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Lights push MLS opponent to limit but fall in extra time

For more than 105 minutes, the Lights held Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer scoreless.

Real Salt Lake’s offense was stifled, unable to create a good chance for the entirety of regulation and almost half of extra time.

“Unfortunately, the game is 120 minutes,” Lights right back Lucas Stauffer said.

Just before the midway break during extra time, the Lights conceded a corner. Real Salt Lake forward Bertin Jacquesson’s cross found the head of captain Damir Kreilach, who powered a shot past Lights goalkeeper Leo Diaz, breaking the deadlock.

Kreilach’s goal, one of two he scored in extra time, helped knock the Lights out in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup 3-1 on Wednesday at Cashman Field.

“I don’t think I would’ve felt prouder if we won than (I am) with this performance,” Lights coach Isidro Sanchez said. “In life, we need to work for this, to be able to turn off the lights at the end of the day and say, ‘I’m proud. I gave everything.’”

Stauffer scored an equalizer in the 112th minute for the Lights, but Kreilach and Henderson native Danny Musovski found the net in the 116th and 121st minutes, respectively, to secure the win for Real Salt Lake.

The Lights were playing their first official match in team history against an opponent from MLS, the top division of the sport in the U.S. The Lights play in the United Soccer League Championship, the second tier of American soccer.

“We have resilience,” Stauffer said.

Neither team found a breakthrough in regulation. Real Salt Lake had 58 percent possession during the first 45 minutes, but it wasn’t able to make any progressive, line-splitting passes through the Lights’ defense.

Instead, the Lights had the best chances, mostly on counterattacks through Cameroonian forward Preston Tabortetaka. He combined well with forward Erick Torres and Stauffer on the right wing, but they were unable to come up with the opening goal. The Lights had six shots, with four on target, in the first half compared to just one shot on goal by Real Salt Lake.

“If you don’t take your chances, someone else will take it,” Tabortetaka said.

Real Salt Lake did manage to put the ball in the back of the net during the first half when Kreilach slotted a goal past Diaz in the 12th minute. However, he mistimed his run onto the flick-on pass by striker Ilijah Paul and was called offside.

Torres and the Lights continued to put pressure on Real Salt Lake after halftime. The Mexican striker curled a shot inches outside of the post with his left foot 10 minutes into the second half. Lights midfielder Andrew Carleton whipped a free kick just over the crossbar minutes later, and left back Tyler Bagley hit the post with a lobbed cross to the back post, capping a sustained period of Lights pressure.

Kreilach’s goal in extra time finally opened the scoring, but Stauffer struck back immediately. He found some space on the right wing in the 112th minute, and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Gavin Beavers was only able to watch Stauffer’s deflected shot roll in at the far post.

It wasn’t enough. Kreilach’s second goal put the game away, and Musovski followed up a rebound for an easy tap-in goal to seal the Lights’ fate.

Stauffer, Tabortetaka and Sanchez said the Lights can build on their U.S. Open Cup performance as they return to USL play Saturday against San Antonio FC.

“The results are coming,” Stauffer said. “I can promise you that.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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