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Knockout Round Recap: RSL at LAFC

Real Salt Lake stunned Major League Soccer on Thursday night, getting a 3-2 win over 3rd place LAFC at Banc of California Stadium.  Lineup changes were once again a big talking point leading up to the match, Mike Petke said on Monday he was taking a close look at who he would want to “go into battle with”, and Nedum Onuoha, Corey Baird, and Luke Mulholland got the nod over Justen Glad, Joao Plata, and Sunny.  Onuoha’s start on Thursday was just his second for RSL, but the veteran defender paired well with Marcelo Silva, making vital challenges and interceptions against a strong LAFC attack.

RSL got off to a good start and went up 1-0 in the 21st minute through Damir Kreilach, but fouls conceded in dangerous areas lead to LAFC’s first goal in the 31st and the teams went into halftime level.  LAFC dominated the match in possession, passes, corners, shots, and shot on goal and got themselves up 2-1 early in the second half, but RSL countered well and took advantage of LAFC’s complacency after taking the lead.  Damir Kreilach brought the visitors even and brought the momentum back into RSL’s favor in the 58th minute, then, in the 69th minute, Kreilach found Jefferson Savarino who took a shot that deflected in off Walker Zimmerman for an own goal and the 3-2 lead.  LAFC continued to pressure for the remaining 20 minutes, but defensive substitutions and some typical Nick Rimando saves were able to keep the home team at bay.

So what did we learn?

This mixture of veteran and youth in the backline (Herrera, Onuoha, Silva, Lennon) handled a very dangerous attack from LAFC in Vela and Rossi, proving they can compete with some of the best in MLS.

Damir Kreilach continues to impress with now 14 goals in his debut MLS season.  Kreilach has now been playing for over a year without a real break due to the timing of his transfer from Union Berlin, whose 2017-2018 season ran July-May, to RSL in February.

After losing two of their last three matches, RSL seemed a little lost at the end of the regular season leaving fans questioning their heart and determination.  But Thursday’s match showed an RSL team that has the heart, fight, determination, and skill that has been seen at points throughout the season but fans have been waiting for consistently.

What’s next?

RSL will face rivals Sporting Kansas City in a two-leg Western Conference Semifinal, which begin Sunday, November 4th at Rio Tinto Stadium.

RSL is 1-0-1 against SKC in 2018.

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