Second-half collapse — not to mention replay miscue — leads to 4-0 loss for Real Salt Lake
Minnesota scored all four goals in the second half, which came after RSL had a pretty clear goal not allowed in the first half
SALT LAKE CITY — Real Salt Lake’s depth was tested in Minnesota on Sunday night, and though it was good for a half, everything unraveled in the second 45 minutes.
RSL’s makeshift lineup wasn’t sharp enough defensively in the second half and Minnesota pounced on multiple occasions, rolling to a 4-0 victory to snap a three-game losing streak.
Real Salt Lake remains winless in four trips to Minnesota since the latter joined MLS as its three-game unbeaten streak came to a close.
“We didn’t have it today, but there’s still every belief we’ll have it for the rest of the games coming up,” said RSL defender Nedum Onuoha.
With the loss, Real Salt Lake remains on 11 points in the Western Conference standings and will certainly need to take advantage of home games this week against Los Angeles FC and Colorado to try to climb into a more advantageous playoff position.
Minnesota did most of its damage during a 22-minute stretch in the second half, with Chase Gasper, Robin Lod and Jacori Hayes scoring goals spanning the 53rd and 75th minutes. Gasper tacked on another in the 90th minute.
Amid a stretch of five games in 14 days, RSL coach Freddy Juarez picked Sunday’s game to rest his regulars by making 10 changes to the lineup that earned a draw last Wednesday against Seattle. Only Justen Glad got a second straight starting nod, this time at right back.
Those fresh faces also played in a diamond midfield, a formation RSL hasn’t utilized in years.
“I really felt deep in my heart that formation would allow us to get the best out of the qualities of the players we were putting out there tonight,” Juarez said.
RSL’s coach acknowledged it was a gamble making so many personnel changes and a formation change as well, but he said they were necessary for the long haul.
Even though Minnesota’s combination play exposed RSL too easily in the second half, Juarez’s team will certainly wonder what might have been.
In the 11th minute, Giuseppe Rossi took a long-range shot that Minnesota rookie goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair misplayed, with the ball slipping through his hands and straight toward goal. St. Clair retreated quickly to grab the ball, but replays seemed to clearly to show the ball crossed the goal line before St. Clair grabbed it.
The replay that showed St. Clair standing in the goal holding the ball, however, it was not a replay that VAR apparently had access to. That’s what Juarez was told after the game, anyway, which only added to his team’s frustration.
“Whether you’re an RSL person or not, it definitely looks like a goal, so we’re disappointed to not have been given that, ‘cause as I say, goals change games and giving us a 1-0 lead at that point, I would’ve fancied us to continue and win the game,” Onuoha said. “You can’t necessarily just cry about decisions. Maybe it should’ve been given to us, but the fact is we’ve conceded four goals, so I think that’s more our reality.”
Early in the match, Real Salt Lake was fairly dangerous going forward out of the diamond midfield, creating four shots in the first half and putting Minnesota under pressure at times. It even had a goal by Onuoha waived off by VAR in 26th minute for offsides.
Nick Besler, who got the starting nod in the diamond midfield, would’ve liked RSL keep the ball for longer stretches to capitalize on the numbers advantage in the middle of the field.
“I think we could’ve had longer spells in the game keeping the ball. We had some pace up top and we got in behind in the first half a fair amount but unfortunately we couldn’t really create anything out of it,” Besler said.
The lack of 90-minute fitness seemed to catch up with several of RSL’s starters on Sunday, and Juarez said that had he inserted fresh legs into the game prior Minnesota’s second goal, perhaps the outcome might’ve been different.
RSL returns to action this Wednesday with a home match against LAFC.