By Randy Davis
Real Salt Lake bested playoff opponent Chivas USA in the first leg of the two-game aggregate goal series with a score of 1-0 in a fashion very reminiscent of last week’s dramatic tie with Colorado that sent them ahead into the playoffs. Once again the result came off of a goal from forward Yura Movsisyan. Once again the goal came in the 90th minute.
As you would maybe expect under this playoff format, Real Salt Lake came out the aggressor in front of their home crowd of just under 15,000 which included MLS Commissioner Don Garber. Conversely Chivas seemed content to absorb the RSL attack in the opening stages.
However, one of the best chances for Chivas came around the 15th minute as they tried to take advantage of a counter against their opponent. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan started the team down the field on a break, and fed the ball to forward Justin Braun on his right who drifted to the right edge of the box and tapped the ball back into the middle to a wide open Kljestan but his shot from the top of the box went wide. This turned out to be one of a precious few scoring opportunities on the night.
In the 27th minute, RSL midfielder and captain Kyle Beckerman found himself wide open just outside the top of the area, but his blast went high over the net, and he was obviously disappointed with the effort.
Another opportunity was created in the 39th minute in the chaos following a corner kick that was not cleared out of the area. Midfielder Andy Williams chipped the ball to around the penalty spot where forward Clint Mathis lined up the ball with a bicycle kick. He struck the ball fairly well but the shot was wide and bounded off of a defender.
The half came to an end after 45 minutes of consistent attack by Real Salt Lake, who spent most of the half in the end of their opponent, but could not manage a goal. Although there were a few small skirmishes, the half ended with overall fair play considering the pressure and circumstances surrounding the match.
Real Salt Lake came out in a similar fashion to the first half as just 22 seconds into the second stanza they created an opportunity that Chivas keeper Zach Thornton was able to just get his fingertips to and push wide. The chance came from two lovely passes – a chip forward over a defender to Movsisyan who had a lovely back-heel touch in the air to Mathis who was marked but was able to get off a well placed sliding shot.
Three minutes later defender Nat Borchers put forward a lovely header off of a corner kick by midfielder Javier Morales. The shot was narrowly saved as it was cleared off of the line by Chivas veteran forward Ante Razov.
Chivas appeared more committed offensively in the second half as Kljestan opened up much more in the middle of the field. However, Real Salt Lake still dominated possession and appeared to be building toward a goal. This was likely a tactical decision by Chivas as they were playing on the road in a hostile environment and they were also missing starters Claudio Suarez, and former RSL players Alecko Eskandarian and Atiba Harris.
It appeared that Real Salt Lake may be shut out of the scoreboard despite being the clear aggressor. In the 85th minute the team went to a 3-4-3 as they brought on a 3rd forward. Just five minutes later Movsisyan received a wonderful pass across the face of the goal from Morales. Movsisyan swept his foot behind him and directed the ball into the net using the inside of his foot.
The game to an end with RSL having the advantage in shots on goal over Chivas by a margin 10-1 and also having an advantage on corner kicks 7-0.
Chivas will now need to come out much more aggressive in the second leg to make up the one goal deficit at home in the Home Depot Center.
Randy Davis covers Real Salt Lake for Goal.com