Real Salt Lake Sends Warning To League After Dismantling SKC In Home Opener
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake has sent another message to the rest of Major League Soccer after emphatically beating Sporting Kansas City 3-1 during their first game at home in 2021.
“I loved it, loved it. I am sure the players appreciated it as well,” Manager Freddy Juarez said on 10,000 fans being in attendance. “The fans are why we do it, the fans get us going and the fans gave us the extra boost today. We thank you for that, we want you to continue to push us through these moments,” he added.
Juarez opted to start Nick Besler in the midfield as Everton Luiz did not make the bench. It is thought that Luiz picked up an injury in training on Friday and will be sidelined for an undisclosed time.
Besides the one change in the midfield, RSL started the same way they did against Minnesota United a week ago with Rusnak playing on the right and Kreilach at the 10 position.
SKC, however, started two of their most important players in Johnny Russell and Alan Pulido for the first time this season.
First Half Battle
The match began in a slow manner, with both teams comfortable knocking the ball around the midfield throughout the opening 10 minutes. But shortly thereafter, a mishap defensively by RSL led to an open shot and consequent goal by Alan Pulido and SKC.
RSL did not panic. Rather, they remained composed controlling the possession and tempo of the game despite being down an early goal.
Unfortunately, RSL was dealt another blow when right-back Aaron Herrera was subbed off in the 30th minute after suffering a left quadriceps injury. He was replaced by Andrew Brody.
“It is important for anytime you come off the bench to make an impact,” Brody said after the game. “I trusted my preparation and let my actions do the talking,” he added.
Brody made an immediate impact. Six minutes after being subbed on, he put a ball into the area from the right flank and found the climbing head of Kreilach who stuffed the ball into the back of the net. It was only the third goal this season in which SKC conceded through three games.
Both teams entered halftime all tied at 1-1.
Second Half Heroics
The talk of the offseason and early stages of the 2021 MLS season has revolved around the attacking talent that RSL has brought into the club.
RSL fans were given a special introduction into how they look seconds into the first half when Pablo Ruiz played a through ball over the top and onto the running legs of Rubio Rubin. Rubin put a ball into the back post that found the head of a streaking Anderson Julio but was unable to control the ball as it sailed for a goal kick.
Minutes later, Ruiz played another ball into Kreilach who went on a run through the heart of Rio Tinto Stadium. Dodging and weaving SKC defenders until he got to the top of the area, then, he played a ball into the back post to a lonely Rubin who controlled the ball down to his feet with his chest and poked the ball between the legs of the SKC goalkeeper to give RSL the 2-1 lead.
It was Rubin’s first goal at Rio Tinto Stadium and first goal as an RSL player. Fortunately, his parents had traveled from Oregon to be in attendance. It was the first time they had seen their son play live in a professional environment.
“It was very emotional,” Rubin said. “Before the game, I was more nervous today than I was a week ago at Minnesota. I just saw a picture of my dad in tears and I had to get off my phone when I saw that. It was very emotional.”
The match then settled and RSL threw number behind the ball to further slow the game down and make life as difficult as possible for SKC.
Unfortunately, another blow for RSL occurred in the 57th minute when Julio was subbed for Meram after suffering left hamstring tightness.
Then, in the 77th minute, Rubin found the ball on the left flank but had no help besides Rusnak who was on the other side of the pitch. So, Rubin dribbled, and dribbled, and dribbled, and eventually found himself in the top right corner of the box. But was faced with two SKC defenders directly blocking any avenue to goal.
So he then decided to dance, and dance and dance until he opened up a pocket of space and unleashed a bullet into the bottom left corner to give RSL a 3-1 advantage deep into the second half.
RSL Is Here To Play
Prior to the home opener, the talk of the town surrounded RSL’s ability to navigate their way through a defense that is set. As opposed to scoring on the counter-attack as they did against Minnesota.
RSL answered those questions emphatically.
Through the first two games of the 2021 MLS season, RSL has secured six total points but has created scoring opportunities through a variety of avenues. They can score on the counter and today against SKC they proved that they can score through patience and passing lanes.
The next game for RSL will be on Friday, May 7th against San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium with kickoff expected at 7:30 p.m.
San Jose lost their season opener on the road to Houston but responded with a 3-1 win at home against FC Dallas in week two.
The fixture against San Jose will be available to stream for free via the KSL 5 TV app or on KSLSports.com.