(by Connor Johnson deseretnews.com 8-12-14)
An army of 13,222 strong braved the elements at Rio Tinto Stadium, including rain and lightning, to watch Real Salt Lake draw versus Club Tijuana of Liga MX in an international friendly 1-1.
Three players were shown yellow cards in those first 20 minutes, with Elio Castro’s 11th-minute foul on Luke Mulholland leaving the Englishman face down on the pitch writhing in pain.
“These games kind of seem to end up this way all the time,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar, who told reporters that Tijuana coach Cesar Farias apologized after the Mulholland challenge. “Their coach was extremely classy. He came up to me at the half and apologized for that. He had a young team out there, and they made a poor choice.”
Luis Gil gave RSL its first attempt on goal in the 25th minute with a booming shot from distance. Gil, playing in Javier Morales’ spot at the top of the diamond, took a few dribbles before picking up his head and firing a 30-yard attempt that was deflected away by Tijuana keeper Gibran Lajud.
Sebastian Velasquez also had his shot on goal deflected away by Lajud in the 37th minute. Velasquez took a beautiful ball by Mulholland into the box, but Velasquez’ left-footed attempt was thwarted by the Xolos keeper.
RSL finished the half with five shots on goal, while Tijuana had just two.
Minutes into the second half, the Xolos had several attempts to find the first goal of the match.
The first opportunity came in the 50th minute on a Tijuana breakaway, but a sliding Carlos Salcedo was able to deflect the ball out of harms way. Two minutes later it was Salcedo again, this time deflecting Edgar Villegas’ shot on goal over the goal post. On the ensuing corner kick, Oliver Ortiz’ diving header sailed wide left of the goal.
Gil had another opportunity to find the back of the net, this time standing over an RSL free kick on the corner of the box. Gil elected to go over the wall with his shot, which had to be deflected away up and over the cross bar by the Tijuana ’keeper.
In the 75th minute, it was Gil again who had an attempt on goal, but his skill shot rattled the crossbar. It was agonizingly close for RSL, and was accompanied by the collective groan of those in attendance at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“Luis went 90 minutes and looked sharp all the way to the end, which is really positive,” said Cassar. “He had a lot of great ideas attacking-wise, but was committed on the defensive end as well.”
Just minutes later, the Xolos struck with the lone goal of the match in the 77th minute.
Edgar Villegas found some open space on the right side of the box, and his left-footed beauty sailed easily past a standing Lalo Fernandez into the upper corner side netting.
When it all seemed like it was said and done, RSL struck. Gil, who had been stellar through the entire match, finally had his goal with a tipped pass to himself that the young midfielder easily buried into the back of the net.
“I felt it coming, and that’s why I kept going at it,” said Gil after the match. “All I was thinking was just hit it, and get some contact on it. You’ve just got to take chances.”