Reserves stage Real rally
Real Salt Lake starters shook the hands of their reserve-team players as the final whistle blew on a 3-2 victory over CD Universidad Catolica, in front of an announced 8,044 on Wednesday.
And no one deserved more kudos than the scrubs.
They had, after all, saved the team from losing its first international exhibition, to a Catolica crew that had left its starting line at home to prepare for an upcoming tournament.
Real Salt Lake's top 11 played the first half with little energy - less than that, if you had asked coach John Ellinger - giving up two goals to the Chilean club team in the first half.
"I can't remember being as frustrated as I was at the start of the second half . . ." Ellinger said.
For all of the recent discussion about the team's scoring woes, and what lineup changes should or shouldn't be made to fix them, Wednesday's exhibition - meaningless in the league standings - may have taught Real a simple lesson.
The team has got to want to win.
"As a coaching staff, we're very disappointed," Ellinger said. "If the ball's not on their feet, they didn't run after it. . . . It's demeaning. Things are going to change."
Real's top players were subbed out at the half, and from the outset the second teamers threatened Catolica's defense more than the first team did. A pair of goals from Kenny Cutler and Dipsy Selolwane, midway through the second half, evened it at 2-2. Defender Nelson Akwari scored the game-winner with two minutes to play, crashing the net to pick off a Jamie Watson cross.
Watson entered the game in the 70th minute and earned two assists. The young player showed the type of emotion Ellinger was looking for in some of his starters. Eager to enter the game, Watson stood at the midfield line and screamed at the referee to let him enter the game when Ellinger signaled he could check in.
As a weekend date with the Galaxy, one of the best teams in Major League Soccer, nears, Wednesday's game was supposed to provide some answers. Instead, it may have created a whole lot more questions for Ellinger and his staff.
"A mix of the two (reserves and starters) could work," Ellinger said. "We're looking at that."
The game was the second in the United States for Catolica. The team lost to the Columbus Crew 4-1 on Saturday. Catolica, which finished atop the Chilean First Division, returns to Chile for the quarterfinals of the Copa Sudamericana this weekend. Many of its top players remained at home to prepare for the tournament.
The scene at Rice-Eccles on a cold Wednesday evening was in contrast to the lively atmosphere during Saturday's World Cup qualifier. Though the crowd was announced at more than 8,000, it appeared to be half the size. Things did heat up at the end of the game, however, as Real and Catolica players postured at midfield.
A total of nine cards were issued - eight yellow and one red - and Catolica received six of them.
"It just got a little choppy at the end," Ellinger said. "Tempers flared. But that happens all the time in soccer."
RSL 3, CD Catolica 2
* Defender Brian Dunseth left the game in the 22nd minute with a mild ankle sprain.
* Real scored all three of its goals in the second half.