for this game

Blanco, Fire salvage tie with Real Salt Lake

Mar 30, 2008 - 12:59 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- The Chicago Fire had hardly sniffed any scoring opportunities. Fortunately for them, one was all they needed to salvage their season-opening meeting with Real Salt Lake.

Cuauhtemoc Blanco's unassisted goal in the second minute of stoppage time tied the game at 1-1, stunning the Rice-Eccles Stadium crowd that had seen its club control the game defensively almost from the start.

"You dominate the whole game and one crazy play ends in the back of the net," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "But there was a lot of good soccer out there. We can't hang our heads on one play."

As the RSL defense tried to clear the ball after a rare Chicago scoring chance, Blanco intercepted a pass, took a couple of steps toward the goal and drilled a left-footed laser past Rimando and just inside the left goalpost.

"It was a good goal. I share it with my teammates, which is the most important thing," Blanco said through a translator. "We're not happy with just one point. We came for three points. We're a little sad because we only got one, but it's just our first game."

Twenty minutes earlier, Real Salt Lake broke a scoreless stalemate or rather, the Chicago defense broke it for them.

After a shot attempt by Dema Kovalenko, who was making his Salt Lake debut, in the 71st minute fell flat, Chicago defender Bakary Soumare tried to clear it but ended up booting it into his own goal, giving Real Salt Lake a fortuitous 1-0 lead.

Until the game's final moments, Rimando had had a relatively uneventful afternoon his club's stout defensive effort made sure of that.

"It was kind of weird out there," Rimando said. "I didn't have to make six or seven saves."

Chicago didn't manage a single shot on goal during the first half and its best chance prior to its lone goal was a floater from Calen Carr that sailed innocently over the net in the 85th minute.

The own-goal was fitting for a game that was consistently physical and dominated by defense from the start. Good scoring opportunities were few and far between for both clubs.

Young RSL forward Fabian Espindola had a couple of chances from close range early on. He had a shot in the 15th minute that sailed high. Fourteen minutes later, he booted a line drive into the gut of Chicago keeper Jon Busch.

With the loss, RSL never has won a season opener, while the Fire improved to 4-1-2 all-time against Salt Lake.

"The idea on the road is to get three [points] or one, and we did tonight. It took us 'til the end, but we got the point," said Dennis Hamlett, who is entering his first season as Chicago's coach. "It's never easy to come in on the (other) team's home opener, because you know they're going to put a lot into it.

"To be able to withstand that and come out in the end with a point we'll take that point."