For the second time this season, Real Salt Lake traveled to Banc of California Stadium to face LAFC Sunday night as The Claret and Cobalt looked to maintain their hold on a playoff position in the Western Conference standings, but The Black and Gold, who lurked beneath the playoff line, looked to gain some ground of their own.
In disappointing fashion, RSL came away from the match with no points to show for their efforts, falling 3-2 to an LAFC side that moved into a tie with RSL in the table with 30 points (RSL remained in seventh place due to goal differential).
Each team took turns alternating goals to take the game to 2-2 through the 58th minute, but a brutal own goal given up on a miscommunication during a backpass from Toni Datkovic to David Ochoa in the 59th minute ended up being the play that separated the two teams and gave LAFC the full three points.
Damir Kreilach and Anderson Julio led the attack for RSL, with each scoring a goal.
RSL now faces a quick turnaround, as it will travel to San Jose on Wednesday as the final stretch of the season draws closer.
Here is are three takeaways from the loss.
Shooting themselves in the foot
Not only was it an own goal that decided the match’s final result, but LAFC’s other two goals both appeared to be extremely preventable. The opening goal for The Black and Gold was scored 20 seconds into the match, and the second was scored just under two minutes after RSL got an equalizer.
Kreilach said at halftime that the two goals were due to a lack of concentration from the team, and interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni agreed with the take of his All-star midfielder.
“There were two lapses that we had,” Mastroeni said. “We were a bit passive in and around our box, and that’s something that we’ve been talking about for some time. There are things we need to continue to improve at, but those moments were definitely lapses in concentration.”
Damir Kreilach strikes again
Attacking the same goal where he scored his infamous “Karate Kick” goal in the 2018 playoffs, Kreilach beautifully struck a pullback cross from Maikel Chang first time from outside of the penalty area for Real Salt Lake’s first goal of the evening.
The goal was Kreilach’s ninth of the season.
Kreilach said after the game that his personal connection with Chang helped create the goal-scoring play.
“Personally, I understand Chang very well,” Kreilach said. “I know what he’s going to do and he just played the ball perfectly. I just hit it and luckily it found the back of the net.
Anderson Julio continues to use his minutes well
Despite the blunders that decided the game, the performance of Anderson Julio was most definitely a bright spot for an RSL team that frequently benefitted from his pace, finishing and runs behind the defense.
Though he wasn’t able to see routine minutes under former head coach Freddy Juarez, Julio has been seeing the field a bit more frequently under Mastroeni, scoring three goals in his last 193 minutes played, including a strong run and finish for RSL’s second goal in Sunday night’s match.
Mastroeni said after the game that Julio’s ability is why he has earned the recent increase in playing time, and that that ability compliments the rest of his teammates well.
“He brings an element to the group that is dynamic and exciting,” Mastroeni said. “Any time you have (his) speed on the front line, it really opens up a lot of gaps for guys like (Kreilach) and (Rusnak) underneath. He’s a player that since the Vancouver game I felt like could really bring us something in the No. 9 position.”