Outside of his celebrity appeal, it's hard to imagine how David Beckham could've made Wednesday night's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium any more exciting.
The atmosphere was great with a season-high crowd of 24,633, the home team played one of its better matches of the season, and on top of that there were two fantastic goals — including a bending free kick by Javier Morales that would've impressed even Beckham.
The only thing preventing it from being a perfect evening for Real Salt Lake was a win.
RSL gave up two goals in the final 11 minutes before rallying for a 2-2 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy, thanks to Morales' goal in the 86th minute, just two minutes after he'd entered the game as a sub.
His goal, however, didn't detract from the disappointment.
"It feels terrible. They weren't on the same field as us the whole game. We dominated. We had more chances, and to not come out with a win and even have to fight for a point was unbelievable," said Real midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who hit the crossbar in the 32nd minute.
"It really felt like it was one of our better games, and to not get a win and stay in the playoff race, it's a gutted feeling."
The draw did keep RSL (4-13-8, 20 points) two points ahead of the Galaxy (4-13-6, 18 points) in the race to avoid finishing with the worst record in MLS. It's a silver lining no one was happy about.
"We're not happy with it, we're not pleased with it, we're not content with it," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "We feel that our team did enough over 70 some odd minutes where we didn't feel like L.A. was getting much of anything against us."
RSL enjoyed the better of the play all evening as evidenced by its 19-9 edge in shots and the 12-2 differential in corner kicks.
Despite the advantage, it wasn't until the 55th minute that Real finally broke through, capitalizing on a mistake by Galaxy keeper Joe Cannon. On what should've been a simple shot by Andy Williams to fall down and smother, Cannon gave up a rebound and newcomer Yura Movsisyan was right there to pounce on it. Before he could get a shot off, however, Cannon tripped him up, resulting in a penalty kick.
Real midfielder Carey Talley, who was hammering penalty kicks in practice the day before, buried the shot for the 1-0 lead. The team had chance after chance after chance to double that advantage but to no avail.
"For me it wasn't even necessarily about the finishing, when we were in that span in the middle of the second half where we are attacking with numbers and running at their backs I thought there was some really poor decision-making,"
It came back to bite RSL in the 79th minute when Jean-Martial Kipre dragged down Galaxy defender Mike Randolph in the box, resulting in a penalty kick. When these teams met in California earlier this month, Nick Rimando saved a Landon Donovan penalty kick, but not this time. Donovan buried the shot to level the score.
That's when things got exciting.
In the 85th minute, less than a minute after RSL went to three defenders to push forward for the win, the Galaxy went ahead 2-1 on a fantastic counter attack in which Donovan played a perfect through ball to Gavin Glinton, who slotted the one-on-one chance by Rimando.
"If you give a player like Landon room to run he'll burn you. He's a world-class player, and we got caught on a counter," said Williams.
The same substitution that left Real shorthanded defensively paid off in the 86th minute as Morales hammered home a 25-yard free kick. Chris Brown nearly put RSL back in front in stoppage time, but his header was cleared off the line by Galaxy midfielder Kelly Gray.
RSL returns to action this Saturday night at home against the Colorado Rapids.