“Ever heard of je ne sais quoi? … je ne sais quoi. I don’t know. It’s just a feeling.” -Jason Kreis
Je ne sais quoi, indeed.
There are so many crucial plot points and varying storylines to last night’s monumental 2-0 victory over the L.A. Galaxy for Real Salt Lake.
The Velasquez goal.
The Morales goal called off on a phantom foul.
The hitting of the woodwork twice in four minutes.
The Schuler run.
The Schuler goal.
The 10 men to close out the final 10 minutes of the second extra-time period.
It culminated in what was one of RSL’s best performances of 2013, in a match it had to win to keep its season afloat, a match in which it trailed 1-0 against a team it had struggled mightily with during the regular season and the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal.
Kreis said there was something different heading into the match, a different feeling before kick, during the run of play and after RSL stunned the Galaxy. He was spot on. After giving the Galaxy six corners in the first half, RSL manhandled the final 75 minutes of play. Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers shut down Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert held the Galaxy flankers in check and Wingert assisted on Sebastian Velasquez’s 35th-minute goal.
“Yeah, I thought the guys – again – the energy on both sides of the ball when we had it. The movement was spectacular,” Kreis said. “There were players that were wanting to get forward to take opportunities, to take risks. Then the amount of the work they put in defensively was absolutely spectacular, especially in the midfield.”
It’s hard to single out any one player, but Schuler was the best player on the pitch Thursday night at Rio Tinto Stadium and for 120 minutes. Plagued by nagging foot injuries, Schuler’s return to health has been a revelation for RSL.
“I think we’re in pretty good form right now,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of momentum. Everyone’s been buzzing the whole time, and we had a nice fan base show up today. I’ve never heard our stadium be that loud. It’s pretty cool; it was a good experience. There are some good things going in our direction.”
I asked Kreis how RSL improved so dramatically from Sunday’s 1-0 loss at the StubHub Center and he zipped a, “How much time do we have?” response.
“I say it to the guys and I’ve said this in the press before, I think sometimes we do too much talking about tactics and shape, and all the other things, the beautiful game, the passing all these things,” he said. “For me, honest to God, every time Real Salt Lake wants to win the game more than their opponent we win the game. And tonight we wanted it more than the L.A. Galaxy.”
Now RSL has two days to prepare for the hottest team in the MLS in the No. 1-seeded Portland Timbers. Fresh off a 5-3 aggregate victory over the Seattle Sounders, Portland will be at Rio Tinto Stadium Sunday night for the first leg of the Western Conference finals.
The Timbers are the only Western Conference playoff side RSL didn’t lose to in regular season or Open Cup play, going 2-0-2 against the Timbers. Most recently, RSL tied the Timbers 0-0 at JELD-WEN Field on Oct. 19.
“Nothing comes easily in the playoffs, but it’s something we look forward to,” SAID captain Kyle Beckerman. “They’re a good team, we’re a good team and we just like to go against the best.”