Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales, left, celebrates after scoring a goal on a penalty kick with teammate Chris Wingert, right, in the first half of an MLS soccer match against the New England Revolution on Friday, July 4, 2014, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)

Real Salt Lake: RSL ends slide with 2-1 win over Revs

MLS » Bolstered by two stars’ return, RSL snaps skid.

First Published Jul 04 2014 10:28 pm
Last Updated Jul 04 2014 11:21 pm

Seven weeks might’ve seemed like an eternity.

Without its captain and without its wall between the posts, Real Salt Lake went through a series of trials it half-expected when Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando got on a plane destined for the Bay Area in mid-May. The RSL pillars bounced around North America and South America for seven weeks, going from California to New York to Florida and eventually to Brazil, soaring around the massive country with the hopes of a nation and a fan base nestled on their shoulders.

Eventually, after the nail-biting moments that captivated a nation came to a heart-wrenching end on the coastal city of Salvador Tuesday, Beckerman and Rimando hopped on the final flight of their two-month-long experience. It was bound for home, for Salt Lake City, where their careers catapulted into stardom and onto the world’s stage.

"Getting back on that field, wearing our colors is something I’ve been waiting to do since I left," Rimando said after RSL’s 2-1 victory.

The pair landed in Utah Thursday afternoon and were in the RSL starting lineup Friday in front of a sold-out Fourth of July crowd of 20,513 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

"It was definitely a first," Beckerman said. "I’ve never taken an overnight flight on Wednesday, get in Thursday and have the game Friday. I didn’t really know how I was feeling. My body felt fine, but all I did was walk around the house, so it’s hard to tell how you feel."

While experiencing their first World Cup outings together, the club struggled, going 1-3-2 in their absence. But on a sweltering night in Sandy, things looked back to norm in the 2-1 victory. RSL charged at the visiting New England Revolution, its possession-based attack moving the ball around, opening up lanes to roam and runs to be made.

A dominant first-half display showcased what RSL had missed. With Beckerman in the lineup - he nearly sent Rio Tinto Stadium into a boom with a goal in the 10th minute - the offense looked more potent. Javier Morales put the home team up in the 34th minute from the penalty spot after Chris Schuler was fouled by Darrius Barnes. The 34-year-old’s fifth goal of 2014 went left as New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth could only look on as the ball slammed into the back of the net.

But three minutes later, Barnes redeemed himself, wiggling free off a set play and finished a fantastic header off a pass by Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney.

After trading dangerous chances throughout the second half, RSL again broke through, again from the penalty spot. John Stertzer was taken out by Tierney. But unlike the first go-round, Joao Plata stepped to the spot, buried it to his left, giving RSL a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute.

From there, RSL held on.

The victory, so badly-needed by a club desperate for three points, came before the fans packed the field inside Rio Tinto Stadium and stayed for a fireworks show. The five-game winless streak is over with as the win was punctuated not just by a solid home outing and recovering, but also by the return of two of the club’s most influential players.

"It was something the team needed," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "It needed that little pick-me-up. Obviously we felt the energy in the stadium, which was amazing. When we’re feeling that energy from the stadium and the fans, it really carried us."

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