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3 takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s bounce-back victory over the LA Galaxy

Anderson Julio, wearing a red jersey, kicks the ball to himself before kicking the game-winning goal
Real Salt Lake midfielder Anderson Julio (29) kicks the ball to himself before kicking the game-winning goal as Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. RSL won 2-1.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Coming off a brutal 6-1 defeat on the road against Portland, Real Salt Lake looked to bounce back in its third and final head-to-head matchup of the season with the LA Galaxy and build critical momentum in its late-season playoff push.

That momentum was earned as RSL picked up a 2-1 win over the Galaxy at Rio Tinto Wednesday evening thanks to a beautiful game-winning goal from Anderson Julio in the game’s final minutes. The win and corresponding three points allowed RSL to leapfrog the Galaxy and Minnesota United and move into fifth place in the Western Conference standings with seven games left to play.

Damir Kreilach and Galaxy star Javier Hernandez each notched their 12th goals of the season when they scored the game’s other two goals.

The win seemed unlikely as the Galaxy seemed to be the team on the front-foot for most of the game, but the Claret and Cobalt capitalized on their opportunities when they presented themselves.

Here are three takeaways from huge victory for Real Salt Lake:

Golazo from Julio

Subbing on in the 78th minute, Anderson Julio delivered one of the highlights of the season with a spectacular volleyed goal in the 95th minute of the game. The goal was the super-sub’s second game winning goal while coming off the bench this season— the first coming in RSL’s 2-1 victory over Houston back in August.

Interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni said the energy that Julio and other subs brought played a critical role in the team’s successes this season.

“What a fantastic goal,” Mastroeni said. “Anderson is one of the players that has repeatedly come in after waiting for his moments and does amazing. When you talk about a team, it’s not just the guys that start, but it’s those guys that wait patiently, support their teammates and come in a make a splash, and tonight Anderson was that guy.”

Ochoa shows out against his idol

In a game where the Galaxy seemed to be knocking on the door from start to finish, David Ochoa came up huge in goal for the Claret and Cobalt with four saves and numerous key deflections.

Many of the saves came against Ochoa’s fellow Mexican national team player Chicarito Hernandez, who eventually got a goal, but could’ve potentially had multiple if not for Ochoa’s steady play. Ochoa said that performing well against the Mexican legend was something that he had dreamed of since he was a kid.

“I can’t wait to hear what my parents and little brothers have got to say because Chicharito is a guy that us Mexicans idolize,” Ochoa said of his head-to-head performance with Hernadez. “To save some of his shots it’s humbling in a way because as a little kid I always wanted to do (that).”

Big bounce-back sees big results

After RSL suffered a 5-goal defeat at the hands of Portland, concerns about the team’s form began to arise as the side began to head into a crucial final stretch of the regular season as a fringe playoff team.

But the win—although against a Galaxy team that has struggled as of late—not only allowed RSL to regain its confidence, but give it some much-needed cushion in the race for a playoff spot. The Claret and Cobalt now sit five points clear of eighth place Vancouver.

Kreilach said that the result showed that RSL is mentally prepared to fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“It wasn’t easy to come out tonight after losing 6-1 against Portland, but we did it,” Kreilach said. “We showed that we are mentally ready anytime to win a game and we did that tonight. It wasn’t the best game, but at the end of the day, who cares. Three points are on our account and that’s what counts.”