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Fight night at the RioT ends in 1-1 draw

Posted on 05 July 2009 by Patrick McShane

It was a night of disappointment and relief for Real Salt Lake as they battled back in added time to secure a 1-1 draw against the San Jose Quakes, despite being a man down due striker Fabian Espindola’s horror backlash against San Jose’s Brandon McDonald. It was the fourth time this season that an RSL player has been ejected as well as the third time that RSL has dropped points at home.

While the draw continues RSL’s undefeated streak, the sentiment of discontent was abundant in the locker room as it was a missed opportunity to earn full points at home.

“I’m pleased with the response of the team. The second half the energy level was higher, the possession was higher and, guess what, we had a bunch of chances. And then in particular, after we got the ejection, I thought the guys responded the right way. But three points are a must at home, and we didn’t get three points, so it’s a failure.” Said coach Jason Kreis after the match.

While the second half was played at a manic and crazed pace, the first half was lifeless and dull. RSL was the only squad able to muster a shot on goal, launching a measly two attempts, with an Espindola break on goal being the only attempt of any significance. San Jose, on the other hand, had their own battles to fight in the first half as they lost two players to injuries. Former U.S. standout Bobby Convey injured his right hamstring and captain Ramiro Corrales strained his ankle with both players substituted before the half.

These early substitutions would come back to haunt San Jose as it limited their strategic options later in the match. Noted San Jose coach Frank Yallop: “The two injuries cost us in the end because we couldn’t make changes when we needed to. When some of the players in key positions were getting tired, we couldn’t bring on fresh legs to help with the workload.”

RSL seemed to come out of the gates in the second half with more energy, possibly being the brink of the go-ahead goal if not for the stellar play of keeper Joe Cannon and the San Jose backline. Granted, RSL also appeared to sabotage opportunities by losing possession deep in the final third and by delivering sloppy crosses and passes. This offensive ineptness would come back to haunt RSL in the 63rd minute when Arturo Alvarez dribbled through three RSL defenders to slot the ball home with a left foot. The 17,478 fans were stunned, as it was truly one of the only offensive efforts that San Jose demonstrated all night.

Things continued to get worse for RSL, as San Jose began to bunker and waste time with extended injury breaks. Many RSL players, including Espindola and Javier Morales took exception to this tactic, and were trying to encourage the injured players to get up or leave the pitch. This led to the first altercation between Espindola and McDonald, as it seemed McDonald took a swing at Espindola after a heated argument over San Jose’s Jason Hernandez exaggerated injury and delayed return to play. While McDonald was awarded a yellow card for his actions, one could tell things were about to boil over.

It took only one minute for the conflict to reach a climax, as Espindola collected a pass on the left wing and began to charge forward. When McDonald came running from the middle of the pitch towards Espindola, there was little doubt that things would end ugly. While McDonald did get a piece of the ball with his slide tackle, he also got a lot of Espindola, which resulted in the scissor-kick takedown that eventually led to Espindola’s departure.

Typically being a man down is a huge handicap to overcome. However, RSL seemed to play better after Espindola’s ejection, creating many dangerous chances with little-to-no counterattack from San Jose. Stand-in captain Nat Borchers agreed with this notion, strangely stating: “I didn’t have a problem with Fabian getting sent off because I felt like it injected some energy into the game and I felt like we were better. We needed to show some emotion, and him not being here did that for us.”

That emotion finally produced a result just 1 minute into added time, when RSL scored an unlikely goal off of a sloppy broken play. Defender Robbie Russell launched a ball over the top of the defense, which Morales calmly collected and then distributed to striker Yura Movsisyan. Though Movsisyan immediately lost possession while running, the ball fortuitously bounced off of San Jose defender Chris Leitch and slowly rolled into the net. The San Jose staff and players were visibly upset at the turn of play as the match end minutes later.

RSL won’t play another match of consequence for nearly two weeks when they travel to Columbus to take on the reigning MLS champs. Between then, RSL will host Mexican side Club América next Saturday in this year’s edition of the annual XanGo Cup. This match will give RSL the opportunity to tinker with lineups and continue to adjust to the loss of midfielders Will Johnson and Kyle Beckerman to the Gold Cup tournament. With the summer transfer window also opening during that time, it could be a very different looking team that takes on the Crew on July 18.

Photo Gallery

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RSL PLAYER ASSESSMENTS

Rimando – The majority of San Jose’s shots on goal came late in the match and he wasn’t really challenged all night. He was absolutely stranded on the Alvarez goal thanks to Borcher’s missed sliding challenge.

Russell – He continues to deliver consistent performances despite being played in a variety of positions. It was his long ball that led to the tying goal.

Wingert – While I think he played decent, he is still a shadow of his former self from last season. With RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey insinuating the possible departure of a key player in the coming weeks, one can’t help but feel that Wingert’s days in an RSL kit might be numbered.

Borchers – He did an okay job as captain and defensive anchor due to Olave’s surprise benching, though he isn’t quite the vocal leader that typical captain Kyle Beckerman is. I wonder how the McDonald altercation might have turned out if Beckerman was involved instead of Borchers.

Beltran – Beltran continues to grow every week as a player. While he still struggles, his hustle and energy is a great change of pace compared to other players on the team. I’m interested to see what type of player Beltran will be in a couple of years.

Grabavoy – His play has been surprising as of late as he’s really stepped up his play. I thought it was a toss-up between him and Morales for Man of the Match. He tracked back on defense to disrupt and was savvy on attack.

Morales – There was doubt as to whether or not Morales would be able to go due to an ankle injury sustained last week against Toronto. Not only did Morales play, but he also didn’t stop moving the entire match. When RSL were pressing for a late goal, Morales was constantly moving and creating chances. I thought he was flat-out brilliant.

Mathis – Continues to be the most consistent performer for RSL on the season. It will be a shame if he isn’t rewarded with an All-Star nod for his play.

Williams – He just didn’t seem comfortable in an attacking role and there seemed to be a communication issue with the other strikers. Not a noteworthy performance.

Espindola – The best way to describe Espindola’s performance prior to his ejection would be “buzz-kill.” Every time there was an offensive build up, Espindola found a way to lose possession or waste the opportunity. His ejection was well deserved despite McDonald’s physical play and if he wants to remain an integral figure for RSL he needs to get his play and emotions under control.

Movsisyan – He challenged and fought for attacking opportunities, but just couldn’t find a way to be dangerous in front of goal. It will be interesting to see how Yura’s play changes with the return of Findley.

SUBS
Olave
– Jason Kreis will say that Olave was benched for the sake of consistency, but anyone who paid attention to his comments after Olave’s ejection in the Houston match will know that his benching was a message. I can’t help but wonder if Alvarez would have made it through the defense so easily if Olave were standing in the way.

Findley – It took him a bit to warm up as this was his first minutes in nearly a month, but there wasn’t a more dangerous player on the pitch outside of Morales in the closing minutes of the match.

Cox – He seemed a little hesitant with his passes though he was active and involved.

MATCH FACTS
San Jose Earthquakes (3-8-4) vs. Real Salt Lake (5-6-5)
July 03, 2009 — Rio Tinto Stadium

Scoring Summary:
SJ — Arturo Alvarez 5 (Pablo Campos 2) 63
RSL — Own Goal (Chris Leitch) 91+

San Jose Earthquakes — Joe Cannon, Chris Leitch, Jason Hernandez, Aaron Pitchkolan, Ramiro Corrales (Michael Zaher 45), Arturo Alvarez, Brandon McDonald, Antonio Ribeiro, Bobby Convey (Shea Salinas 38), Pablo Campos (Cornell Glen 87), Ryan Johnson.

Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert (Raphael Cox 91+), Nat Borchers, Robbie Russell, Tony Beltran (Jamison Olave 72), Ned Grabavoy, Clint Mathis, Javier Morales, Andy Williams (Robbie Findley 62), Yura Movsisyan, Fabian Espindola.

Misconduct Summary:
SJ — Pablo Campos (caution; Simulation) 13
RSL — Andy Williams (caution; Tactical Foul) 43
SJ — Shea Salinas (caution; Reckless Tackle) 47
SJ — Brandon McDonald (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 75
SJ — Jason Hernandez (caution; Lack of Respect for Game) 76
RSL — Fabian Espindola (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 77
SJ — Chris Leitch (caution; Delaying a Restart) 86
SJ — Joe Cannon (caution; Delaying a Restart) 95+

Referee: Michael Kennedy
Referee’s Assistants: Corey Rockwell; Eric Boria
4th official: Tyler Ploeger
Attendance: 17,478 / Weather: Clear -and- 80 degrees

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