Maybe it was a sign of great things to come.
In just one game, Real Salt Lake completely flipped the script on last season, ending one of its most troubling winless streaks in the most difficult of circumstances — on the road against the star-studded defending champions, with a roster far from full strength.
Red Bulls at RSL
Saturday, 8 p.m., Ch. 4
"It showed a lot of character," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said, "and it’s good to see what we’re capable of, right off the bat."
Now, RSL turns its attention to its home opener against Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night, hoping to build on a landmark victory that could set the stage for the rest of the season.
Its season-opening 3-1 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy not only ruined its rivals’ celebration of last season’s MLS Cup victory, but it also snapped a 24-game regular-season winless streak when allowing the first goal.
The team had gone 0-16-8 in that situation since its historic comeback against FC Dallas on July 24, 2009, including an 0-8-2 mark last season.
The Galaxy had gone ahead in the 71st minute when Edson Buddle headed home a free kick from David Beckham, only to watch RSL score three times in a 14-minute span to snap a three-game road losing streak against them.
"I’m pleased that we walk out with a win because when they scored the goal I thought, ‘Here we go again,’ " coach Jason Kreis said. "We have been the team that has dictated the flow of the game … and I thought we were going to walk out of here losers. At the end of it all, I’m really pleased the guys had such a strong response to that because it’s a difficult thing to do on the road and down a goal late in the game."
Since Kreis took over the team nearly five years ago, RSL has evolved into a team that more frequently takes leads and holds them. But it has been the ability to fight back from falling behind that has made the difference between being really good and great.
Twice during its 2009 MLS Cup title run, for example, it overturned deficits to win — including the title game against the Galaxy, when RSL fought back for a regulation draw before winning on penalty kicks.
During its pedestrian regular season that year, though?
It had been 2-12-2 when conceding first.
So now RSL awaits a Red Bulls team that lost to FC Dallas 2-1 on Sunday. RSL is riding a five-game unbeaten run (4-0-1) against them since 2009, though the Red Bulls are among the favorites in the MLS Eastern Conference behind Henry, who scored 14 goals last season.
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