FRISCO, Tex. (ABC4 Sports) – In the span of about ten minutes, Real Salt Lake went from a devastating loss that would have severely damaged its playoff hopes, to a thrilling comeback victory that may have saved them.
Justin Meram, a substitute in the 75th minute, assisted on goals by Damir Kreilach in the 80th and Albert Rusnak in the 90th, as RSL came from behind to beat FC Dallas, 2-1.
With the victory, RSL (13-12-6) moves back above the playoff line in the Western Conference with three games remaining.
“It’s one of those special moments in sports,” said RSL interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “You’re up against it. You’re fighting for a playoff spot, you’re fighting to get back into this game. We’ve been preaching team and what it means to be a part of something greater than yourselves. I think in that moment, it encapsulates all of it.”
FC Dallas, which had already been eliminated from playoff contention, scored the only goal of the first half when RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa came out of the net, and Matt Hedges headed a ball over him to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.
It stayed the way until the 80th minute, when Meram, just subbed into the match, fed Kreilach for his team-leading 15th goal of the season to level the match at one.
Then just ten minutes later, Meram set up Rusnak, who buried it in the far corner of the net, and the RSL bench erupted in joy.
“I just wanted to come in and make a difference,” said Meram. “I’ve got to create something with some good passes. I was just glad I could contribute and we get the win. This is how you build momentum going into the postseason.”
This marks the first time this season Real Salt Lake has earned a result after trailing at the half. It is also the team’s second victory in 21 games at FC Dallas.
“Heart and desire more than anything,” said Rusnak about the comeback victory. “We spoke about mentality the last couple of weeks. Things haven’t been easy. A mistake today by us gives them a lead and then road games are always difficult. We’ve done it many times this year on the road when we come back or at home where we go down and manage to find a way to win the game. That was a very important win.”
RSL now plays its next two games at home where it has a club-record seven-game winning streak. Real Salt Lake will host San Jose Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m at Rio Tinto Stadium.