SANDY — That will keep the fans coming back.
One thing about Real Salt Lake when they play at Rio Tinto Stadium — they know how to keep it exciting.
Using a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time from newcomer Álvaro Saborio, RSL grabbed a 2-2 draw with the Seattle Sounders in front of 19,970 fans for its home opener. Real twice overcame a deficit to move their home unbeaten streak to 12 games counting the playoffs.
"Obviously pleased with the reaction of our team," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "On two occasions, going down twice in a match and reacting the way they did is extremely positive for us. To get that goal felt like a just reward. It felt like that outcome should be a draw."
In just the 11th minute, Seattle's Steve Zakuani gave the Sounders the lead. After a quick throw-in, Fredy Montero found Zakuani streaking down the left side. The midfielder knew what to do with it as he slipped a ball past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
"I thought their goal was against the run of play," said team captain Kyle Beckerman. "But sometimes that is just how it goes."
Real were controlling long stretches of possession. They were creating chances and stringing together passes. However, it still wasn't up to the standards that Kreis and the team now have for maintaining control of the ball and game.
"Too many passes going missing. We're just a yard off here or there," added Kreis. "These are details. You add up the details and now it counts for something. … We'll continue to get better as we go."
Beckerman agreed that there were some kinks in the Real attack.
"For the most part, I thought when we got the ball down on the ground and knocked it, it was good soccer and we were in control of the game. It was when the ball started getting up in the air and going back and forth, that now, that's not our game."
Another problem arose for RSL. Midfielders Ned Grabavoy and Javier Morales were injured within minutes of each other. Morales was forced to leave the game in the 36th minute with a right groin strain, and while Grabavoy finished out the half before being replaced by Nelson Gonzalez at the break, he suffered a right knee injury just minutes after Morales' exit. A couple of years ago, that would have been the end of RSL's hopes for any result, but with the new team depth, Gonzalez and lone original team member Andy Williams stepped in admirably.
"It was kind of a shock to have to go in that early," said Williams, who regularly comes in as a sub at halftime or to add a spark late in games. "It is never easy to lose a player like Javi, but with our guys now, we can step in and still play well together. I thought we played all right as a group."
Real pulled even the first time in the 53rd minute on a diving header from midfielder Will Johnson on an excellent ball sent in by defender Robbie Russell. The two teams didn't stay even very long, however. In the 72nd minute, Seattle went back on top as defender Nat Borchers was the victim of an own goal. Seattle all-star Freddie Ljungberg took a crossing free kick from the left flank. While trying to hold off the Sounders' Tyrone Marshall, the ball deflected off Borchers and in.
As Real threw everything forward looking for the equalizer, it appeared it wasn't meant to be. Saborio hit a header just wide. Russell had a blast of a shot from just outside the box and Fabian Espindola had a couple of looks at goal, but each time RSL was turned away by keeper Kasey Keller.
After many chances, it wasn't until the 94th minute when Gonzalez sent in a left-foot corner kick that Saborio came back away from the goal to get his head on and flicked to the bottom-left corner of the net.
"I think this was one of those games that we will look back at the end of the season and be happy we got a draw," said Beckerman. "I thought we had our chances, but in the end, I think getting a point was probably pretty fair."