Real Salt Lake took the field Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium to play its third game in just nine days, this time against a Houston Dynamo team that had played three games in eight days itself.
The Claret and Cobalt objectively dominated through the first 50 minutes of the game, as Justen Glad got RSL on the board early with a goal off of a corner kick, but in the 52nd minute, Maximiliano Urruti fired Houston’s first on-frame shot of the game into the back of the net to equalize.
The scoreline stayed put at 1-1 for the remainder of the game, with each team having missed chances to go up a goal.
RSL came away from the game with a point and a 1-1-1 record over the last nine days.
The match undoubtedly left a sour taste in the mouth of RSL players and coaches who found themselves in the driver’s seat for most of the game. Striker Bobby Wood, who made his Rio Tinto debut, didn’t mince words at the conclusion of the game, calling it “a bad result.”
Here are three takeaways from the match:
More threatening on corner kicks
Through the first few games of the season, RSL were getting its fair share of corner kicks but weren’t able to create chances with them. After RSL’s game against Nashville last month, head coach Freddy Juarez said that corner kick execution was definitely something his team had to work on.
In the following games, it appeared improvements were being made in execution, and that improvement continued Saturday evening. Real Salt Lake were awarded 13 corner kicks and created consistent opportunities off those set pieces.
In fact, it was a corner kick delivery from Albert Rusnák that assisted Glad on the team’s only goal of the night.
Juarez praised Rusnák and his quick improvement in his performance as the corner kick taker for the squad.
“It comes down to Albert hitting some fantastic service,” Juarez said. “We needed the service and the service needed to get better, and you saw that today. I think Albert has really picked up his service and he’s put it in spots that cause the opponent a lot of danger.”
Lacking the killer instinct once again
Despite taking the lead quickly and controlling the game with relative ease throughout the first 45 minutes, RSL conceded a goal early in the second half that welcomed Houston back into the game when it had no business being there.
For the game, RSL totaled 21 shots (nine on target) to Houston’s seven (three on target).
Juarez said conceding the goal was disappointing, but that his team needed to do a better job taking advantage of the scoring opportunities it is given, saying that RSL “could’ve been up 2-0 at least” at halftime.
Real Salt Lake was unable to put the game on ice with a second goal, and the final score gave the team its third draw in six home games this season. In all three draws, an argument could be made that The Claret and Cobalt should’ve secured victories, dropping points that could be valuable as the season goes on.
“We didn’t ‘kill them’ and we paid the price,” Wood said of RSL’s inability to finish the game. “It’s very disappointing and it hurts, but we just have to try and learn from these mistakes.”
At the mercy of the official
In stoppage time, a cross was sent into the box toward the head of Damir Kreilach, who appeared to be pulled down to the ground by Houston defender Tim Parker as soon as the ball arrived.
The VAR official directed head referee Nima Saghafi to the video board to make the call of whether or not the play warranted a penalty kick that could have potentially put RSL on top.
After minutes of deliberation at the video screen, Saghafi determined that there wasn’t enough to be seen that clearly showed a penalty was deserved, killing what would go on to be RSL’s closest chance at taking a lead in the final minutes.
Juarez said he wasn’t sure the call was the correct one, but also said that the decision shouldn’t be to blame for the final result.
“We had more than enough opportunities,” Juarez said. “We can’t rely on refs giving us a penalty or any of that.”