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3 takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s road draw with FC Dallas

Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas played to a 2-2 draw thanks to a late equalizing header from Damir Kreilach.

Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach celebrates his goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against FC Dallas, Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Frisco, Texas. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.
Brandon Wade, Associated Press

Historically, Real Salt Lake has struggled when it goes on the road to play FC Dallas, with an all time record of 1-13-9. It had been nearly eight years since RSL had beaten a Dallas squad on the road.

Real Salt Lake looked to finally grab that win Saturday evening in Dallas, but the drought continued for the Claret and Cobalt as they finished the game with a 2-2 draw thanks to a late equalizing header from Damir Kreilach. The header, assisted by Aaron Herrera, allowed RSL to sneak away from Toyota Stadium with a point.

Rubio Rubin scored the opening goal of the game in the 19th minute after Nick Besler gained possession deep in FC Dallas’ defensive third and then laid the ball off for Rubin who turned and delivered a strong left-footed goal. The goal is Rubin’s fourth of the season

Dallas’ Franco Jara equalized from the spot just before halftime after Marcelo Silva conceded a penalty to the Toros.

The Claret and Cobalt were put on their heels most of the game on defensive end, but especially in the second half. FC Dallas got off 29 shots, 10 of which were on target, but RSL’s defense held tight and worked to ensure the shots didn’t translate to goals.

Goalkeeper David Ochoa followed up his first career clean sheet last week against Nashville with another stellar game that ended up requiring much more from him. Ochoa finished the game with eight saves.

After holding tight at 1-1 for most of the second half, FC Dallas’ Ryan Hollingshead took a shot in the 84th minute from the left side of the penalty area that took a deflection off the heel of Justen Glad and then found its way into the goal.

But, nearly two minutes later, Aaron Herrera sent a ball into the box from a deep position that found the head of Damir Kreilach for the goal that tied the game at two and allowed RSL to come away with a draw that felt almost as good as a win.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Caution: slippery when wet

The rains came tumbling down in Frisco, Texas, for the entire game. The downpour created a wet and slippery surface that made cutting and overall play difficult for all players on the pitch.

Nearly every player had an instance where they slipped and stumbled, which resulted in some awkward chances and circumstances that would otherwise have been easily dealt with. Arguably the most standout slipping situation came in the 40th minute when Rubin sat down his plant foot to take what would’ve been a shot on goal, but slipped before taking the shot.

“There was a little bit of rain just on top of the grass so every single time we’d try to cut or even shift quick to another way, then you’d be catching the grass and just be slipping everywhere,” Rubin said. “Obviously it cost a big chance possibly, but at the same time, it is what it is, you just have to live with it. It’s a part of football and it’s a part of playing in those games where the rain’s coming down and the field’s slick.”

Ochoa follows up career game with another strong performance

A week after recording his first career clean sheet, a young David Ochoa followed up the result with arguably his best individual performance of the season.

Often placed in difficult positions while being faced with 29 shots, Ochoa made plays that saved RSL from what could’ve been much more than two goals from FC Dallas.

“Great game from Ochoa, excellent performance” RSL head coach Freddy Juarez said. “More importantly for me, I thought his chin was always up, he didn’t seem down in moments, he never seemed like he was panicking, and for me that lets the defenders know that he’s there to back them up.”

Although the performance was great, Ochoa wasn’t necessarily excited by it after the game.

“It’s not what we want, to be honest,” Ochoa said. “The last thing you want is for me to be making saves. If I come out of the game with zero saves, then I’d be happy. But, you know sometimes the game of soccer doesn’t give you what you want, so I had to be locked in for the full 90, ready for anything.”

RSL concedes late again… but gets the equalizer

The Claret and Cobalt worked and kept the game knotted at one despite a barrage of chances and shots from FC Dallas in the second half. After nearly 40 minutes of hard defending in the second half, the shot from Dallas’ left-back Hollingshead took a frustrating deflection into the back of goal, giving way to unwelcomed flashbacks of the late goals that RSL conceded in the 2-1 loss to San Jose earlier in the season.

But, unlike the San Jose game, it was RSL who got the last word.

Returning from injury, Herrera played a ball into a dangerous position and Kreilach got his head to the ball for his second goal of the season—both of which have come via headers. Thanks to the goal in the 86th minute, Real Salt Lake escaped with an away point despite having 18 less shots than Dallas and only 37% possession.

“I don’t think we gave up hope at any moment,” Juarez said. “It just shows the character of the guys. The guys believe that they belong in every game and that they should win every game, so they didn’t give up, they created a chance and we got a goal.”