Real Salt Lake Answers Critics With Emphatic Victory Against In Form Colorado
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake has responded from a midweek draw with the LA Galaxy and emphatically beat Colorado Rapids 3-0 on home turf.
Manager Freddy Juarez opted for a changed lineup that consisted of Ashtone Morgan at left-back, Nick Besler alone in the heart of the midfield with Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreilach playing as two centers attacking midfielders, Maikel Chang and Justin Meram on the flanks with Bobby Wood up top.
It was the biggest game of the year for RSL who were under immense pressure to secure three points at home after failing to pick up adequate points over recent months at Rio Tinto Stadium.
As fireworks were scheduled following the game, fireworks occurred during the game in the form of goals for the hosts.
“All credit to the guys, incredible commitment. Colorado is a quality team in this league and it is not easy to pick up results against them. Fantastic performance from the whole collective.” Juarez said.
RSL, as they have so often done this year, got off to a terrific start and looked lively from the opening whistle. RSL was gifted an opening goal when Rapids goalkeeper failed to control a simple pass and trickled the ball into his own net off his left heel for an own goal.
During the opening half, an hour Bobby Wood made multiple runs at the center back pairing of Colorado and seemed destined to open his RSL goal-scoring account.
Then, 30 minutes into the game Wood received the ball just inside his own half, dribbled at the center backs who were back-peddling on their heels, cut onto his right, and beat the Rapids keeper at the near post.
Wood opened his RSL scoring account which for many players is often a big burden on their confidence and momentum.
“It felt amazing, I have been awaiting for it a good amount of time so I am really happy that I could score,” Bobby Wood said following the conclusion of the game.
The Wood goal helped build the confidence of the team, and unlike against the Galaxy a few days ago, RSL continued to pepper the Rapids goal. They did not allow the Rapids back into the game late in the second half.
Second Half Composure
The second half has been the issue for RSL this season, that wasn’t the case tonight. RSL controlled the fixture from start to finish.
Whatever was said at halftime worked.
RSL added to their lead in the 76th minute when Rubio Rubin capitalized on a brilliant pass from Kreilach to put him in on goal.
It was a dominant display. Colorado rarely looked like scoring and seemed out of sorts at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Rapids entered the fixture one of the more in-form teams in Major League Soccer, but you would not have known it by watching them play this evening.
The victory was capped off by a terrific debut from recently signed winger Jonathan Menéndez who came on for Maikel Chang in the 72nd minute. The lively winger made a number of big plays including a nutmeg with his first touch followed by a handful of beautiful through balls.
“Exciting huh? Exciting. He looked really sharp. We just need to keep working on his fitness but he will be a really good player for us,” Juarez confessed at the conclusion of the game.
Trust In Besler
Juarez played Rusnak and Kreilach alongside one and another in the center attacking midfield position when RSL had the ball, putting a lot of pressure and responsibility on Nick Besler in the heart of the midfield.
If RSL had turned the ball over in possession, Colorado would have only had to navigate Besler before attacking RSL’s backline. Fortunately, the work rate from Besler, Kreilach, and Rusnak allowed RSL to control the game in possession and conversely suffocate the Rapids defensively.
The change in scheme was bold and courageous by Juarez. It was his first big shift from a formation standpoint this season and it paid dividends.
“I thought Besler was terrific this evening,” Juarez said after the game. “There will be moments throughout the season where he utilizes the two center attacking midfielders again, I thought we needed it tonight and I was happy with how the guys executed.”
RSL will next go on the road and play Houston on Saturday, July 31st. The fixture is slated to kickoff at 8:30 p.m. and will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot come.
Houston currently finds themselves 9th in the Western Conference and most recently drew 1-1 on the road against San Jose.