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SANDY — Utah had gone nearly all summer without a major rain, thunder and lightning storm, but as the majority of Saturday saw that exact weather all across the state, Real Salt Lake was hit with a 83-minute lightning delay after just the fourth minute of its match Saturday night against D.C. United at Rio Tinto Stadium.
However, it didn’t affect the Claret and Cobalt’s performance after it sat in the locker-room for over an hour waiting to retake the field. RSL still posted a 1-0 win over the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference opponent thanks to a headed goal by RSL midfielder Will Johnson.
Although it didn't affect the club's performance, RSL head coach Jason Kreis said it wasn't the easiest situation for players.
“It’s always difficult for the guys,” said Kreis. “It can be hard to stay focused because there’s so many communications about when you’re going to start, it seems like there’s no set system. It’s just, 'OK, there’s going to be a certain amount of minutes delayed,' so we kept telling them ‘OK 20 more minutes. OK 20 more minutes. OK 20 more minutes,’ so it can be frustrating for the players.
"But all in all I think they ended it pretty well and we saw a pretty exciting game tonight.”
The league victory was the club's first since July 27 when it beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 at home.
And Kreis said the three points were very welcome considering the point in the season RSL is at.
“Absolutely critical,” said Kreis. “I told the guys that yesterday, 'We’ve got three games remaining — now we have two and there can’t be anything less than maximum points in those games to give ourselves the best possible chance to not end up in the last two playoff spots, which we think would put us in some dire straits to have a chance to succeed in the playoffs.”
A sellout crowd of 20,334 also stuck out the lengthy lightning delay. The sell out was the third consecutive this season and also set a new Rio Tinto Stadium record making the sellout the eighth of the 2012 season and the most sellouts in the stadium's history.
RSL will not return to Rio Tinto until Sept. 22 when it hosts the Portland Timbers. In the meantime, the Claret and Cobalt will take to the road to face MLS opponent Houston Dynamo on Sept 6.
The trip to Houston will be without RSL defender Chris Wingert due to a yellow card shown Saturday night for a foul against DC United.
Mid September will see RSL back in Champions League play as it will travel to Panama to face Tauro FC on Sept. 18 for the second time.
Kira Terry is a sports writer covering Real Salt Lake for KSL.com. Follow her on Twitter, @kiraterry.