Jefferson Savarino’s game-winner was a thing of true beauty, but Real Salt Lake nearly walked away from their match against Atlanta United with what would have been a pretty reasonable point.
After all, in the 92nd minute of stoppage time (91:37) — there were just supposed to be three minutes to be played — Albert Rusnak took a shot from the top of the box that went absolutely sky-high, and he was basically open. It was uncharacteristically poor, and it certainly wasn’t the game-winning goal everyone would have been hoping for.
What came next is sort of unbelievable for the speed in which it all happened.
At 92:42, Everton Luiz, in as a substitute and looking kind of poor prior in his initial 5–10 minutes of action, was fouled, just inside the defensive half.
At 92:48, Luiz took a quick pass in a last-ditch effort to get play moving, hitting Nick Besler quickly. 92:50, Besler passed the ball. At 92:53, Jefferson Savarino dribbled past a player. 92:56, he passed the ball. Brooks Lennon passes the ball at 93:02. Donny Toia passes moments thereafter.
And that’s where the going gets good. Everton Luiz finds Savarino again. Savarino dribbles through — not really past, if we’re being fair — Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who has to be twice his size. And then he shoots. Good grief, what a shot it was.
The broadcast clock showed 93:12 when he took his shot. It’s pretty remarkable, really. That was always going to be the last possession the game saw, I suspect. The referee might have chosen the blow the whistle earlier, had Brad Guzan not taken an exceedingly long time taking a goal kick, and had Everton Luiz not been fouled less than 30 seconds earlier.
Those 30 seconds were truly remarkable. Not a foot was put wrong. Five players were involved in that play. If that’s not a great success story, I don’t know what is.
Donny Toia, Brooks Lennon, Everton Luiz, Nick Besler, and, of course, Jefferson Savarino all contributed to that goal. This wasn’t an individual effort that made our nights (that would have been fine, though). This was a team that looked light years ahead of where they were a year ago.
I love an individual effort, and I love a well-earned penalty at the death. Those are great things. But more than that, I love a goal that comes as a result of the natural working order of the team as a fundamental unit. That’s what we have here. I’m so happy about it.
I can’t speak to the technique Savarino used — I guess I could mention the foot he used, which was probably his right given, you know, geometry and stuff — but I’ll leave that to the people who know what they’re talking about.
Instead, I’ll just speak to the magnificence of the moment.
See, with the match running down, Charles Barnard — the guy who tweets RSL stats at times and is all-around good dude — tweeted this.
#RSL has yet to score this year in the final 15 minutes of matches. #RSLStats— Charles Barnard (@ccb1212) May 25, 2019
And I thought, “Ugh, it’s just not our game. Guess I’ll finish up my story and get it ready to publish. Sure hope Atlanta doesn’t score on us.”
Of course, earlier in the night I’d also said the game wasn’t going to end 1-1, which might give you a little peek into how I think about soccer. Like most of you, I sort of live and die in the moment. That’s normal, I think.
Anyway, Charles says that, and I’m just waiting for the clock to expire. I hadn’t started a timer of any sort, and I was watching the field and not a broadcast, so I didn’t know exactly how late it was. It felt pretty late. I think we all had a pretty accurate feeling that this was the last play.
And then all that stuff above happened. How can you predict that?
Certainly RSL this year hasn’t given us reason to expect this sort of thing, and last year didn’t, for the most part. In fact, it’s the latest regular season goal RSL has scored since August 18. Last year saw only four stoppage time goals scored, which, frankly, still feels like a lot.
Here, watch the goal. We’ll talk after.
SAVA!!!! Last kick...for the win⚽️⚽️ You can't script a better finish!! #RSL 2-1 over #AtlantaUnited on Savarino's Rocket #RSLvATL #RSLATL @realsaltlake pic.twitter.com/Iutrt5tIy0— Dave Fox (@Davefox2) May 25, 2019
Sava at the death pic.twitter.com/gMIze1M09h— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) May 25, 2019
Seriously. That’s excellent stuff. Jefferson Savarino has done more than save our bacon. He’s saved our souls.
I think that’s how it works, right?
Good grief, these quick turnarounds aren’t fun. We’re in Montreal on Wednesday. (We is the team, not me. I’m not going to Montreal. I mean, I wouldn’t mind, but ... yeah, you get it.) That’s going to be an interesting one. They just lost 4-2 to LAFC, so you’ve got to imagine they’re one of three things: Dispirited, revenge-seeking, or normal. I’m hoping for the first option.
Anyway, if we win, it’ll be a four-game winning streak, which hasn’t happened since *checks watch* the summer of 2013. In the spirit of Charles, I’m putting this out into the universe, and maybe that means it’ll happen. I don’t remember how that year went, though. Hmm.
But seriously, I’m just looking at this three-game winning streak, looking at our team, and wondering if it’s sustainable. For the first time in a long while, I feel like it might be.
I’m going camping. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!