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Holness shines for RSL in 2-0 loss to FC Dallas

Real Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia (80) pulls down FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta (23) during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Frisco, Texas, Saturday, June 25, 2016. (Stewart F. House/The Dallas Morning News via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Real Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia (80) pulls down FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta (23) during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Frisco, Texas, Saturday, June 25, 2016. (Stewart F. House/The Dallas Morning News via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Stewart F. House, AP

FRISCO, Texas — It was a familiar story and another loss for Real Salt Lake against FC Dallas Saturday night at Toyota Stadium, making RSL 1-13-2 across all competitions at the Frisco facility since its August 2005 opening.

However, this 2-0 loss had a definite silver lining because young striker Omar Holness, who has overcome countless obstacles this season, including a seizure suffered in March with Salt Lake’s USL affiliate, made his MLS debut against Dallas.

Holness, who played a full 90 minutes, had RSL’s best scoring chance of the game in the 43rd minute, a shot from 30 yards out that went just left of the Dallas goal.

“It was exciting to be out there for the first time,” Holness said. “Obviously, not the result that we would have hoped for, but I think there are a lot of good things to take from the game as well as a lot of things to improve on. It’s just back to the drawing board and grinding it out in practice.”

Salt Lake coach Jeff Cassar fielded an 11 without starting goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who got a night off in favor of backup Jeff Attinella, who made just his third start of the season. Central midfielder Kyle Beckerman remained unavailable because he is with the U.S. National Team at Copa America, and Cassar started eight players who have played for RSL’s USL affiliate in 2016.

Cassar, a former Dallas goalkeeper and assistant coach, extolled his team for its effort and heart but was especially impressed with Holness’ play in his debut.

“I thought he was great. He’s had a tough year,” Cassar said. “We have very high hopes for him and he did not let us down. He looked like he made a big step in becoming a man out there. I thought he conducted himself extremely well, got into challenges, read the game, and still had something left in the tank at the end of the game, which is really surprising from the things that he’s gone through.”

Cassar also liked what he saw from Attinella, who made three saves in his first start since May 15 at Houston.

“I thought he did a great job. Hadn’t had long to work with this back line,” Cassar said. “I thought his leadership was great. Again, he always comes up with big saves for us and this game’s important for our plan moving forward. He should feel very good about his performance tonight and hopefully that’ll carry on to the next couple games coming up.”

Despite being pleased overall with RSL’s effort in its latest loss in Frisco, Cassar did have one sticking point from this 2-0 defeat: his team being caught napping on FCD’s first goal. Dallas scored off a free kick 18 minutes in when Mauro Diaz pulled off a quick start to send a ball to Michael Barrios on the right side. Barrios then fed Kellyn Acosta for the eventual game-winner.

“Diaz is a very intelligent player, recognized that we weren’t really set up,” Cassar said. “We talk about that all the time, never let somebody play quick, and we were a little surprised, and typically that won’t happen and shouldn’t happen.”

RSL was playing its fourth game of six over an 18-day span. Salt Lake hosts Seattle in a U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match on Tuesday and resumes league play Friday against D.C. United at Rio Tinto Stadium.

And as he reviews the performance against FCD along with the bigger picture, Cassar sees plenty to be optimistic about.

“It (a stretch like this) is difficult and you have to manage your players. You have to manage the staff. I thought this group of players did an excellent job working for each other in difficult situations.

“We have a very important game on Tuesday and a very important home game on Friday. I had the utmost confidence in this group of guys to get a result here, but we did show a little bit of naivete on a few plays, but they got an experience that they normally can’t get. Again, FC Dallas at home, this is a difficult place to play and I thought our men handled themselves extremely well.”