SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The magical start to the season continues for Real Salt Lake.
Tate Schmitt scored his second game-winning goal in as many games to lift Real Salt Lake to a 2-1 victory over visiting Nashville SC on Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 20,036 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I’m pumped, it’s a long time coming,” said Schmitt, who scored the game-winner last week at New England. “It’s always said that, ‘there’s no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs,’ so it’s just step by step. Getting to where you need to be, it’s all about timing. I’ve been patient, working hard, and finding my opportunities so I’m happy.”
Bobby Wood also scored his second goal of the season in the second minute for Real Salt Lake (3-0-1, 10 points), which assumed the top spot in the Western conference. The 3-0-1 start is the team’s best since 2011.
Zac MacMath was brilliant in goal, making seven saves to preserve RSL’s third consecutive win.
“Some of those saves, I’m not really thinking,” MacMath said. “It’s just, I’m there, and I’m making the save. Now I can kind of attribute that to my confidence. Being in the right place at the right time, and just making quick decisions where I don’t actually have to think. I attribute that to my confidence just because my confidence has risen the last four games.”
Nashville outshot RSL 16-8, and put eight shots on frame, but MacMath turned Nashville away time and time again.
After Wood opened the match with a goal in the second minute, Walker Zimmerman found the equalizer off a set piece for Nashville (1-1-2, 4 points), which has lost two in a row and is midway through an eight-match road trip to begin the season before opening a new stadium.
The 24-year-old Schmitt had never scored in MLS prior to his stoppage-time winner in last week’s 3-2 win at New England.
In his 14th MLS appearance, the home grown product found the back of the net in the 54th minute.
Maikel Chang curled a cross from the right that bounded between multiple bodies on the way to the back post. Schmitt then blasted a left-footed shot through the legs of goalkeeper Joe Willis from close range.
“Yeah, I’m happy with the three points,” Schmitt said. “Big results for us, especially at home. Honestly, there’s still a lot of things we need to work on–myself, as well as the team. We just gotta enjoy the win tonight but get ready to work this upcoming week.”
MacMath turned Nashsville away on several chances as the visitors tried to find the tying goal, including a reflex save of Hany Mukhtar in the 56th minute and a sure-handed stop of Daniel Lovitz’ header 21 minutes later.
Wood gave Real Salt Lake the lead after only two minutes when he headed home a corner kick from Justin Meram.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” said head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “We are in the process of really trying to build a culture, and we have plenty of examples of what phenomenal culture looks like. From my perspective, all the soccer stuff aside, if you don’t have the right character and mentality, then we wouldn’t have the chance. It’s a game that is unforgiving, and you have to earn the right in these games. I can go through a list of things we didn’t have, but I’ll tell you what we did have: character and mentality.”
Real Salt Lake next heads on the road against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, March 26 at 5:00 p.m.