COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Real Salt Lake earned its first road win of the season by scoring two goals in the final five minutes to clinch a 2-1 come-from-behind victory against rival Colorado on Saturday night.
After the Rapids’ Kevin Doyle gave Colorado the lead a half-hour into the match, RSL appeared headed to its ninth-straight road loss.
“They knew coming into halftime that it wasn’t good enough,” said Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke, who improved to 2-0 as RSL manager. “They were already laying into each other. It still wasn’t great coming into the second half, but we had a bit more urgency. They didn’t stop until they got it.”
Yura Movsisyan equalized with an 85th-minute penalty kick, converting his fourth goal of the season from the spot, prior to Lennon’s late-match heroics.
After receiving a wide pass from Demar Phillips, the youngster drove the ball through traffic from about 30 yards out to score in the 88th minute and help Salt Lake claim all three points and move into sixth place in the Western Conference with back-to-back wins.
“That all came down to Brooks,” Petke said. “I was set to bring on an offensive sub and move Brooks over to the other side, and he looked at me and said, ‘I got this guy.’”
Here are three thoughts on a wild come-from-behind effort.
Don’t look now, but RSL is on a winning streak
We in the media made something of it at the start of the season, but it was hard not to — Salt Lake didn’t start out the 2017 season well. A three-match winless streak continued a run of form that saw RSL declining since last August, and former coach Jeff Cassar was fired to make room for Petke.
After two weeks of interim head coach Daryl Shore, Petke is off to a 2-0 start. The former New York Red Bulls and Real Monarchs manager has infused the club with a direct, attacking style of play, and his players have responded in the way he may have only dared to dream.
“Compared to last week, today was kind of a bit of a step backwards, but we found the way to win,” Petke said. “Time to get back on track and play the style we like to play.”
Brooks Lennon is a gamer
If you didn’t know it yet, now you do: RSL’s homegrown product from Arizona knows how to play soccer.
Though barely 19, the RSL forward is with his parent club on a year-long loan from Liverpool FC, where he was impressing the Reds as a stalwart member of their U-23 academy side. A U.S. U-20 international, Lennon was proving himself abroad and likely has a strong future with Liverpool ahead of him.
The European training showed up in a big way Saturday, as the teenager never panicked with his team down a goal.
“We kept pushing, played the style we wanted to play,” Lennon said. “Eventually got the penalty kick and the red card helped us out.
“Once we got that first goal, we knew the second one was coming.”
His coach appreciates him, too.
Salt Lake runs the Rocky Mountains
After claiming the Rocky Mountain Cup as its first trophy in franchise history in 2007, RSL came out on top of the regional rivalry for six-straight years.
But Colorado has made the games more competitive of late; the Rapids have split the past four seasons’ worth of the series, including winning the 2015 Cup on goal differential before last year’s 8-4 margin in favor of RSL.
“Obviously it’s a big rivalry,” Lennon said. “It was my first time playing in it, so it felt different before the game. Definitely more serious. I was glad I had the opportunity to play in it and get the win.”
Now RSL takes three points back to Sandy, where the two will meet again Aug. 26 at 8 p.m.
“We knew it was going to be tough coming in, especially with the Rocky Mountain Cup, and what it means to us and our fans,” Movsisyan said. “We are coming back here again, so it was great to get ahead in the Rocky Mountain Cup.”