Saturday, September 26, 2015
Superstar subs lift Real Salt Lake to victory over Santa Tecla
(by James Edwards deseretnews.com 9-24-15)
The rapidly evolving folklore of El Burrito reached a new level Thursday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
With Real Salt Lake in a stunning hole against the underdogs from El Salvador, Juan Manuel Martinez — aka El Burrito — entered the match in the 72nd minute with his team down a goal. Five minutes later RSL had scored twice, a lead it didn’t relinquish in a critical 2-1 CONCACAF Champions League victory over Santa Tecla.
RSL coach Jeff Cassar said he had full confidence in the mix of regulars and reserves he started to get the necessary result, but those plans changed when the visitors scored the all-important first goal around the hour mark.
Within 10 minutes Martinez, Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman had entered the match and they immediately changed the dynamic.
“We just brought some energy. I think as a sub that’s what you’ve got to do is bring energy, and bring a change to the game in a good way and that’s what we tried to do,” said Beckerman, who admitted he didn’t even expect to play with such a big league match upcoming at San Jose this Sunday.
Thursday’s match was just as big for different reasons, and when it became clear Santa Tecla was no pushover, desperate measures became necessary.
“They came in with the right mentality, the same aggressive mentality that the guys had on before, (but) a little bit extra quality and some great passing and movement,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar.
RSL moves to the top of its CCL group with one match remaining, but it isn’t through to the quarterfinals yet. It hosts Municipal (Guatemala) at Rio Tinto Stadium on Oct. 20 in the final group game, with the winner advancing. RSL would also advance with a draw.
The entire complexion of a match Real Salt Lake dominated changed in the 61st minute.
Santa Tecla midfielder William Maldonado pumped a long ball in behind Real Salt Lake’s backline, with teammate Irvin Herrera tracking down first. He took a touch into the box, and despite being flanked by two RSL defenders slotted a simple shot between the legs of Jeff Attinella for the stunning 1-0 lead.
Throughout the match, Santa Tecla sat back more than Cassar was expecting, and he knew they’d sit back even more with a 1-0 lead.
Within three minutes Morales and Beckerman were standing on the sideline ready to check in. RSL needed its big guns on the field.
In the 65th minute, Morales and Beckerman came on for Pecka and Luke Mulholland, and then in the 72nd minute Martinez subbed on for Sebastian Jamie.
It took the trio all of five minutes to flip the score after Martinez entered. Garcia headed in a Morales free kick in the 74th minute to level the game 1-1, and then three minutes later Morales slipped a ball into the box for Martinez who chipped the keeper for the 2-1 lead.
The team celebrated more out of a sense of relief than anything else.
It came out a cost, though. Morales picked up a bit of a hip flexor injury and his status for the weekend isn’t known.
Ideally Morales never would’ve played, but the finishing quality was lacking from the starters even though Cassar thought they played well enough.
“I had full confidence in the group that started to get the result, and really at the end of the day I was really pleased with the way they played,” he said.
Real Salt Lake had three great chances in the first half, with Santa Tecla keeper Juan Trinidad coming up big to deny two of them.
In the 25th minute Luis Gil had a quality look from the top of the box, but his screamer drifted just wide of the right post. In the 40th minute, Garcia headed a Mulholland corner kick right at the keeper.
Then in the 41st minute, Trinidad came up with the save of the match with an acrobatic save to deny an unmarked Joao Plata from 15 yards out. The rebound popped straight up, and Jaime outjumped everyone but headed it off the crossbar.