SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake had been playing so well at home of late, setting a franchise record with seven straight victories at Rio Tinto Stadium.
But in the biggest home match of the season, RSL’s defense fell apart in a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, damaging its playoff hopes.
Cade Cowell and Carlos Fierro each scored a goal and added an assist Saturday afternoon as the Earthquakes, already eliminated from playoff contention, put a dent in RSL’s playoff hopes.
Real Salt Lake is still hanging on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. RSL and Minnesota United each have 45 points, while LAFC has 44 points. All three teams have two games remaining.
Albert Rusnak scored twice for Real Salt Lake and Maikel Chang added a late goal in a furious rally that was to no avail. RSL would have set up a chance to clinch a playoff spot with the victory.
“It’s as disappointing as it comes given where we are in the season with just a couple of games left,” Rusnak said. “Up to this moment we had it in our hands now we have to depend on other teams’ results. It’s a tough one today because I think the majority of the game we played good football. We kept getting into their final third and the first half I felt like we could’ve added a couple more goals, but we didn’t convert chances and they got some goals. In the end, it was an open game. It was up and down, who knows if there were five or ten minutes left, maybe we could’ve tied the game, but that wasn’t the case today. I would say it is as disappointing as I can remember.”
Rusnak put Salt Lake on the board in the ninth minute. He fed the ball to Damir Kreilach at the top of the box and then Kreilach laid it off to Rusnak as he cut into the 6-yard box. Rusnak unleashed a right-footer into the center of the goal for the early 1-0 advantage.
Fierro leveled the score in the 37th minute after turning a low cross into the box into a perfect equalizer. An unmarked Fierro latched onto the ball near the goalmouth and, without breaking stride, tapped in a left-footer into an open net.
San Jose took the lead in the second minute of first-half stoppage time on Wondolowski’s goal, the 170th of his career. He climbed the ladder on a corner kick and headed a cross from Fierro inside the back post for a 2-1 lead for the Earthquakes.
“It’s extremely tough to concede before the half because you have 15 minutes to have that mental talk in your brain as a player,” said interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “Instead of moving onto the next play now you have time to think about it. I told the guys we played some of our best stuff, but we got a bit careless. We started to think that we could just walk all over these and that put down our guard. We started doing some interesting stuff around the midfield. We were giving away balls cheaply against a team that likes to break. Conceding before half is always difficult to overcome and tonight proved to be the case.”
Cowell split a pair of RSL defenders and released a right footer just as he crossed into the 6-yard box to give the Earthquakes a 3-1 lead in the 69th minute. Yueill rifled a key insurance goal down the middle of the box in the 79th minute.
Real Salt Lake pulled one goal back in the 85th minute when Chang threaded the ball inside the near post. RSL added another goal in the third minute of stoppage time when Rusnak threaded a goal inside the near post just outside the 6-yard box.
Real Salt Lake (13-13-6) plays its home finale Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. against the Portland Timbers before finishing the regular season next weekend at Sporting KC.