For the first time in nearly 500 days, a full-capacity crowd was in attendance at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night as Real Salt Lake took on a Los Angeles FC team that the hosts had historically struggled against.
Despite being the more threatening team for nearly 70 minutes of the game, RSL conceded a goal to LAFC’s José Cifuentes on his first touch of the game, after he had been on the field for just over a minute. The goal would end up being LAFC’s only shot on target the entire match.
RSL had its fair share of chances throughout the match to get a goal of its own, but was unable to get the ball beyond the goal-line. The Claret and Cobalt finished with 14 shots, four on frame, and 58% of possession, but once again left points on the table while playing at home.
With the loss, RSL dropped to ninth place in the Western Conference standings with 13 points and LAFC moved up to fifth place with 15.
Here are three takeaways from the match.
LAFC struggles continue for RSL
Coming into the match, Real Salt Lake had lost five out of the six matches that the two sides had played against each other.
Despite the difficult past that RSL had had with the Los Angeles, it appeared as though Saturday night would be the night that the struggles would come to end, given that LAFC found itself beneath RSL in the Western Conference standings and had yet to win a game on the road this season.
For the better part of the match it seemed that the RSL would buck the trend, but the second half goal from Cifuentes squashed those hopes.
The win was only the second road victory for LAFC in the club’s last 13 games. Both of those road wins came in Rio Tinto Stadium
RSL midfielder Nick Besler expressed frustration after the game about his team making a trend of dropping points in games where they appear to be the better side.
“It’s been a similar story, at least the last couple of games, where we’ve had some chances and we haven’t put them away,” Besler said. “It really only felt like (LAFC) had that one chance and they scored it. We’re disappointed. It feels like the performance on the field was a positive. ... Hopefully we can turn those kind of games that we had tonight into wins.”
Eddie Segura is heroic for LAFC
Although LAFC’s goal was scored by Cifuentes, it was a textbook cut-back assist from the right side by defender Eddie Segura that set the entire play up and gave the visitors their unexpected breakthrough.
Just three minutes after assisting the goal, Segura made what was arguably the play of the game on the defensive side of the pitch when RSL forward Rubio Rubin chipped a shot over the reaching arms of keeper Tomás Romero for what looked to be the equalizing goal, but Segura hustled to clear the ball just before it reached the goal-line.
After the game, RSL head coach Freddy Juarez praised the effort Segura showed on the play.
“You’ve got to make plays in the attacking-18 and you’ve got to make plays in the defensive-18,” Juarez said. “(Segura) made that play in the defensive-18 and kept the shutout for them.”
Gamesmanship kills momentum for RSL
Much to the chagrin of RSL fans and players, LAFC players went to ground often in the second half, which stalled the game at moments when Real Salt Lake seemed to be building steam.
The most notable example of the tactic from LAFC’s players came in the final minutes of stoppage time, when forward Diego Rossi found his way to the grass only to be physically picked up by RSL defender Justen Glad. The move sparked an intense verbal altercation between players of the two teams and eventually resulted in a yellow card for Rossi as he attempted to consume more clock as he slowly wandered to the sideline after being subbed off.
Juarez said after the game that LAFC was just doing what it felt it needed to do to secure the tough road win, but felt there should have been more stoppage time as a result of the gamesmanship.
“The trainers had to step on the field four times, a bunch of substitutions, and they gave only five extra minutes,” Juarez said. “It’s not LAFC’s fault. Teams will do, on the road, what they need to do to get a result, it’s up to the ref to make sure that he manages that.”