SANDY — Earlier this week, Yura Movsisyan was asked to assess his performance so far this season in his return to MLS, to which he shrugged his shoulders and simply said, “average.”
“It’s an adjustment period, as much as you don’t want to admit it, you have to go through it. This league is a changed league, I came back to a totally new league,” he said.
Movsisyan is starting to get things figured out.
He was relentless in his work rate up top against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night, eventually being rewarded for that tenacity in the 65th minute with a goal that kick-started Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 come-from-behind victory at Rio Tinto Stadium.
New York played high pressure early and dominated the first half, but Movsisyan’s goal helped sway momentum as the Red Bulls started to pay the price for extending themselves early at altitude.
Movsisyan’s header on John Stertzer’s cross leveled the score at 1-1 in the 65th minute, and then substitute Jordan Allen bagged the winner in the 88th minute as his shot took a deflection off Chris Duvall into the back of the net.
“We weren’t happy with the first half, we didn’t keep the ball as well as we wanted to and found ourselves down a goal, but it didn’t really change us at all,” said Allen. “We go into every game wanting three points, and if you go down a goal nothing changes ’cause we still need to score, it just means we need to dig in a little deeper.”
Allen was in great position to Tony Beltran’s cross, but fellow sub Olmes Garcia was in good position too. Allen was in better position though, and narrowly got to the ball first, with his shot ricocheting off Duvall and rolling into the back of the net as keeper Luis Robles dove the other way.
The victory improves RSL to 8-4-3 on the season and keeps it perfect at home with a 5-0-1 record.
Coach Jeff Cassar was pleased about getting the three points, but extremely frustrated with his team’s sluggish first half.
New York came into the game on a four-game winning streak — with a staggering 13-0 goal differential — and it picked up right where it left off early in Wednesday’s match.
After dominating play the opening few minutes, the Red Bulls capitalized on the pressure in the seventh minute with Gideon Baah heading in a Gonzalo Veron corner kick for the 1-0 lead.
Neither player is a regular for New York, but coach Jesse Marsch elected to start several backups after his team played Sunday in Seattle. It clearly wasn’t a problem early as his team was the far superior team throughout the first half.
“They had a strategy to bring in a lot of second team players to bring the energy, which they did. We knew that, we knew what they were going to do, they’ve done it every single game, they’re pressing. I told the guys at halftime you have to look in the mirror and step up your game,” said Cassar.
In the 10th minute, RSL was forced to go to the bench early after Sunday Stephen was unintentionally punched in the face by Robles as he tried heading a free kick. He picked up a likely facial fracture and was carried off the field on a stretcher, being replaced by Stertzer.
New York played very high pressure throughout most of the first half, relentlessness that prevented RSL from generating any type of momentum in the first half.
RSL had just four shots in the first half, and none on goal as New York’s keeper enjoyed a relatively stress-free first half.
New York couldn’t sustain that pressure for long in the second half as RSL started to take over the game around the 50th minute. Joao Plata had a near miss in the 55th minute and then Javier Morales sent a screamer wide in the 58th minute.
RSL finally got the breakthrough it needed in the 65th minute as Movsisyan headed home Stertzer’s cross for his team-leading sixth goal of the season. He’s now scored in four straight games in which he’s been in the starting lineup.
Real Salt Lake didn’t let up after tying the game, eventually burying the winner.
“You have to look at the response, that’s obviously extremely positive in the manner we did it, we were just imposing our will on that team, they were changing their formation, changing their strategy trying to bring players on,” said Cassar. “I really liked what we were doing in the second half. Now we have to figure out a way to play with that type of urgency and intensity for 90 minutes.”
RSL returns to action this Saturday at FC Dallas, which sits one point ahead in the Western Conference standings.
James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: email@example.com