“Nick is probably playing the best that I've ever seen him play," said head coach Jason Kreis. "Says a lot for his age and where he's at in his career. But, he's looking incredibly confident right now and incredibly positive and he's been a huge contributor to every result we've had.”
“It is huge for us because we wanted to come out and start really well," said Rimando. "This is a team we think we can beat and we matched up good against. It wasn’t the prettiest soccer the whole game. But I think getting these three points on this three game road stint is huge for us. To getting a rhythm going, some confidence and we are going to a very hard place now and trying to get a result there.”
New England midfielder Ryan Guy opened the scoring in the 51st minute, volleying a 15-yard shot inside the right post to put the Revs on top. RSL responded well after falling behind, getting an equalizer from first-time scorer Devon Sandoval in the 77th minute and a winner from FW Olmes Garcia in the 89th.
Rimando secured all three points in second half stoppage time, making a heroic penalty kick stop on Revolution forward Saer Sene after RSL defender Carlos Salcedo was whistled for a handball in the box and shown a second yellow card to drop the Claret-and-Cobalt down to 10 men. Rimando is now 19-for-60 (31.67 percent) against regular season penalty kicks, the best such mark in MLS history.
“The one thing that is going through my mind is how much Jason [Kreis] has been stressing about getting two victories in a row and how we almost slipped it away with a penalty kick at the end of the game," said Rimando. "I am trying to help my team out as much as I can and lucky for me [Saer] Sene helped me I think on the save on that one. But you know a save is a save and we’ll take the three points.”
The first half was relatively quiet, with the majority of the action coming in the opening 15 minutes. New England had the half’s best chance in the sixth minute. Jerry Bengston got behind the RSL defense in the left side of the box but couldn’t get a shot off, instead laying the ball off after Rimando came off the line to turn him around. Diego Fagundez had a good look at the pass but let the ball roll to Lee Nguyen, who eventually got it back to Bengston for a close-range effort that was deflected out for a corner kick.
RSL had half chances in the 11th minutes and 29th minutes. Luis Gil had the first look, collecting a ball on the left side before cutting in on his right foot and firing a 20-yard shot just over the bar at the far post. Ned Grabavoy had the second opportunity, volleying Tony Beltran’s cross just over the bar from 15 yards.
Things picked up in the second half, with Rimando making a big save to keep New England off the board in the 48th minute. Fagundez had the chance, forcing Rimando into a fine diving stop with a low 15-yard smash that looked ticketed for the lower right corner.
The Revs took the lead three minutes later. Kelyn Rowe took advantage of a botched RSL clearance on the right wing, carrying the ball to the end line and crossing to Guy in the middle. Guy made no mistake with the chance, running onto Rowe’s lofted ball and nailing a right-footed volley inside the near post from 15 yards out.
Real Salt Lake responded well after conceding, registering decent looks in the 58th and 73rd minutes before nearly equalizing in the 76th. Grabavoy started the play, wriggling free on the left flank and lofting a cross to the middle. Sandoval got on the end of it, heading the ball toward the lower left corner only for New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to come up with a solid diving stop.
Sandoval made amends one minute later, outmuscling a Revs player to pounce on a rebound and finish for his first career MLS goal. Sebastian Velasquez collected a Grabavoy pass in the left side of the box and fired a shot on goal that Shuttleworth parried away. Sandoval somehow got around his mark to get on the rebound, sliding forwards and burying the five-yarder to tie the game 1-1.
Garcia scored the dramatic winner in the 89th minute. MF Javier Morales lofted a high corner kick to MF Kyle Beckerman at the top of the box, with the Claret-and-Cobalt captain smashing a volley out of the air and on goal. Shuttleworth made an acrobatic stop on Beckerman’s rip, but couldn’t do anything about Garcia’s follow up effort, with the 20-year-old Colombian slipping free from his man and sliding to his right to clinically finish inside the near post from 12 yards out.
“I think that with young players, the typical thing, or the cliche, is that they are going to be inconsistent," said Kreis. "They are going to be able to give you a really strong performance and then oftentimes the next one won't be so good. It's very difficult for those young players to withstand an entire season because when they are coming off college seasons or youth seasons, they are much, much shorter than what we have to endure. It's just something the coaching staff has to be mindful of and keep them in check and do everything we can to continue to develop them through the thick and the thin.”
“Sebastian [Velasquez] made a big shot and I was right there waiting for the keeper to drop it and pretty much dropped it right at my feet and I just had to hit it in," Sandoval said. "There was someone on my back but I was closer to the goal then he was. I don’t think he was anticipating the keeper to drop the ball.”
Garcia’s goal wasn’t the end of the drama, however. Referee Jose Carlos Rivero inserted himself into the equation in the 90th minute, when he gave New England a penalty kick after whistling RSL for a handball in the box. The questionable call was made even more controversial when Rivero misidentified Salcedo as the player who handled the ball and sent him off with a second yellow card.
“I think we are all confused because it appears that it was the wrong person that he yellow carded," said Kreis. "I'm hopeful that the referees sort it out now, before we even leave the building. But, if they don't, I hope the league sorts it out before Saturday because I think Carlos [Salcedo] is in with a shout to start again.”
Thankfully for RSL, Rimando – as he’s done so many times throughout his career – came up huge on the ensuing spot kick, diving to his right to block Sene’s penalty. Beckerman cleaned up after Rimando, beating Sene to the ball and clearing it out for a corner kick.
Real Salt Lake has a quick turnaround ahead of its next match, traveling to Canada on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s MLS contest against the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo.