It was July 4th, 2017 that was the turning point in Mike Petke’s debut season. Fast forward one year and the display was awfully reminiscent, could this be the turning point for Real Salt Lake?
A few changes to the starting XI
Kreilach made his first start at CDM alongside Sunny while Kyle Beckerman sat on the pine. Corey Baird went back to his starting #9 role with Saucedo and Savarino on either side. Albert Rusnak has been quiet as of late and is in need of a big performance to cement his role as the starting CAM for Mike Petke.
After a slow first twenty minutes for RSL, they found themselves down 1-0, some poor defending and an easy tap-in for Daniel Salloi gave the visitors the early lead. However, the defensive pressure from RSL’s forwards finally paid off with Jefferson Savarino slotting one home from 20 yards after chaos occurred in the box from a corner kick. Corey Baird was next in line as he finished a one on one chance with the keeper. The final first-half dagger came from an explosive RSL counter in which Bofo Saucedo found the bottom right-hand corner from 18 yards out, a tremendous finish from the young local winger. 3-1 the score heading into the break.
Steady the ship
The second half was less exciting on the scoreboard however if it weren’t for an Albert Rusnak botched chip attempt from the penalty spot the game could have been blown wide open. Fortunately, RSL were granted two attempts in the second half alone from the spot after Illie Sanchez took down Luis Silva in the box. Silva continued to punish the football into the top left-hand corner to put the game out of reach.
A second yellow, that resulted in a red, was shown to Daniel Shalloi in the 89th minute and a second yellow was shown to Roger Espinosa leaving Sporting KC with 8 men on the pitch by the time Sorin Stoica blew his final whistle. The questions prior to the game regarding the rivalry and whether it still exists were answered throughout the match and specifically within the last 15 minutes, it ended up being a scrappy and physical contest. The reckless challenges that were coming from SKC were a clear sign of frustration as Real Salt Lake dominated the game for the better part of 70 minutes.
My man of the match was Damir Kreilach who I thought excelled playing alongside Sunny for the first time. Kreilach looked to be on the ball more often, he was feeding the likes of Rusnak into space and allowing them to work further up the pitch. His size and skill throughout the midfield is vital for the team’s ability to turn defense into a fast counter-attack.
Real Salt Lake have picked up 26 points this season with 22 of them coming at home and only 4 points on the road. The opening point against FC Dallas during MLS opening day and the 1-0 win against Seattle on May 26th are the only points for RSL on the road this season. The concern is that eventually, RSL is going to need to pick up points on the road, and if they cannot seem to figure out how to manifest this sooner rather than later, trouble could be looming. The style in which RSL play at home compared to on the road is also very evident, they look free and confident at the RioT whereas on the road they are often cautious and methodical. It cannot just be a result of miles traveled, there has to be a mindset issue taking place knowing that they have struggled for so long away from home. Since August of last year, Real Salt Lake has only won once…
A massive three points for Real Salt Lake as they climb to 26 points which ties Portland in 4th spot in the West.
3 points at home! 📽️ Here are last night's highlights. pic.twitter.com/AcnUGEUOum
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) July 5, 2018
Next up for RSL is FC Dallas at 8 pm MT on Saturday, July 7th at Rio Tinto Stadium.
You can hear the game live starting at 7 pm MT with your pre-game show on ESPN 700.
Follow me @TomCantHackett on Twitter for all your Real Salt Lake updates
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