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3 takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s disappointing draw against Minnesota United

Damir Kreliach scored RSL’s lone goal in a 1-1 draw with Minnesota United on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
FILE - Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) celebrates his goal with teammates against Sporting Kansas City in Sandy on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Kreliach scored RSL’s lone goal in a 1-1 draw with Minnesota United on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Once again, Real Salt Lake found itself as the objectively better team, but didn’t come away with three points.

The Claret and Cobalt settled for a 1-1 final scoreline against Minnesota United at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday evening for the team’s third consecutive draw heading into the international break. Similar to the game against Nashville that took place two weeks earlier that ended in a draw, RSL was deserving of the three points but couldn’t finish with a win.

Damir Kreilach got the goal for RSL in the 17th minute, when he guided an Aaron Herrera cross into goal with the inside of his right boot, inciting a roar from the home crowd.

Defensively, Real Salt Lake did a good job staying out of danger for nearly the entirety of the game, allowing just one shot on goal.

But in the 78th minute, that one shot on goal came as RSL keeper Zac MacMath — who was filling in for usual starter David Ochoa, who’s on international duty — punched a cross heading into the box that then took a deflection off of Minnesota’s Niko Hansen, which forced the ball to slowly creep over the goal line, allowing Minnesota to escape with a point.

Here’s three takeaways from the game:

Unlucky ... just unlucky

Despite being fairly dominant and creating significantly more chances throughout the game, Real Salt Lake was on the bad end of what felt like a flukey play late from Minnesota United.

The goal was a gut punch for an RSL squad that had performed so well on the night.

“Obviously that goal is devastating and it’s a bit unlucky,” fullback Andrew Brody said. “I thought we’d done extremely well up until that point, and you know, it was just one unlucky moment in the game.”

The draw has RSL dropping points once again, points that may be vital as the season draws on.

“It’s kind of a repeating story that we keep doing to ourselves in the sense that we go up 1-0 and we don’t ever kill the game off and get that second, third goal,” Herrera said. “That always comes back to bite us. So, I mean, we really got to figure that out.”

Coach Freddy Juarez wasn’t disappointed, but did feel that there were positives to take out of the recent games, despite the three consecutive draws.

“The plus of it is, we still get to accumulate a point,” Juarez said. “I mean, you could look at it as we lost two points. ... But when you’re talking about the development of a team, you’re seeing a team that’s controlling some matches and we’ll get better from that.”

Damir’s finishing boots laced up once again

For the third time this season, Kreilach received a cross into the box and finessed a shot that found its way into the back of the net. Kreilach has been a force in the box this season, with all three of his goals coming off big, one-touch finishes in the box.

Juarez praised Kreilach’s ability, but also didn’t want the passes that his chances to go unrecognized.

“‘Great-Ability-Damir’ man, I think I said it last time, it’s like he has a magnet to the ball,” Juarez said. “But let’s not forget the service. It all comes down to quality service and I believe we have guys who can serve the ball well.”

New signing announced at halftime

At halftime of the match, RSL General Manager Elliot Fall announced that the club had signed forward Jonathan “Jony” Menéndez from Club Atletico Independiente in Argentina to a three-year contract.

Menéndez, a winger, will provide RSL with width and another attacking threat going forward, something that the Claret and Cobalt could use.

“We are incredibly excited to add a player of Jony’s quality and experience to our roster,” Fall said. “He will provide us another dynamic attacking option across our frontline. His ability on the ball and in combination will complement our roster seamlessly.”

Menéndez, 27, has played most of his professional soccer in Argentina, recording 20 goals and 10 assists in 70 first division matches.

Menéndez will join the team once his visa and other transactional formalities have been processed.