Call it inexperience or not used to winning, but the New England Revolution will wake up this morning kicking themselves that they are not playing in the Desert Diamond Cup final on Saturday. The Revs were leading Real Salt Lake 2-1 with three minutes to go last night, but allowed two late goals to lose 3-2.
The Revs will now face the New York Red Bulls in the consolation match at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, while Real Salt Lake’s late comeback earned them a spot in the nationally-televised championship game against Seattle Sounders FC 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
For the second straight game the Revs erased a halftime deficit, cancelling out Devon Sandoval’s 22nd-minute opener with goals from Andy Dorman and A.J. Soares early in the second half. But on this occasion they weren’t able to hold on as Alvaro Saborio and Khari Stephenson struck in the 88th and 90th minutes, respectively, to lift RSL to a dramatic victory.
Playing amidst a mix of pouring rain and swirling snow – which briefly halted the game midway through the first half – it took both sides the opening 20 minutes to find their footing with scoring chances limited.
When the first serious chance did arrive in the 22nd minute, Real Salt Lake made the most of it by taking a 1-0 lead. Sebastian Velasquez let fly with a 25-yard drive which forced Bobby Shuttleworth into a diving save, but Sandoval was on hand to bury an uncontested rebound from close range.
Velasquez and Sandoval linked up again in the 37th minute with a clever give-and-go and came inches from doubling the lead when Velasquez’s shot flew inches wide. Shuttleworth came up big just before halftime, sprawling to his left to deny RSL midfielder Enzo Martinez’s tight-angle drive.
New England had its best chance of the first half in the 39th minute when Kelyn Rowe received a short corner and whipped a cross to Jerry Bengtson, who directed a close-range header over the crossbar.
The Revs made mass substitutions to start the second half and it took the new group just five minutes to level the score. Andrew Farrell – who started at right back but moved to center back after the break – played a long ball for Diego Fagundez down the left wing. The young forward took the ball down with expert control before rounding his defender and centering for Dorman, who finished from close range.
Seven minutes later New England took a 2-1 lead through Soares, the result of a well-worked set piece. Unsigned rookie Gabe Latigue whipped in a free kick from the right channel and Soares rose above the pack to send a glancing header into the far upper corner.
There was late drama, however, as RSL scored twice in the final three minutes to turn the game on its head.
Saborio first pulled RSL level with a fantastic individual effort in the 88th minute. After receiving a short pass from Ned Grabavoy, the Costa Rican striker weaved his way into a shooting position before lashing home a left-footed drive into the upper corner.
Grabavoy was again the provider just minutes later, driving down the right wing before pulling a pass back for Stephenson, who settled at the top of the box before blasting a low drive past Shuttleworth with what proved to be the last kick of the game.