Olmes Garcia came off the bench to score two late goals and propel Real Salt Lake to a 3-1 win over the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, avenging its only home loss of the season.
“Fantastic," head coach Jason Kreis said of Garcia's performance. "It is so critical to the way that we play and the way that our forwards put in that type of effort to gain us ground. Even if they don’t win the ball, if they’re up there pressing defenders to play the ball over the end line, or over the sideline, now we’ve gained a ton of space. Hats off to all the forwards, really. I think they’re all working extremely hard and they’ve all had moments the past several weeks where they’ve been excellent. I think we’re in a good place at that position.”
The Colombian forward came on as a substitute in the 58th minute, and immediately made an impact with his speed and long runs. And with the game still tied at 1-1, Garcia headed home the game-winner in the 84th minute, timing his run perfectly to beat his defender to a cross from playmaker Javier Morales.
The icing-on-the-cake tally came on another feed from Morales, this time on a breakaway in second-half stoppage time. Garcia now has scored four goals in his rookie season.
“It’s something nice," said Garcia. "In my soccer career to score twice, it’s something beautiful. I’m always thankful to the people who come support us. I’m thankful to my teammates too, they help me and they helped me tonight.”
After a feeling-out period to start the game, things heated up after the first 20 minutes with both teams striking the woodwork. First it was RSL's Khari Stephenson nailing the left post on a free kick. Then LA's Jose Villareal responded with a searing drive of his own that slammed against the crossbar, just moments after he tested Nick Rimando on a curling free kick.
It was the prelude to the fireworks at the end of the first half.
Stephenson came back to find the back of the net in the 44th minute with a right-footed blast from outside the box. L.A. goalkeeper Brian Rowe was shielded on the play and couldn't react in time to stop the low drive.
“It’s always good to get goals, and it’s even better when the team scores," said Stephenson, who became the 10th different RSL player to score a goal this season. "That’s always a positive. They gave me a chance to shoot and I’m going to shoot. The guys on the team are confident in my shot so they say, ‘Shoot Khari.’ So I’m going to shoot.”
Landon Donovan leveled things just two minutes later in first-half stoppage time. The Galaxy star challenged RSL central defender Nat Borchers on a header at the top of the box. The ball ricocheted between the two before landing perfectly for Donovan, who used textbook technique to bang a shot that beat Rimando to the far post.
The chances were few and far between in the second half as both teams applied suffocating pressure in the middle of the field. With the entrance of Garcia and fellow forward Devon Sandoval, RSL began throwing numbers forward late in the match with two brilliant finishes by Garcia ultimately deciding the match.
“I think [we played well] because that’s the way they [LA Galaxy] want to play here," said Morales. "If you come here, and you are the last Champion, and you sit back it’s tough because you sit back and you’re far from our goal. That’s their problem. I don’t care. We play our soccer that we like to play, and we made a decent game.”
Real Salt Lake is back in action on Wednesday when they host USL-Pro side Charleston Battery in the 4th round of the US Open Cup.