MINNEAPOLIS — In a matchup of two teams struggling out the gate, it was Real Salt Lake on the losing end. Expansion side Minnesota United beat RSL 4-2 in front of 17,728 fans.
“Soccer’s a funny game,” interim head coach Daryl Shore said after the match. “We went up 1-0 early. They came back and got the goal. We had three really good chances to score again. If we go up 2-1, it’s a totally different game.”
There were four changes to the Real Salt Lake lineup from the 11 that held the New York Red Bulls to a scoreless draw. Nick Rimando returned from international duty to resume his post between the pipes, while Albert Rusnak returned from a national call-up of his own. Kyle Beckerman was back after serving a one-game suspension from a red card he drew the week before. Finally, Justin Schmidt returned to the starting lineup, having started the first two matches but missed the third.
This match also marked the second and final game with Shore at the helm. Shore was filling in after the dismissal of Jeff Cassar earlier in March. While RSL announced that Mike Petke would be the new manager, he won’t assume the post until after this match.
As the match kicked off, Real Salt Lake continued the trend of teams scoring early on Minnesota’s defense. Midfielder Luke Mulholland pounced on a defensive miscue in the box, slotting a goal home in the fourth minute. Mulholland played for the Minnesota Stars in 2011 in the NASL.
In the 10th minute, defender Aaron Maund went to the ground with an apparent leg injury. After a few minutes of treatment and RSL playing a man down, he was subbed out for Sunny.
“We knew that Aaron was dealing with a hamstring,” Shore reported. “He felt like he could go, but something happened to him. We didn’t have a centerback on the bench, and maybe I jinxed myself by thinking about it.”
The lead didn’t last long, as Minnesota equalized in the 16th minute off of a Kevin Molino header. Real Salt Lake responded well, putting on the pressure and earning a series of corner kicks around the 22nd minute, which proved fruitless. Both teams settled into a rhythm for the remainder of the half. Minnesota nearly put a cross in the net, with Rimando barely knocking it off frame. Minnesota sent a header over the bar off the ensuing corner kick, and the teams were tied at the break.
Minnesota United came out gunning as the second half started, but Real Salt Lake’s back four showed serious resolve. However, striker Yura Movsisyan was shown a yellow card for taking down Molino on a counter-attack. Minnesota continued the pressure, and Molino slid a ball through for Christian Ramirez. The Loons’ striker was able to beat Rimando.
Minnesota nearly made it three in the 58th minute, but Rimando made an impressive diving save to deny the winger. However, Rimando failed to settle the ball on a deep clearance by Minnesota. It bounced of his chest and he was unable to control it. Ramirez took the ball and dribbled into an empty box, scoring easily to double Minnesota’s lead.
“It kicked up funny on the turf,” Rimando said of the field conditions. “It’s something I can do 10 out of 10 times on grass and be fine. I’ll take the fall for that one, though.”
Minnesota scored again in the 68th minute as Real Salt Lake’s defense broke down and allowed Costa Rican international Johan Venegas an empty net to score into. Minnesota took the foot off the gas for the next 15 minutes, but RSL failed to swing momentum in its favor. RSL put one back in the 87th minute, as Movsisyan was left unmarked on a counterattack after slipping past Justin Davis. This was a consolation prize, and RSL fell 4-2 for its third loss in five matches.
“It’s tough when you’re away and don’t finish your chances,” Movsisyan remarked. “It comes back to bite you, and that’s what happened. The last few weeks have been difficult. A new season starts next week with a new coach.”
“It won’t matter who you are,” Movsisyan continued, “whether you’re a designated player or not. If you train well and impress the coach, you’ll play. If not, you shouldn’t play.”
Real Salt Lake will look to rebound next week as Petke makes his debut against Vancouver at Rio Tinto Stadium.