Real Salt Lake was down a goal after 13 minutes but up a man after 26, ultimately getting a brace from Alvaro Saborío to beat Panama's Árabe Unido 2-1 in their CONCACAF Champions League debut. Despite the victory, it was a match that left RSL coaches and players disillusioned, having to play out a match suspecting their opponents of stalling.
After going down a man, Árabe used injury stoppages to try an hasten the match toward full-time, a tactic that was derided by Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis after the match. Kreis went so far as to say a newcomer to soccer watching the match on television would never tune into another match.
Given his feelings toward Árabe, the RSL boss may find the winning goal, awarded on a contentious penalty kick call, karma.
The defending Major League Soccer champions fell behind early when Árabe's Armando Cooper saw a shot from sixteen yards out deflect off a defender and loop past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Thirteen minutes later the match permanently turned in RSL's favor. Árabe midfielder Nahil Carroll slid into counterpart Kyle Beckerman with a two-footed tackle, earning him a straight red card. It was the first of what would be two dismissals on the night for Árabe.
It was 20 minutes before RSL took advantage. Then - in the moments before halftime - Chris Wingert's service from deep along the left flank found Sabarío in the middle of the Árabe area, eight yards from goal. The striker calmly headed the ball down and into the right of goal, sending the match into intermission tied at one.
The second half saw Real Salt Lake take better advantage of their numerical superiority, controlling play and generating almost all of the match's chances. Saborío had multiple opportunities, Javier Morales went close in the middle of the half, and Fabian Espinola put a shot one yard over the crossbar in the 83rd minute. Beckerman would threaten just short of full-time before Árabe Unido finally gave the match to RSL.
In stoppage time, Morales was adjudicated to have been taken-down just inside the left of Árabe Unido's area. Saborío converted the penalty kick to give Salt Lake a 2-1 lead and three points in their Champions League debut.
After the winning goal, Árabe's Andres Santamaria received consecutive yellow cards and a dismissal for arguing with the lead official.