SANDY, Utah -- For the second time in his brief MLS career, Irishman Johnny Steele came off the bench and scored the stoppage-time winner for Real Salt Lake, this time lifting his side to a 3-2 victory over Toronto FC in front of 17,829 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL also got goals from Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio. For their part, Toronto dropped - perhaps unfairly - to 0-7-0, matching the worst start in league history which it now shares with the 1999 Kansas City Wizards.
There was plenty of action from both sides in this match as the two teams combined for five goals, two goals called back, two shots off the woodwork, one missed penalty, and 25 shots. Three times in the match Salt Lake took the lead and twice Toronto leveled it in what was very much a back-and-forth game.
"The honest truth is we could have lost that game," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "We took a ton of chances there at the end. But fortune favors the bold I guess. When we're at home, you know we go for three points and nothing less is acceptable."
And go for the three points they did. When Toronto leveled the match at 2-2 off the head of Doneil Henry in the 77th minute, from then on it was pretty much one-way traffic toward TFC's goal. The only question was whether RSL had time to score a winner. It didn't look like it would until minute 93 and Steele came along. Javier Morales made a nifty move to get into the left side of the box and passed it to Beckerman, who stretched out with a toe to lay it off for Steele. The young rookie made no mistake as he slotted it past Milos Kocic to give Real three badly-needed points.
"[Beckerman] set it nice and perfect and I just ran onto it," said Steele. "Most important though is getting the three points."
"That was a great way to finish the game, great finish by Johnny," said Beckerman. "What a ton of relief . . . we really needed that three points."
"We were tired and we worked a lot," said Morales. "We got the goal in the last minute and it was wonderful for us."
Toronto played excellent soccer on the night and was hard-done to not earn a share of the points. Its play belied its pointless record as it showed that it is capable of taking any team to the brink.
"I'll tell you what, I've watched these guys play their last couple of matches and I can't really put it together," said Kreis. "It's one of those things I think that's odd, and now it becomes a mental thing. I think they have a pretty good group."
"We wanted [Toronto] to just go away, but they just wouldn't," said Beckerman. "Credit to them: they fought to the end and they made us earn it tonight, that's for sure."
After three games in seven days, Real Salt Lake will now look forward to having some time to regroup before taking the field again next Saturday.
"I feel good that we can walk into next week with some momentum," said Kreis. "It sets up a good opportunity for us to be a little bit critical of our group because we'll need to be. We need the guys to understand what the mistakes are so we can continue to improve."
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