SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – With its season on the line, Real Salt Lake rallied in the second half in Game 2 of its best-of-three MLS playoff series against the Houston Dynamo, only to win in penalty kicks to force a deciding Game 3 Saturday.
After Amine Bassi rebounded his own penalty kick in the 28th minute to give Houston a 1-0 lead, Jefferson Savarino blasted in a free kick in the 70th minute to level the match at one goal a piece.
Real Salt Lake goalie Zac MacMath saved the first attempt of the penalty kick shootout, from Bassi again to give RSL the early advantage.
Each player from both teams converted the rest of the way, capped by 20-year-old Diego Luna’s game-winning kick that sent the crowd at America First Field into a frenzy.
“It’s just the confidence of going up there and knowing what you’re going to do,” Luna said. “I walked up to Zac when he gave me the ball, and I said, ‘let’s go to Houston.’ So, I think it was just having confidence and putting it away.”
The best-of-three series will be settled on Saturday in Houston. The Dynamo took the opener 2-1 at home on Oct. 29.
“These games are tough, but I think tonight we showed a great spirit, a great commitment, and the quality was there,” said RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “In the second half, I think we really took the game by the scruff of the neck, dictated the game on both sides of the ball. That comes from 55 or 60 minutes of consistently working hard for the next guy.”
With RSL looking to spark the offense, Chicho Arango entered the match in the 55th minute. The Colombian forward, who scored six goals in 11 appearances for Real Salt Lake upon returning to MLS this summer, had multiple chances at the equalizer.
In the 58th minute, Arango’s header off a cross from Luna was saved by keeper Steve Clark.
Then, in the 64th minute, Arango’s right-footed strike from well outside the box just missed to the left of the goal.
Savarino tied the match in the 70th minute on a free kick from the edge of the area.
Houston held a slight edge in possession and led 1-0 at the halftime whistle.
Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad was shown a yellow for his hard tackle on Franco Escobar in the penalty area in the 27th minute.
MacMath saved Bassi’s initial shot on the ensuing penalty kick, but the Houston midfielder scored on the rebound for his second goal of the series.
Real Salt Lake failed to register a shot on goal in the opening 45 minutes.
RSL and the Dynamo will decide the series Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in Houston.
The winner of the first-round series will advance to play eighth-seeded Sporting Kansas City, who swept top-seeded St. Louis City in two matches.