Thick in the mix of a heated playoff race, Real Salt Lake was hoping to earn a point or three Sunday at Minnesota.
“We definitely need a result in Minnesota,” forward Albert Rusnak said leading up to the match, which he noted was against a team trailing RSL by two in the tightly packed Western Conference standings.
Unfortunately, the result wasn’t a positive one.
After taking an early lead on a Rusnak goal, Real Salt Lake gave up two scores to the home team in a tough-to-swallow 3-1 defeat to the United at Allianz Field.
Minnesota leapfrogged RSL in the standings, overtaking the third spot with 48 points and a 14-10-6 record. RSL is in the No. 4 spot — important because the top four get home-field advantage — with 46 points and a 14-12-4 mark.
Four teams are within striking distance of Real, including San Jose (44 points), Portland and FC Dallas (43 points), and the LA Galaxy (42 points).
RSL has four matches remaining — at New England this Saturday, home against the Galaxy (Sept. 25) and Houston (Sept. 29), and on the road to finish the regular season at Vancouver on Oct. 6.
“There’s four games, they’re all important,” RSL interim coach Freddy Juarez said on the postgame TV interview. “We’ve got to figure out how to collect some points. Those two home games are very important to us.”
More immediately, Juarez said RSL needs to learn from this frustrating showing, watch film, and get back to training.
“I thought the guys’ effort was good,” Juarez said. “It’s not the end of the world. Every game means something. You just have to put it away. I told the guys they have to learn from this. … New England’s ahead of us.”
This match started on a positive note for the visitors.
Minnesota goalkeeper Vito Mannone blocked one RSL attempt, but the ball ricocheted out to Rusnak. He collected the ball, took aim and then fired a shot past Mannone into the corner of the goal in the 17th minute.
Hit 'em with the old change up pic.twitter.com/Z8IysrqbFh— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) September 15, 2019
Darwin Quintero scored an equalizer just three minutes later.
That score remained until Quintero scored his second goal in the 51st minute. Ethan Finlay gave United an insurance goal in the 83rd minute.
“We had very good moments,” Juarez said, “and then at the end we opened up a bit too much and that was my fault.”