RSL: 'Scoring boots' lift Salt Lake to victory
Carson, Calif. » Not long after Yura Movsisyan unwrapped his new, bright blue soccer cleats, the striker joked that he had finally acquired his proper "scoring boots." You know, just like the ones Lionel Messi wears.
And boy, do they work.
After finally snapping his long and frustrating scoring drought for Real Salt Lake just hours after pulling the shoes out of the box last weekend, Movsisyan did it again on Saturday night, negotiating around veteran defender Gregg Berhalter in the 13th minute and firing home the goal that propelled RSL to a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of 19,718 fans at the Home Depot Center that was every bit as important as it was impressive.
"It's huge," Movsisyan said. "Huge for the team. Huge for our confidence."
That's because the victory was the first on the road all season for RSL, and snapped both its seven-game winless streak and the Galaxy's 10-game unbeaten streak.
What's more, it pushed RSL back into the thick of the Major League Soccer playoff chase with a 4-6-3 record and 15 points, and suggested that Movsisyan might finally be regaining the scoring touch that made him the hero of last season's playoff run.
"The main thing was effort, our mentality coming in and believing in each other that we can do it," he said. "People might not believe it, outside of this room, but we still believe in each other."
Not since the first goal of the season nearly 2½ months ago had RSL scored so early, and that proved crucial to a team that has been straining all season to maintain its poise and confidence on the road.
Even without leading scorer Robbie Findley (ankle injury), RSL stuck with its three-striker formation and pressured hard from the start with midfielders Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman back in the lineup after one-game suspensions. Midfielder Clint Mathis moved up top in Findley's place, and provided the long pass that set up Movsisyan.
"He's an important player for us right now," coach Jason Kreis said.
The early goal gave the team a boost, and once defender Nat Borchers knocked home a loose ball in front of the Galaxy net in the 51st minute (and the Galaxy's Eddie Lewis was red-carded for throwing the ball onto a fallen Morales), RSL had an advantage that even it couldn't blow. It didn't hurt that the Galaxy were playing without captain Landon Donovan, but nobody in the RSL locker room cared.
"It all came together for us, finally, after so long," Kreis said. "So I think it's a solid sign that perhaps we're back. I just told our guys in the locker room, 'welcome back.'"
Indeed, the two goals constituted a veritable explosion for a team that had scored only four times during its seven-game winless stretch, and to score them on the road was especially stunning, considering RSL had struck but once while managing only a lone draw amid its six winless road games this season.
Equally impressive, though, was the way RSL fought off the Galaxy's desperation push in the final half-hour. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando made one of several outstanding saves in that span, to preserve the clean sheet while the Galaxy fell to 2-2-9 with 15 points.
"We feel like we've started over again," midfielder Will Johnson said. "And we're back at a good point."
IN SHORT » RSL wins its first road game of the season, beating the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0 to also snap a seven-game winless streak.
KEY STAT » Goalkeeper Nick Rimando makes five crucial saves for RSL.
KEY MOMENT » Defender Nat Borchers scores his first goal for RSL in the 51st minute to give the team some cushion down the stretch.