RSL Starts Season Strong In Houston; Escapes With 1-1 Draw
HOUSTON, Texas – Coming into the season opening game, there were concerns as to whether or not Real Salt Lake would be able to turn their fortunes around on the road. Under the Mike Petke era RSL has not played well away from home.
However, in a game where both RSL and the Houston Dynamo very much resembled teams that were playing their first game of the season, RSL played well in the road contest and earned a 1-1 draw.
Here were several key takeaways from the game:
Beckerman, Luiz Play Tough To Start Game
Perhaps due to the adrenaline of playing the first game of the season or perhaps due to both offending players being particularly aggressive athletes, RSL’s Everton Luiz and Kyle Beckerman received yellow cards.
Luiz was shown the card after a hard challenge on a Houston attacker in the 10th minute.
Everton Luiz is a menace and I love him already.
— Tom Hackett (@TomCantHackett) March 3, 2019
Just a few minutes later, Beckerman was given a yellow card after stepping on Tomas Martinez’s foot late in the play.
Due to both yellow cards, RSL started the first 20 minutes or so a little unsettled.
Once the jitters came off, the visiting team looked much more comfortable, controlling the tempo and pace for a large part of the game.
Baird’s Creativeness Sets Up Rusnak For Opening Goal
In the 36th minute, the score was broken when RSL attacking midfielder Albert Rusnak found the back of the net with a sweet finish.
The score was set up by great positioning by RSL.
Corey Baird, last season’s MLS Rookie of the Year, started on the left side and set up Rusnak for the first goal of the year.
— Tom Hackett (@TomCantHackett) March 2, 2019
Having Baird on the left side was key for RSL. His playmaking and agility opened up space for Rusnak and Kreilach, who were switching off playing at center attacking midfielder and striker. The result was a game-breaking goal by Rusnak.
The Slovakian international’s goal was the lone score of the first half.
Houston Finds Paydirt, Rimando Not To Blame
In the second half, Houston picked it up and finally found the back on the net on its first shot on frame of the contest.
The Dynamo’s premier goal scorer Mauro Manotas took a service from Adam Lundkvist and tapped it past Nick Rimando to tie the game up at the 62nd minute.
Rimando is great. He’s a legend of the game. He’ll probably, along with midfielder Kyle Beckerman, have a statue in front of Rio Tinto Stadium.
MORE FROM REAL SALT LAKE vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO
- RSL Given Two Yellow Cards Early Against Houston
- Rusnak Scores RSL’s First Goal Of 2019
- Houston’s Manotas Slips Goal Past Rimando
On this particular play, there was not much he could have done as it was a well-placed finish by a star player in Manotas.
It is, however, essential to know that the goalkeeper is in his 20th season of professional soccer and may be winding down in terms of effectiveness. Last season, he allowed 57 goals in 33 games. It was a career-high in terms of goals allowed and was a far cry from his days of allowing just 25-30 goals a year.
In order to give the franchise cornerstone a proper sendoff in his swansong season, it will be vital for the RSL defenders to minimize the opposing teams’ chances on net.
More than anything else, however, Rimando’s leadership will be counted on heavily.
RSL Can’t Capitalize On Man Advantage
Late in the game, Houston gift-wrapped an opportunity for RSL to take the game and grab some early season confidence. Matias Vera was given his second yellow card of the game and was ejected at 81st minute. The rest of the way, RSL played with a man advantage as Houston was down to 10 players.
Despite having three corner kicks late in the game and a five-minute long stoppage time period, RSL was unable to get a winning goal.
Still, a 1-1 draw on the road should be considered as a moral victory for RSL. There were many positives to be taken away.
Luiz’s aggressive play next to Beckerman was especially encouraging. Also, another newcomer to the team, Sam Johnson, played well in about 20 minutes of action. His work rate is everything that Petke is looking for.
1-1 a win for @realsaltlake on the road. Many positives including the work rate and composure of Everton Luiz as well as the aggressive nature of Sam Johnson.
This team is good and will prove that throughout the year. Expect big things RSL fans…#StrongerTogether
— Tom Hackett (@TomCantHackett) March 3, 2019
All in all, it was a strong performance in the opening game for Real Salt Lake.
The team will return home for the home opener on March 9 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
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