SANDY, Utah — When Corey Baird was subbed out for Luis Silva in the 74th minute, Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke seemed confident enough in his team’s ability to fend off Seattle with the game’s only scorer off the pitch. A heads up play from Baird in the 57th minute turned into his fourth goal of the season and put the home squad up 1-0.
But Petke’s confidence was warranted. In extra time, Silva sealed RSL’s win as his wide-open shot from way outside the box — he was closer to midfield than he was to the goal — flew into the goal. Real Salt Lake (7-6-1, 22 points) beat the Seattle Sounders FC (2-7-2, 8 points) for the second time in just eight days for the team’s third straight win overall. Those nine points have improved RSL’s overall mindset.
Coming off only two nights of rest after beating the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, Real Salt Lake could have entered Saturday night’s game at Rio Tinto a bit gassed, but the team showed no signs of letting up for the entire game.
“The guys — the grit and the workrate they showed tonight — I’m exhausted right now, and I can’t imagine what these guys [are feeling],” Petke said. “It was like a towel before the game; I was doing whatever I could to wring out whatever they had left in their legs. To see them pressing in the second half with the intensity still … it was amazing.”
Although there were some missed opportunities and balls that got away from both sides, both teams were playing rather aggressively in the early minutes of the game. RSL’s Joao Plata and Seattle’s Clint Dempsey were getting after the opposing team’s defenders the most.
In the 33rd minute, Damir Kreilach missed the perfect opportunity to give RSL a first-half lead as his shot sailed over the crossbar. A minute later, Plata also missed a good look. His shot was high, too.
Jun 2, 2018; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake forward Brooks Lennon (12) and midfielder Danilo Acosta (25) congratulates Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Silva (20) for his second half goal against the Seattle Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Plata left the pitch in the 41st minute after suffering what looked to be a back injury and being evaluated by RSL’s trainers. Sebastián Saucedo came in as his replacement, and both sides entered halftime scoreless.
“Convert your chances,” Petke said he told his team during a brief halftime talk.
His players obliged. Early in the second half, Stefan Frei had a great block to keep the game scoreless. And in the 55th minute, Saucedo’s free kick just outside the box had some promise, but like a couple other looks for Real Salt Lake, it went over the crossbar. RSL continued to attack, and it paid off a couple minutes later.
After Danilo Acosta’s shot was blocked, Baird was in the right place at the right time for the rebound — his header to the right side of the net that gave RSL a 1-0 lead.
“I joked around with [Acosta] after that I would have been pissed if we didn’t score that because I thought it was open,” Baird said.
To put the icing on the cake, Silva’s wide-open strike in the 91st minute gave the announced 18,556 fans something to cheer about as they headed for the exits.
RSL will face another quick turnaround, hosting Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday for a U.S. Open Cup match. Even though the team may get fatigued along the way with so many competitions lining up, Acosta has faith his players will prevail.
“Sometimes you feel tired, but once you step on the pitch, everything goes away,” Acosta said. “Once you step in there, it’s just like, ‘I got 90 minutes to prove myself and do the best I can possibly do.’”