Real Salt Lake focused on the positives after dominating home opener, yet need a late equalizer to tie New York
Damir Kreilach’s stoppage time goal helped RSL rally for a 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls
SANDY — Taken as a 90-minute snapshot, of course Real Salt Lake was disappointed with Saturday’s home opener to only come away with a 1-1 draw after statistically dominating the New York Red Bulls.
That wasn’t what the players or coaches were talking about afterward though. From a big-picture standpoint, continuing to fight and grind on a day when the finishing wasn’t good enough until the stoppage time is what stood out.
“What I told the group is the more you can play like that, you’re going to have more wins than losses. That’s something we got to have consistency, that we’re that aggressive when we have those players on the field.” — RSL coach Freddy Juarez
“Overall we are satisfied with the way we played, we dominated the game, we controlled the game. Our attitude was unbelievable, we fought for each other. I think we deserved a lot more than we took from this game, but we have to stay positive and looking forward,” said Damir Kreilach, whose stoppage time equalizer helped salvage a point at Rio Tinto Stadium.
After several near misses of his own earlier in the game, Kreilach finally found the back of the net in the 91st minute as he headed in a perfectly whipped in cross from Aaron Herrera.
His goal helped Real Salt Lake secure a second straight tie to open the season. Considering this week’s draw came after New York struck first in the 13th minute on a Cristian Casseres goal, it’s a result the team can live with though it knows points were left on the field.
RSL dominated with 64% of the possession and a 21-4 edge in shots, but the finishing touch wasn’t there until it was realistically too late for New York to feel even more waves of momentum from the home side.
Coach Freddy Juarez preferred to focus on the positives than the negatives in his postgame press conference.
“What I told the group is the more you can play like that, you’re going to have more wins than losses. That’s something we got to have consistency, that we’re that aggressive when we have those players on the field,” said Juarez.
That reality wasn’t lost on the players either.
“I think the fact we didn’t lose the game is probably going to be seen as a positive. It wasn’t a perfect game by us, it wasn’t a perfect game by them, but we did have a lot of chances and we stayed to our game plan,” said defender Nedum Onuoha.
Real Salt Lake scored the fewest goals of the 14 MLS teams who qualified for the MLS playoffs last year, and improving that was a big emphasis this offseason and preseason. Even though it has only scored one goal in two games in 2020, the potential revealed itself on Saturday.
A huge chunk of RSL’s chances, especially in the first half, came on set pieces as Albert Rusnak sent in one dangerous cross after another against New York’s set piece zonal marking.
In the first half alone RSL had five headed shots on goal, but several big saves by New York keeper David Jensen and then a couple of goal line clearances kept the ball out of the back of the net.
Much of RSL’s attack in the first half came up the wings as New York congested the middle and made things difficult to play through.
In the 60th minute Juarez made a substitution by having Douglas Martinez come on for Nick Besler and it had a two-fold impact on the match. When Besler exited, Kreilach dropped into the midfield and his quality on the ball helped give RSL more possession in the congestion middle. Up top, Martinez’s speed gave Real Salt Lake much more of a vertical threat than with Kreilach, which then opened up the middle of the field as well to play through.
Over those final 30 minutes there was some genuine attacking flare from RSL, which from a big-picture standpoint with 32 games remaining is why Juarez was nothing but positive afterward.
“What I’m happy about is the team was exciting, they were dangerous creating opportunities, we fought. Playing Red Bull and San Jose, I’m always going to say it, it’s a tough game, you have to scrap, you have to run, you have to do all the little things,” said Juarez.
RSL did all that, and the next step is to be more clinical in front of goal to capitalize on the plentiful chances.
Juarez’s team returns to action next Saturday when it travels to the Columbus Crew.