CHESTER, Pa. — With a pair of second-half goals separated by just six minutes, Real Salt Lake stunned the slumping Union, 2-1, on Sunday night at Talen Energy Stadium.
“We don’t like to lose in this building,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. We need to get points, that’s clear. "We need to take advantage of the hard work that we put in in the beginning of the year and the breaks will start bouncing our way again.”
The loss continues a disturbing slide for the Union, who are now 1-4-1 in their last six games and sinking down the Eastern Conference standings. With the victory, RSL snaps a six-game winless streak.
“We know we’re a good team and we can win games,” said Union goalkeeper Andre Blake. “We’re just going through a phase right now and we think we have to weather the storm, keep together and get it right.”
While the second half went to RSL, the first half was all Union. Led by Chris Pontius, Ilsinho and Roland Alberg, the Union, who were without suspended Tranquillo Barnetta, owned the early scoring chance advantage, rattling off a series of near-misses. That hard work would eventually pay off in the 42nd minute.
With a brilliant pass that slipped by three RSL defenders, Pontius found C.J. Sapong in the box, with Aaron Maund draped on his back. Looking to make the turn with possession, Sapong was hauled down, earning the foul and penalty kick.
“I was just trying to get away from wrestling with them because I think that’s the game that they like,” Sapong said. “On the PK, he pulled me down and that was good. I like my work rate, but I think I would just like to be more dangerous toward goal.”
Facing the more-than-capable Nick Rimando, Alberg lined up at the spot and laced the stutter-step step goal inside the left post for the 1-0 advantage in the 44th minute.
It was Alberg’s seventh goal of the season and fourth penalty kick goal.
But RSL would counter in spectacular fashion. Buzzing around the Union box in the 48th minute, Joao Plata ripped a right-footed shot that curled over Andre Blake and in, tying the match at one. Six-minutes later, Javier Morales handed RSL the 2-1 lead, when he found space and floated a light right-footed shot over Blake into the left corner.
“They had two very good goals,” said Union defender Ken Tribbett. “Maybe we could get a step closer to try to block the shots, but those are two world-class goals. Give them a little bit of credit, they’re putting it in the upper 90.”
Aching to equal the score, the Union put on an attacking clinic in the final moments of regulation, but Rimando had the answer. Brian Carroll ripped a shot from the slot that was blocked away by Rimando, who doubled his effort on the rebound save.
Rimando set an MLS record on Sunday with his 412th start.
“At halftime, it came down to a lot of guys looking at each other in the eyes and putting the work in to get the result,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened in the second half. We dug in, committed to defending and got two special goals from our big players.”