Real Salt Lake picked up its first MLS win in over a month in a match delayed almost 90 minutes by lightning.
A sellout crowd of 20,334 braved a long lightning delay early in the match to witness their team finally break a four-match winless funk in league play. The win allows RSL to keep pace in an increasingly-crowded Western Conference table with just a handful of games remaining.
"[The three points] were absolutely critical," said head coach Jason Kreis. "I told the guys that yesterday. We just can't get anything less than the maximum points to give ourselves the best possible chance to not end up in those last two playoff spots."
In just the 4th minute lightning moved into the Sandy area and caused referee Silviu Petrescu to suspend the match. The game was on hold for one hour, 23 minutes.
"I think it kind of relaxed us a bit," said goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "We came in really tense, waiting to hear when we could go back out, and the mood just got lighter and lighter. We were able to relax and when we went back out there we just played our game."
Once the match resumed, RSL had the better of the run of play, but it was United which had the best chances in the first half hour thanks to some untimely turnovers by the Real defense. In the 28th minute, a very deep loss of possession found Dwayne DeRosario in by himself with only one man to beat. DeRosario took a beauty of a shot but banged it off the post, across the goal mouth, and out of play. For the entire first half United out shot Salt Lake 7-6, though neither team could change the scoreboard.
"In the first half, it felt to me like the players thought they had to score right away," said Kreis. "For me it didn't need to be that way."
Whatever was said in the RSL locker room at half worked because the home team came out and put D.C. on its heels right away. In the 49th minute, Real was finally able to break the deadlock. Ned Grabavoy played a well-timed heel flick up the left side to Paulo Jr. The Brazilian put up a cross that was deflected on its way in, but Johnson was able to get there before goalkeeper Bill Hamid could, and he punched it home with his head to put Salt Lake up 1-0.
"The ball sat up nicely for me and I just stuck my head in there," said Johnson.
The win marked Real's third consecutive shutout across all competitions, something Johnson was particularly proud of.
"The most important thing in the game was the shutout," said Johnson. "I try to get forward as much as possible, but this team is about defense. The only way this team wins games is by being committed defensively."
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