Sandy • FC Dallas' first blow captured Real Salt Lake's night.
A Fabian Castillo goal, set up by a David Ferreira assist, on a play that occurred out of nowhere and left RSL gasping. Castillo broke left, passed the ball to Ferreira, cut upfield, then punched home a sharp shot that suddenly made it 1-0 Dallas at the 62-minute mark at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL recovered, tying the score at 1 all, lifted by the late additions of Alvaro Saborio and Kyle Beckerman.
But the tone was set. Real never looked right Saturday, appearing shaky and unsettled as its offense traded brief aggressive stretches for a series of missed chances. Dallas was rarely in control, being outpassed 498-246 and outshot 15-7.
Yet when Brek Shea broke free near the end of stoppage time, racing up the left sideline and outpacing RSL's porous defense, the ensuing result was obvious. Real was about to blow it. Dallas was going to steal one. And as Ferreira collected Shea's smooth pass and sent the ball flying past RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, an upside-down scoreboard that read 2-1 Dallas somehow made sense.
For 93 minutes, Real played solid defense. For two, RSL was a complete mess. One Dallas goal occurred via a Real breakdown. The other was partly because of RSL coach Jason Kreis' late-game offensive gamble, which saw a struggling team push for a home victory and ignore the possibility of a tie.
Both cut to the heart of Real's recent troubles: It can't finish games, and its defense falls apart at the worst possible time.
"We were pushing for the second goal and it feels like we're going to get it," RSL defender Tony Beltran said. "The guys that came in did a fantastic job positively changing the game. The crowd was behind us, and I felt like we were going to get that second goal. Then that happens."
What happened was cruel. Stunning. And deserved.
A fiery and emotional Kreis called out RSL on Friday, saying, "enough's enough." Then Dallas stole one in Sandy, as Real failed to fully heed its coach's plea for urgency.
Kreis wants RSL to be the best. And he knows his up-and-down team won't count for much if Real continues to exchange 93 strong minutes for two forgettable ones.
"Unfortunately, this game can be very, very cruel," Kreis said. "So now we're on the precipice. What do we do from here? Because this could be a real emotional heartbreaker for us, but we just can't let it be."