Real Salt Lake Wins Home Opener Against Seattle As Mother Nature Rained Havoc
SANDY – Real Salt Lake welcomed a new era as the club hosted and defeated the Seattle Sounders in the first home game of 2022 in front of a new ownership group.
“I thought we started the game passive, and when we are passive they [Seattle] were finding combinations through us and in between the lines,” Mastroeni shared post game. “I think the guys up front in Meram, Bobby [Wood], Chang, Sergio [Cordova], and even Löeffelsend when he came in did a really good job of applying the press and making it difficult for Seattle.”
Owners In Attendance
A lot of change was present as David Blitzer and Ryan Smith were in attendance and reportedly very impressed and satisfied with the upgrades to the stadium. Most notably, the sound system was improved. A lot of conversation with fans was being had over the jumbotron in both Spanish and English. Clearly, the club has started to emphasize the importance of attracting Spanish-speaking members of the community.
When the players came out of the tunnel, they were welcomed by fireworks, flares, and smoke in front of an energetic home crowd.
New Shape Under Mastroeni
Manager Pablo Mastroeni opted for a new formation as he deployed a 3-4-3 for the first time in his tenure. Sadly, Real Salt Lake was still depleted and was without a number of key players. Most notably, captain Damir Kreilach was absent from the 18-player gameday roster as he deals with a slight injury. His absence was more out of caution and he will likely return for the road trip to New England on March 12, KSL Sports can confirm.
Zac MacMath started in goal with Erik Holt, Marcelo Silva, and Justen Glad playing across the backline. Andrew Brody, Scott Caldwell, Pablo Ruiz, and Tate Schmitt occupied the middle of the park while Justin Meram, Bobby Wood, and Maikel Chang stood at the point of the attack.
Albert Rusnák was in the starting XI for Seattle, much to the excitement of the Real Salt Lake faithful. Every time he touched the ball he was received with boos from the crowd, as the game progressed, the boos grew in volume.
Real Salt Lake dominated the opening stretch of the contest flying around the pitch and beating Seattle to almost every 50/50 ball. Chang had a pair of chances inside the opening quarter of the hour that forced a good save from Seattle’s captain Stefan Frei.
Brody was electric on the right side of the midfield as he made a number of crucial runs into the attacking third setting up multiple scoring chances for the home side. No better opportunity came midway through the half when he dished a ball onto the preferred left foot of Ruiz who skied his shot from eight yards out. The home crowd could not believe the magnitude of the miss.
Then, minutes later Wood went on a run of his own but got the ball caught under his feet and went down in the box without receiving any sympathy from the referee the play continued. Wood, upon reflection, was lucky to not receive a yellow card for his dive.
The Weather Delay
In the 42nd minute, the referee stopped the play and the players were assured back into the locker room due to severe weather in the vicinity. Play would not resume for 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Oh So Close Bobby
Players returned to the field at 7:03 p.m. and played the final 3 minutes of the first half following a 20-minute warmup. During those minutes, Wood came within inches of finding the back of the net after Frei deflected a Chang shot onto the feet of Wood whose shot sailed into the side of the net.
The league and coaches came to an agreement during the weather delay that halftime only needed to be 5 minutes. Both teams did not go back down the tunnel for warmups, instead, they went over to their benches and received the adjustments.
Schmetzer’s First Move
Seattle Manager Brian Schmetzer made a number of key substitutions at halftime despite having a crucial Champions League fixture this upcoming Tuesday. Cristian Roldan and Nouhou Tolo came off the bench following a poor opening 45 minutes which only generated 2 shots to Real’s 10.
Bobby Wood Golazo
The halftime adjustments did not help the traveling Seattle who conceded the game’s opening goal seconds into the second half when Chang’s cross found the feet of Wood who punished the back of the net after a big Frei save fell to his feet for a second bite of the cherry.
“It feels crazy, you know, I couldn’t be more happier about it and I am glad that I contributed to the first three points of the season,” Wood told the media in the postgame press conference.
Then, minutes later Meram found Chang just outside the six-yard box who was unable to beat a diving Frei. Real Salt Lake was in full control of the fixture.
MacMath To The Rescue
MacMath was tasked with two big saves down the stretch that kept the lead at 1-0. First, a big left paw stopped a shot from outside the box in the 73rd minute before a diving attempt to his left prevented another long-range strike from finding the bottom left corner.
Albert Rusnák Subbed
In the 66th minute, former Real Salt Lake captain Albert Rusnák was benched following a poor display. Rusnák had no impact on the game and was likely benched due to a Champions League fixture against Club León this upcoming Tuesday.
Regardless, the jeers and boos that came when Rusnák left the pitch were eye-opening. He was not received well by the Real Salt Lake faithful all evening following comments made in the media midweek.
Sergio Córdova Sparks
Sergio Córdova came off the bench and entered the fixture in the 70th minute replacing Meram. His impact was felt immediately on the left-wing as he showcased his speed and strength. When Wood came off for Luiz in the 85th minute, Córdova moved to the point of the attack and nearly go on the end of a beautiful pass from Brody.
The win gave Seattle its second consecutive loss to start the season while Real Salt Lake picked up its first three points of the season following an opening week draw on the road against Houston.
The win felt more impressive given the injury list.
Something About 3-4-3
The 3-4-3 formation provided Real Salt Lake with a lot of operating space in the attacking third. They did not play with their traditional number 10, or center attacking midfielder, and the space was well utilized by the likes of Wood who was able to come to the football and Brody who made countless runs into the heart of the park.
Real Salt Lake will travel Eastside to take on New England Revolution on March 12 with kickoff expected at 5:30 p.m.
The match will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.
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