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3 takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s season-opening win over Minnesota

Thanks to two first-half goals from offseason acquisition Anderson Julio, Real Salt Lake secured a 2-1 road victory over Minnesota at Allianz Field and pick up the full three points in the opener.

Real Salt Lake midfielder Anderson Julio celebrates a goal against Minnesota United during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, April 24, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn.
Andy Clayton-King, Associated Press

Coming into Real Salt Lake’s season-opening matchup with Minnesota United Saturday night, it had been over six years since RSL won a season opener. Thanks to two first-half goals from offseason acquisition Anderson Julio, Real Salt Lake secured a 2-1 road victory over Minnesota at Allianz Field and pick up the full three points in the opener.

Minnesota’s goal came late — in the 86th minute- — but RSL laced up its defensive boots and prevented the equalizing goal. The win was Real Salt Lake’s first ever road win against Minnesota.

Here’s a look at three takeaways from the opener:

Dream debut for new faces

Offseason acquisition Anderson Julio recorded a first-half brace in his debut for Real Salt Lake after being brought in on loan from club San Luis in Mexico. Julio’s brace was the first by an RSL player in their club debut since Robbie Findley in 2007.

RSL’s other offseason acquisition, striker Rubio Rubin, also put together an impressive debut. Rubin assisted one of Julio’s goals and displayed impressive holding play in attack.

“It’s always great to start off on the front foot for confidence reasons,” coach Freddy Juarez said of his new attackers. “It was nice for them to get the goals to give them momentum, but also for you guys and the fans so you could see why the front office brought them in.”

RSL counter-attack capitalizes off of Minnesota’s mistakes

Both of Real Salt Lake’s goals came as a result of botched challenges or mistakes from Minnesota’s backline. Real Salt Lake also thrived in the counter attack when Minnesota committed its players forward, which in turn forced the mistakes from the backline of the Loons.

“We had a game plan and we understood where the spaces were,” Rubin said of RSL’s play in the counter attack. “We knew their left back and right back love to get forward and get up the line, so we knew the space was going to be behind them. Obviously both the goals we were able to get in behind and go at them with full speed.”

Minnesota gets the shots, but can’t covert

Despite the 2-1 loss, the shot totals were lopsided in favor of Minnesota, but the Loons failed to really test RSL’s young keeper David Ochoa. Minnesota recorded 23 shots to RSL’s 11, and even with the goal, only two of the 23 Minnesota shots were on target.

Real Salt Lake’s defense blocked nine of the 23 shots, but 12 of them were just off target as Minnesota struggled to finish in its attacking third.