[MLS] Three road teams won on Saturday, but Real Salt Lake takes top honors for persevering in tough conditions. Hard, cold rains whipped sideways by winds of 25 miles per hour and gusts up to 40 mph pummeled Buck Shaw Stadium for the entire game, which RSL won, 1-0, on a goal by captain Kyle Beckerman in the 64th minute.
Balls hit with the win sailed far over or skipped past their intended targets, while more than a few goal kicks and high clearances aimed into the wind were knocked almost straight down. Players slipped and stumbled on a softening surface throughout the match, though Beckerman kept his feet most of the time and teed up a feed after a short corner kick to drill home a shot from the top of the penalty arc.
One of Nick Rimando’s saves repelled a close-range blast by 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski, who also misfired on a pair of headers in the first half. One of them, from inside the goal area, bounced past the post after it cleared Schuler, who had slipped as he went up to head it. Perhaps surprised the ball reached him, Wondolowski got his forehead on it but missed the frame.
Simon Dawkins, signed on loan from Tottenham earlier this week, sparked the Quakes’ attack as a second-half substitute, but Rimando fended off numerous attacks with blocks and saves and parries and catches in extremely difficult circumstances to get RSL a hard-earned victory. More than a dozen determined San Jose attacks in the second half yielded looks at goal, but Rimando and his mates turned back everything.
“When you have a veteran goalkeeper and great shot-stopper like Nick, it gives the defense a lot more confidence," said defender Nat Borchers, who played alongside Chris Schuler rather the injured Jamison Olave. "He was awesome tonight. We got the shutout and I attribute most of that to him.
“Slipping was the biggest factor. It was hard to get our studs dug in, and some of the guys had a hard time with that. The rain kept coming down, the field got heavier and heavier and it was difficult.”
Said Wondolowski, “I take the blame for this loss. I had three perfect balls just sitting there and I missed them all. It’s frustrating. It’s one of those situations where I needed to do better on. I think the team played well. We pressed at times. It was a tough loss. It’s going to haunt me for a while. It was just one of those games where it didn’t go your way.
“I think the weather conditions played a role in the game. The weather was bad and it made the ball really slick, especially the wind. It was pretty hard to get the ball down [to] play. It was unpredictable.”
Also winning on the road were Sporting Kansas City and Philadelphia.