SANDY — A 1-1 draw at home against the L.A. Galaxy was all Real Salt Lake could muster in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,466 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday afternoon.
“It felt great,” said first-year RSL coach Jeff Cassar, who had been excited all week to get in front of the fans. “The energy from the fans was fantastic, and I think the team fed off that. We came up a little short on the results end, but it was a hard-fought game and I’m really proud of our players.”
It took just under 20 minutes for RSL to find the first goal, as Joao Plata sent the ball to the waiting feet of forward Alvaro Saborio. It was Plata’s second assist in three games, and Saborio's first goal of the season.
The emergence of Plata, who has also netted a pair of goals in three games, has been a bit of a surprise for RSL, but unfortunately the diminutive striker was substituted for fellow forward Olmes Garcia midway through the first half after suffering a left hamstring injury.
“Not sure how long it’s going to be, but it’s a little concerning,” said Cassar. “We’ll get Sabo and Garcia working together this week and making sure they’re having a nice partnership.”
The Galaxy, sensing momentum slipping, saw their first attempt on goal thwarted by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Robbie Keane managed to beat RSL's defense into the box, but he was denied after Rimando snatched a ball from midair that had been directed at the L.A. striker.
Just when it seemed like the home side would have its way for the remainder of the half — the Galaxy struck.
After an ill-timed turnover by defender Chris Wingert, Keane managed to create a margin of space around RSL defender Chris Schuler and then beat Rimando with a shot at the near post.
The resulting 1-1 score held up until the halftime whistle, with both teams putting six attempts on goal in the first 45 minutes.
The second half was a much different story. Call it lackluster or anti-climatic, but it was 45 minutes RSL can easily forget.
“It felt like in the second half we just ran out of gas a little bit,” said veteran defender Nat Borchers. “It didn’t seem like we were that sharp.”
It seemed as though neither team wanted to give the other any chance of taking the full three points.
“It felt like there were two teams out there that just didn’t want to lose. We were just a little bit off on our possession and attacking ideas,” said Cassar.
“If you think of taking four points out of six away from L.A., I’m pleased with that. Most important is that when we come home we want to put a good product out on the field for the fans because they deserve that. And I thought they did that for most of the night.”
RSL will look to grab three points at home next Saturday when it hosts star-studded Toronto FC in the confines of Rio Tinto Stadium.
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