There was no shortage of entertainment for the biggest regular season crowd in Real Salt Lake history. Whether the 25,500 fans went home happy is all a matter of perspective.
For those cheering on RSL, seeing the home side settle for a 2-2 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy after scoring twice in the opening 20 minutes had to be a disappointment. For those clamoring to see David Beckham, it may have been the best money ever spent. The 33-year-old midfielder scored not one, but two world-class goals to rally the Galaxy to a road tie.
Naturally, RSL coach Jason Kreis departed Rice-Eccles Stadium upset.
"I thought it was a fantastic crowd and I thought we disappointed the crowd," he said. "I thought we should have and could have done better in that match to thank them for coming to support us because they were fantastic."
Even though RSL remains unbeaten at home after the draw, it has only prevailed in one of those three matches and now owns a 1-3-2 record on the season compared to the Galaxy's 2-2-2 mark.
The match couldn't have started any better for Real Salt Lake as it executed the game plan to perfection in the opening 20 minutes. It wanted pressure the Galaxy from the opening whistle and try and capitalize with a goal. It paid off early as Fabian Espindola scored in the sixth minute and Kenny Deuchar tacked on another goal in the 18th minute, both on assists from Javier Morales.
The plan after that, according to Kyle Beckerman in a comment on Friday, was to "close up shop." It didn't quite work out that way.
Beckham scored twice in the final 10 minutes of the half to level the game at 2-2, the first in the run of play in the 36th minute and the second on a vintage Beckham free kick in the 40th minute.
"We've got to be more ruthless," said Deuchar. "When we've got teams with their backs against the wall, we've got to go for the jugular really and finish them off. We let them back in it. We can't afford to do that, especially with players the quality of David Beckham."
Each of Beckham's goals could've and perhaps should've been avoided.
In the sequence just before his first goal, rookie Tony Beltran-making his first MLS start-made a poor decision not to simply clear the ball. His decision led to a giveaway: two passes later from Landon Donovan and Alan Gordon, an unmarked Beckham was sitting with the ball at his feet just outside the penalty area. Like a magician, he lined up his shot and curled it inside the far post.
Beckham's equalizing goal in the 40th minute should've never been allowed according to the referee's original call. Dema Kovalenko was whistled for a dangerous play on the foul that led to Beckham's free kick, an indirect free kick foul. That's what the referee signaled initially, but that's not how it played out as Beckham treated it like a direct free kick and buried the 28-yard blast.
"They kind of came back through the ability of one player," said Morales.
Following a first half that featured four goals on just eight shots, the teams strangely combined for zero goals on 22 shots on the second half.
"That's soccer," said Kovalenko, who started at holding midfield for the first time.
RSL keeper Nick Rimando came up with two key saves on Donovan shots in the second half, in addition to turning away a powerful blast from defender Greg Vanney. Galaxy keeper Steve Cronin's biggest save came on an Andy Williams shot in the 49th minute.
With the score level deep into the second half, Kreis put everything into going for the win, subbing off defender Beltran for forward Robbie Findley in the 74th minute.
"When we're at home we're going to go for wins, when we're away we're going to go for wins, I think that's going to be the mentality of this team. We have a group of guys who can handle that," said Kreis.Salt Lake returns to action at home next Saturday against Dallas.