Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Tony Beltran, who will miss a total of four games in July as they play with the U.S. national team during Gold Cup play. But Kreis said he was pleased with how his reserves performed.
“I think we have to be very comfortable to see a group like that, that has that much fight and that much spirit to come back in this game,” Kreis said. “It says a lot about their character. The night wasn’t the best night for some of the guys soccer-wise. … But what they did give was everything they could.”
Saunders came up with arguably the play of the game, stonewalling a one-on-one with Le Toux in stoppage time to keep the game within a goal. Then, in the 95th minute, the handball was called and the referee pointed to the spot.
Morales raced up to the ball, stuttered, and then fired his shot. The crowd at Rio Tinto exploded.
Real Salt Lake 2, Union 2
O RSL rallies from a pair of one-goal deficits despite playing much of the match a man down.
• After Luis Gil ties the game at 1 in the 75th minute, RSL allows a go-ahead score just seconds later.
• Javier Morales converts a PK in second-half stoppage time.
Real Salt Lake 2,Union 2
Philadelphia 1 1 — 2
Real Salt Lake 0 2 — 2
First half » 1, Philadelphia, Le Toux 3 (Casey, Williams), 13th minute.
Second half » 2, Real Salt Lake, Gil 3 (Morales), 75th. 3, Philadelphia, Casey 6 (Hoppenot), 76th. 4, Real Salt Lake, Morales 4 (penalty kick), 90th+.
Goalies » Philadelphia, Zac MacMath; Real Salt Lake, Josh Saunders.
Yellow Cards • Carroll, Philadelphia, 33rd; Wingert, Real Salt Lake, 90th+; Wheeler, Philadelphia, 90th+.
Red Cards • Palmer, Real Salt Lake, 59th.
Referee • Ismail Elfath. Assistant Referees • Corey Rockwell. Jeremy Hanson. 4th Official • Kevin Terry.
Attendance » 20,445 (20,008)
Philadelphia • Zac MacMath, Jeff Parke, Sheanon Williams, Raymon Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Leo Fernandes (Aaron Wheeler, 86th), Michael Farfan (Antoine Hoppenot, 61st), Brian Carroll, Danny Cruz (Matt Kassel, 65th), Conor Casey, Sebastien Le Toux.
Real Salt Lake • Josh Saunders, Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers, Lovel Palmer, Carlos Salcedo, Javier Morales, Yordany Alvarez (Luis Gil, 58th), Khari Stephenson (Sebastian Velasquez, 71st), Ned Grabavoy, Joao Plata, Robbie Findley (Olmes Garcia, 56th).