Real Salt Lake Holds Off FC Dallas In Crucial Western Conference Win
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake secured a much-needed win against FC Dallas in Pablo Mastroeni’s debut at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“In the first half we were not good enough on the ball, we gave it away on far too many occasions,” Mastroeni said. “But as the game progressed we knew the altitude would play a factor and we were able to create chances through crisp passing and promising ball movement,” he added.
Mastroeni was in charge for the first time at Rio Tinto Stadium and made a handful of moves following the disappointing loss on the road against Vancouver.
Andrew Putna remained in goal, however, David Ochoa was on the bench and was seen warming up signifying a return to the starting position in the near future.
Noah Powder started for the second consecutive week, although, this time at his preferred left-back position. Aaron Herrera slotted into the right-back with Justen Glad and Marcelo Silva at the center-back spots.
Pablo Ruiz and Everton Luiz held down the heart of the midfield. Damir Kreilach returned from yellow card suspension and played at the 10, Rusnák drifted into the left-wing spot, Jonathan Menéndez on the right, and Rubio Rubin upfront.
FC Dallas entered the fixture severely undermanned. Lead striker and next big American prodigy Ricardo Pepi was on international duty along with Szabolcs Schon, Bryan Acosta, and Freddy Vargas.
Real Salt Lake found themselves under heavy pressure throughout the opening quarter of an hour. A mistake on the ball by Silva gifted the visitors an early lead in the 19th minute when Franco Jara poked the ball past Putna and into the bottom right corner of the net. The buildup to the goal consisted of Silva trying to dribble his way out of trouble, only to be pick-pocketed in a dangerous area. A simple pass onto Jara was all it took to concede the game’s opening goal.
The through ball to Jara looked to be offside, however, after a quick check by the VAR booth, the goal was granted, much to the displeasure of the Real Salt Lake players and the home crowd.
Fortunately, Real Salt Lake found their footing midway through the first half and generated a lot of attacking opportunities on the left side of the formation. Powder, in particular, was very effective delivering balls into the area.
“We got off to a slow start and gave up a cheap goal from a mistake we made, they did not do anything special to score,” Rusnák said postgame. “After a disappointing result last week I thought we responded tonight and gives us something to build on.”
Real Salt Lake equalized in the 43rd minute when Rusnák played a quick free-kick to Herrera on the right flank who put in a wicked delivery hitting the forehead of Glad on the six-yard area. A homegrown goal was just what the doctor ordered minutes before the halftime interval.
Second Half Dominance
The second half was controlled entirely by Real Salt Lake, for the most part.
Real Salt Lake came out of the dressing room with authority and asserted its dominance early in the second half. Fair to assume that the late first-half equalizer gave the team the boost it needed.
Menéndez opened his Real Salt Lake goalscoring account in the 54th minute when he tapped in a save by Dallas goalkeeper Phelipe Megiolaro. The save came from a shot by Powder from outside the area.
“I feel very confident in my ability,” Powder told the press post-game. “I am still obviously very young and have a lot to work on but I feel really good about where my game is currently at.”
Then, the lead grew in the 72nd minute when Menéndez found Rusnák on the top of the box who cut onto his right and beat Megiolaro despite Megiolaro getting a glove to the shot.
Sadly, the final 10 minutes became nerve-wracking when Dallas pegged back their second of the evening following a magnificent run by Jesus Ferreira who cut back and beat Ruiz, then Silva, before driving the ball above Putna and into the top of the net.
As stressful as the final 10 minutes were, Real Salt Lake found enough in the tank to survive the scare and evaded a draw securing all three points at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Western Conference Standings
The win gives Real Salt Lake breathing room as it continues to fight for a playoff position. Now, Real Salt Lake holds the seventh position tied with Portland who is in the sixth position. But just one point below Minnesota who holds the fifth spot.
Real Salt Lake has an eight-day break before traveling to LAFC for a blockbuster Western Conference affair. LAFC throttled Sporting Kansas City 4-0 on Friday, September 3rd, and looks to be gaining momentum as they fight for a playoff position.
LAFC currently sits in the ninth position three points below Real Salt Lake through 22 games.
The match will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.