Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis didn't expect it to be easy in Dallas. However, he unlikely expected it to be that much tougher in the return leg at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL's prized playmaker Javier Morales’ second yellow card against Dallas — and subsequent ejection — has put RSL in an unenviable position as they enter the second leg of their semifinal series a goal down.
Morales will now serve a suspension and miss RSL's home match against Dallas on Nov. 6 (10 p.m. ET, FSC). Dallas lead the Western Conference Semifinal series, 2-1.
“We knew it was going to be difficult coming in,” RSL coach Jason Kreis told Fox Soccer Channel. “We got exactly what we expected.”
Morales first yellow had come in a needless manner, which made the ejection very hard to swallow for RSL. In the 49th minute, Morales had stopped the ball inside the center circle as a result of an injury to teammate Andy Williams. He then took exception to what he thought was an aggressive reaction by Dallas' Daniel Hernandez, which resulted in both players giving each other a "friendly" slap to the cheek. They both received a caution.
The seemingly innocuous occurrence would turn out to be fateful for RSL.
However, before they were made to pay for the costly ejection which came in the 69th minute, Dallas’ Atiba Harris evened things up personnel-wise when he drew a straight red card for a reckless foul against Will Johnson a few minutes later.
This seemed to give Real Salt Lake a breath of life as they needed to kill a mere 15-minutes before coming back home with a prized 1-1 draw in the series.
Unfortunately that draw would not come as Eric Avila made RSL play with a wonderful goal in transition just before the two squads entered stoppage time.
Though Kreis may have expected a tough game, it’s unlikely he expected a loss. After all, RSL had come into this match unbeaten in their last 14 matches and perhaps entered this match confident despite their record of eight losses in eight total appearances in Dallas.
However, the game started out in an auspicious fashion for the reigning MLS champions.
All week long RSL had hinted they would take a cautious approach to this match, but they came out with high pressure from the opening kick — and they would take advantage of that with an early goal by Fabian Espíndola in the 5th minute.
That goal seemed to bode well for the visitors, who were set to go into the half with a 1-0 lead on the road before Jeff Cunningham’s 44th minute goal equalized the scoreline just before the break.
“The flipside of it is, and the truth and the facts are, that we’re down 2-1 at halftime, and the second half is at our place — and the second half is 90-minutes long,” Kreis said.
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