SANDY, Utah – He had been the best player on the field, but Minnesota United’s Bobby Shuttleworth had quickly forgotten the array of diving saves that had kept his team alive for most of Saturday night.
Instead, the goalie found himself in the locker room inside Rio Tinto Stadium apologizing to his teammates.
Shuttleworth finished the night with eight saves, but a mistake, a momentary lapse of focus during a few confusing seconds, ruined his night, gifting Real Salt Lake a 1-0 victory and costing the Loons a point on the road.
“That’s kind of the life of a goalkeeper,” he said.
With the game still scoreless in the game’s final minutes, Salt Lake lined up a corner kick. The ball sailed through the air, off RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland’s head, and appeared to glance off the arm of United captain Francisco Calvo on the way down.
Shuttleworth stopped the ball as it made its way toward the goal, only to have it squirt out of his grasp, just a short ways away.
And while players on both sides looked to the referee to blow his whistle and stop play, Salt Lake attacker Yura Movsisyan pounced on the loose ball, chipping it over Shuttleworth and into the net.
“To be honest with you, it kind of just rolled out of my hands and straight to him,” Shuttleworth said. “Full responsibility’s on me. I’ve got to hold that ball.”
The 84th-minute goal dropped the Loons to 4-9-2. But coach Adrian Heath wasn’t pointing blame at his goalkeeper alone for the loss.
“Bobby’s really disappointed,” he said. “He’s had a great evening, and every time we’ve used him to come up with a save, he’s done it. And then, cruelly at the end, he makes a mistake and it’s obviously the difference in the game, but he had kept us in it up until then.”
Heath had made the game, his team’s first league contest since June 3, a priority. He opted to put out a weaker lineup earlier in the week for the team’s Open Cup match with Sporting Kansas City. The result was a 4-0 whooping and perhaps a fresher lineup against RSL. And with the return of Calvo and other key players from international duty, Heath wanted a “reaction” from his team.
He didn’t get enough of one.
RSL fired off 29 shots to United’s five, forcing Salt Lake goalie Nick Rimando to make just one save on the night.
“I just don’t think our quality was good enough,” Heath said. “That’s the problem. I don’t think Nick Rimando’s had much to do most of the evening, and I don’t think our impact players … did enough this evening. We have to be better.”
Real Salt Lake 1, United FC 0 Wednesday: 7 p.m. vs. Portland (Ch. 29)