Real Salt Lake Shines In Front Of Packed Crowd To Overcome Freddy Juarez, Seattle Sounders
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake beats Freddy Juarez and the Seattle Sounder 1-0 in front of a chaotic home crowd. With the victory, Real Salt Lake climbs to fifth in the Western Conference and two points shy of the fourth-placed LA Galaxy.
Mastroeni brought Aaron Herrera back into the starting I following an unknown illness that kept him sidelined for the San Jose win midweek. Toni Datkovic also slotted into the back three replacing Donny Toia.
The formation stayed the same, Mastroeni deployed a 3-5-2 for the third consecutive game. The shape of the team has played a pivotal role in allowing the defense to build out from the back. Damir Kreilach plays as a false nine dropping back into the midfield to help aid the midfield battle while the striker is responsible for breaking on the counter-attack or holding up play to allow his fellow teammates to run into open space.
The shape of the team has been a touch of genius from Mastroeni. The entire manner in which Real Salt Lake moves the football has changed.
The fixture was highly anticipated considering the return of former manager Freddy Juarez who joined Seattle as an assistant on August 27th, much to the shock of the North American soccer community.
It was the first time that he had returned as a villain. He was nowhere to be found during the first half as his presence was not felt on the Seattle bench. But coming out of halftime Juarez appeared and joined the Seattle sideline.
19,350 fans crammed into Rio Tinto Stadium to support their beloved Real Salt Lake. It was the largest home crowd of the season and came as a surprise given rivaling college football games going on at the same time. Juarez’s return clearly sparked a big interest.
Real Salt Lake controlled the entirety of the first half. In every meaningful aspect of the game they dominated. Seattle rarely found themselves in Real Salt Lake’s half with possession. It was a beautiful display of how football should be played.
Real Salt Lake was composed on the ball, passed efficiently, moved off the ball, and pressed with aggression when they turned it over. They attacked from the flanks and down the spine.
Seattle had no answer.
The highlight of the half came when Herrera hit a volley from just inside the area that ricocheted off the cross-bar, sending the home faithful into a frenzy. It was timed and hit with perfection.
Seattle struggled mightily throughout the first half and on countless occasions could not generate anything when attempting to build out from a goal kick. The Seattle backline grew frustrated with the lack of efficiency. Real Salt Lake’s press was working.
Despite the dominating performance, the halftime whistle blew with the score level at nil-nil.
In the 47th minute, Real Salt Lake scored the opening goal of the game when Aaron Herrera danced on the right flank before firing a wonderful delivery into the box finding the head of Damir Kreilach at the back post who punched the ball into the back of the net beating Stefan Frei.
“The shape of the team has worked really well ever since Pablo [Mastroeni] got the idea two weeks ago. The team took the decision to change the shape very seriously and tonight we were able to limit our mistakes and play very well,” Kreilach said following the conclusion of the game.
The goal came as a reward for the brilliant effort that Real Salt Lake conducted throughout the opening 47 minutes of the game.
The home crowd subsequently erupted.
Mastroeni continued to show his leadership qualities when he made the first substitution of the evening taking off Justin Meram and bringing on Noah Powder. Then, in the 71st minute, he brought on the speedster and player in form Anderson Julio for Rubio Rubin. Such early substitutions were a rarity under Juarez.
As the game trickled on, Real Salt Lake continued to show signs of maturity. They were comfortable sitting deep and forcing Seattle to try and navigate their way through them but also picked the correct opportunities to burst into the counter-attack.
It was a splendid performance from Real Salt Lake overall. The team did not force any self-imposed concessions of goals, as they have shown susceptible to doing so in their previous fixtures against San Jose and LAFC.
Rather, the mentality of the group remained strong over the course of the evening.
Real Salt Lake will travel on the road next Saturday, September 25 to take on the Portland Timbers with kickoff slated for 8:30 p.m.
The fixture will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.
The Timbers are scheduled to host LAFC tomorrow (Sunday, September 19) at 5:30 p.m.