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This Week in RSL History: Playoff highs and lows

Nick Rimando playoff legend. Two MLS Cup runs continue, while others end in defeat.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

This Week in RSL History will look back at events from Utah Soccer’s past. At times this will also include a breakout “This Day in RSL History” to cover significant events, while The Week will give more of an overview of events to allow all of us a chance to say, “hey, I remember that!”

We continue with events that occurred this week over the years, Nov. 2nd-8th. Do you remember any of these events?

November 2

  • 2011: SEA vs RSL - 4 days after the first leg in Salt Lake, both teams met again in Seattle. RSL held a 3-goal cushion going into the 2nd leg, but the Seattle Sounders would be on their home turf in front of a sellout crowd. RSL would be forced to field a makeshift lineup with both Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers on the injured list, this left Chris Schuler and Chris Wingert in central defense. For the first half the piecemeal defense weathered a Sounder storm - including an amazing header block off the line by Tony Beltran. A controversial PK in the 56th minute finally broke the deadlock; they would get a second several minutes later. After that, RSL closed up shop to prevent any more goals, allowing them to move on to the conference final.

2012: SEA vs RSL - For the second year in a row RSL faced the Sounders in the playoffs. The first leg of the MLS playoffs started in Seattle this time. Both teams started attacking from the start, and shots peppered both goals, the goalkeepers; Michael Gspurning, and particularly Nick Rimando, stood on their heads to block, tip, and parry multiple shots on goal. A 67th minute collision in the box resulted in Rimando receiving a broken nose and needing stitches after the match, but he opted to remained on the field to keep the Sounders off the board. Both teams would head to Salt Lake for the second leg.

“I think,” said coach Jason Kreis, “it will have to go down as one of the single best individual performances by any player that has ever worn an RSL jersey.”

November 3

  • 2013: LAG vs RSL - In what was becoming a common occurrence, RSL would again face the Los Angeles Galaxy in the playoffs. The teams would start the 1st leg in So. California, and the Galaxy started pressing for a goal early. RSL left them multiple chances, but the tag-team of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan couldn’t capitalize. A long-range shot by Sean Franklin in the 48th minute would finally put the ball past the RSL defense, and give the Galaxy a one-goal lead heading to Utah for the second leg.

November 4

  • 2018: RSL vs SKC - RSL fans were still riding high after their surprise win over Los Angeles FC, as the team faced their old rival Sporting Kansas City for the 1st leg of the semi-finals. The first half was pretty evenly matched with both sides trading shots on goal, but the game remained scoreless at the half. RSL opened the scoring early in the 2nd half with a rocket by Albert Rusnak, but SKC would equalize not long afterwards after capitalizing on an clearance error by Rimando.

November 5

  • 2009: CLB 2-3 RSL - The 2nd leg of the unusual playoffs with wildcard RSL playing in the Eastern Conference. The underdogs RSL had won the first match in Utah 1-0 before heading east to battle Columbus Crew on their home field. The Crew would open the scoring in the 17th minute off a free kick, and would double the lead in the 35th on a failed clearance; everything seemed rosy for the 2008 champs, then things fell apart. Two minutes after the 2nd goal Javier Morales struck back to equalize the aggregate score, then in first half stoppage time Fabian Espindola was taken down in the box to earn a PK for the visitors; Robbie Findley would convert to put RSL up 2-1 (3-2 aggregate) going into the half, and Andy Williams would slip in the dagger in the 74th minute to send RSL to the Eastern Conference semi-finals vs Chicago Fire.

November 6

  • 2010: RSL vs FCD - After a last minute goal gave FC Dallas a one goal lead in the 1st leg, RSL felt confident that they could make up the difference in the second leg at the RioT. RSL would be without playmaker Javier Morales after he was sent off with a second yellow card in the first leg, but Dallas would also lose a player due to Atiba Harris getting a straight red in the same game. Dax McCarty would put the aggregate up 3-1 for FCD in the 17th minute on a breakaway. RSL would get few chances as the Texans would pile on the pressure. Robbie Findley would finally put RSL on the board, but Dallas would hold firm to knock the defending MLS Cup champs out of the playoffs.
  • 2011: LAG vs RSL - Just two years removed from RSL MLS Cup win over Los Angeles Galaxy, the two met again in the Western Conference final. Supporters’ Shield winners LAG were still seeking their MLS Cup for superstar David Beckham, while RSL had hung on vs the Sounders to advance (Nov. 2nd above). Both teams came out fighting with early shots on goal, but first blood would be drawn by the Galaxy as a controversial PK. Alvaro Saborio would equalize minutes later and the deadlock would remain through the half with both sides hitting woodwork instead of net. LAG would move ahead in the 58th minute; a Fabian Espindola shot would hit the crossbar for RSL to save the Galaxy’s lead, then Robbie Keane would apply the dagger in the 68th to send the Galaxy to the MLS Cup (which they eventually won.)

November 7

  • 2013: RSL vs LAG - The Galaxy held a one goal lead going into the 2nd leg of the playoffs (Nov. 3, above), and were looking for a 3-peat as MLS Cup champions; so the pressure was on for RSL. The tables were flipped from last time as RSL started threatening early looking for the series equalizer. Sebastian Velasquez would find the net in the 35th, Javier Morales looked to have the winning goal in the 84th, only to have it disallowed. The game would end with the aggregate 1-1, and move into the two overtime periods. Chris Schuler would knock home the winner in the 102nd minute to let RSL move on to the conference final against Portland Timbers.

November 8

  • 2008: CHV vs RSL - Chivas USA was down 1 goal after the 1st leg, but hopeful that home field advantage would work in their favor for the 2nd leg. For the first 20 minutes both teams would trade shots, but neither side was really threatening, it took a penalty kick for Chivas to open the scoring in the 30th minute. Dema Kovalenko would find the equalizer for RSL just 8 minutes later. Javier Morales would slip in a second in the 77th to move the aggregate to 3-1. Chivas would manage a second goal to equalize the game, but RSL would move on to face New York Red Bulls in the Western Conference final.
  • 2012: RSL vs SEA - RSL were feeling positive going into the second leg of the playoffs vs Seattle (Nov. 2nd above). They had weathered a barrage of shots, and an injury to Nick Rimando to keep the score 0-0. Both sides traded shots, and once again the goalkeepers were the heroes, but the Sounders would breach the RSL defense in the 81st minute and hang on to advance to the conference final.