Real Salt Lake scored the first, and only goal, in Portland to punch their ticket to an MLS Cup showdown against Sporting Kansas City in KC. And that goal was all important despite the 5-2 aggregate victory in the two leg Western Conference Final series. At least that’s according to head coach Jason Kreis.
“They say in soccer, and I believe it’s true, that the first goal matters so much in games,” explained Kreis immediately after the celebration and Cup presentation ceremony that followed the match. “And then you enter a game like this where we’re already up two and I think the first goal becomes ten times as important.”
But it was almost, very nearly, the opponent that got that first goal. In fact, they were the first to put the ball in the back of the net. However, the goal was waived off as referee Matt Geiger whistled Rodney Wallace with what replays showed to be a very soft foul on the play.
“If Portland scores the first goal, they’ve got all the momentum,” continued Kreis. “They’re on their home field. They’ve got the fans behind them. I think that we would have been in a really tough place.” Fortunately for RSL, and their faithful fans who travelled to the match or watched back home, that wasn’t to be. Although the Timbers played a very open, aggressive style of play throughout the game, they failed to find pay dirt.
The result left Kyle Beckerman ecstatic and resolute following the match. “It feels great! This is what everyone strives to do in preseason when you get together, and here we are,” said the RSL captain. However, it was obvious that he wasn’t satisfied and was looking forward to the match two weeks hence. He did take time to congratulate his opponent on a very strong season.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “They’re a tough team, especially at home. They had a great season. We knew it was going to be tough.”
Kreis on the other hand, took a moment to congratulate his own squad.
“I think they’ve been through every possible scenario, and they’ve handled it well.”