SANDY, Utah — Lightning flashed Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night, but two bolts from the blue gave Real Salt Lake a much-needed 2-1 win over Dallas.
The winning goal stunned everyone in the stadium as Alvaro Saborio, who's been out injured for almost four months, had barely finished jogging onto the field to huge cheers when he headed home a corner kick from teammate Javier Morales for the winning goal.
He had been on the field for a matter of seconds. About five seconds.
RSL forward Robbie Findley put his team ahead in the first half with his first regular-season goal since Aug. 17, 2013. Findley had several chances in the first half, as he narrowly missed with a back-heel kick in the eighth minute and missed with a header in the 16th minute.
But Findley's best look came in the 31st minute, and he took advantage. A shot by RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland rebounded and fell at Findley's feet — and he buried it in the net to FC Dallas 'keeper Raul Fernandez's right.
It was the visibly relieved Findley's first goal of any kind since the second leg of the Western Conference finals on Nov. 24. Shortly thereafter, he underwent major knee surgery and has played sparingly in 2014; Saturday was just his fifth start of the season.
Findley was subbed out in the 67th minute for RSL's newly-signed Designated Player Sebastian Jaime, who made his first appearance in an RSL jersey. The Argentine would force Fernandez to make one sharp save with a knuckling drive from long distance.
Heading into the game, RSL coaches and players talked about the two ways Dallas score: on set plays and counterattacks. The home team managed to avoid giving up a goal on a counter, but gave up yet another on a 62nd-minute free kick that almost cost them the win – and the chance to widen the gap in the standings separating them from FCD.
After Dallas' Tesho Akindele was fouled just outside the box, Michel stepped up and, after a stutter step, hit a deadly strike through a crowd of bodies that RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando had no chance to reach.
With seven games remaining, RSL (12-5-10, 46 points) lead FC Dallas (12-9-6) by four points in the standings.
Salt Lake fared better against an 11-man Dallas team than it did against a 10-man FCD two weeks earlier. On Aug. 22, RSL gave up two short-handed, second-half goals after Dallas went down a man in the 45th minute when Blas Perez received his second yellow card.
Real Salt Lake have another chance to influence the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield standings when they travel to Seattle on Saturday to take on the first-place Sounders, while FC Dallas returns home to face Vancouver.