A draw at home is almost never a proud result for Jason Kreis and Co., however Saturday night's 1-1 tie against FC Dallas put a smile on his face given the circumstances.
RSL played 75 minutes down a man after defender Abdoulie Mansally was shown a straight red card for a hard challenge on Dallas midfielder Jackson. This was the sixth red card that penalized RSL this season, the team's record from those games is now 1-3-2.
So given those circumstances, RSL's 1-1 effort at home pleased Kreis, just this one time.
"I told them at halftime, you guys do everything you can to work extremely hard," Kreis said. "You get one point that's fantastic, you get anything more than that that's cake, that's icing on the cake."
RSL had a good chance to hold on for the win after Alvaro Saborio put his team up 1-0 in the 60th minute, but 12 minutes later Kenny Cooper, who came into the game at halftime for Dallas, equalized the match.
Here is a breakdown assessing the performance of each position group:
Starters: Robbie Findley and Alvaro Saborio
Substitutes: Olmes Garcia (85')
Abdoulie Mansally's red card ejection forced Real Salt Lake to make an early substitution, in which Kreis pulled off forward Robbie Findley to insert defender Lovel Palmer. This change left Saborio flying solo up top and per usual, the veteran rose to the occasion.
In the 60th minute Saborio collected a long ball near the top of the 18 and fought off three defenders to strike the ball past FC keeper Chris Seitz. The unassisted goal was created purely off Saborio's individual effort.
"I thought (Saborio) had a really nice night," Kreis said. "Everything he did with the ball was fantastic; his touches, holding it up for our players to get forward and the work he put in to get that finish off was great."
With only one man holding the forward position, it was difficult for Saborio to pressure Dallas' defenders. However when needed, Saborio played excellent defense in crucial moments.
Olmes Garcia came on for the exhausted Saborio in the 85th minute and did well to create attacking chances in the final minutes. Garcia broke through two out of three defenders around midfield in stoppage time, the breakaway would have presented him with a one-on-one situation with Seitz.
Starters: Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil and Ned Grabavoy
Substitutes: Yordany Alvarez (81')
With only 10 men on the field, Real Salt Lake's midfield was crucial to keeping the match close. The Claret-and-Cobalt's midfielders didn't give up on any ball, especially if one of them was the culprit for losing it.
Created as a result from hustling, the midfielders were extremely effective defensively. Ned Grabavoy explained when playing soccer down a man group defending and filling in for each other is essential. Often times it takes more effort, but sometimes it can create more attaching chances as well.
Kreis credited RSL's commitment to defending with several of the scoring chances and ability to put more pressure on FC Dallas.
"We need to keep reminding ourselves that almost all of our best attacking chances come when we're very committed to defending in the right spots, at the right times. Perhaps tonight we learned that," Kreis said.
Javier Morales left every ounce of effort he had on the field, and after playing a dynamite game Yordany Alvarez came in to relieve him in the 81st minute.
Luis Gil turned his energy level up a few notches tonight and wreaked havoc all over the field. Kreis also said Gil's play pleased him and admitted it was unfortunate he wasn't available for last Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup match.
"Tonight, again, (Gil) put in a ton of work for us defensively and then was so very close I think to pulling off some really special plays," Kreis said.
Starters: Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Tony Beltran and Abdoulie Mansally
Substitutes: Lovel Palmer (21')
RSL's defenders kept level heads after the potentially disastrous red card shown to Abdoulie Mansally in the 17th minute. Obviously the ejection was disheartening for the group, but the defenders did well to move on.
Mansally put his team in a rough position with the hard, dangerous challenge. Kreis admitted he wishes it didn't happen, however he can only hope that Mansally will learn from the experience. Mansally took full responsibility and was obviously upset that he put his team in a tough spot.
"These guys, they're such good character guys that they don't hide from something like that," Kreis said. "You come into the locker room and the first thing (Mansally) is doing is apologizing to you and to all of his teammates. We all make mistakes and it was an honest mistake; he was just trying to make an aggressive play… credit to him for taking responsibility."
Following the foul Real Salt Lake defenders, with the new addition of Lovel Palmer, stepped up to the challenge. The back four communicated well and made smart decisions with the ball. Also, out of Dallas' 10 total attempts on goal, four were blocked by the defense.
FC Dallas' goal in the 72nd minute came after substitute Je-Vaughn Watson beat Tony Beltran on a run down the sideline with fresh legs. His cross found an open Kenny Cooper in the box, but this was one of the only second half defensive breakdowns by RSL.
Chris Schuler played in his second game since returning from injury and his presence was felt. He is trying earn back his spot in the starting 11 and his effort Saturday made strides for his campaign. Schuler consistently sent balls out of the box and made a huge slide-tackling save in the second half to keep the game tied at 1-1.
Starter: Nick Rimando
Nick Rimando played an essential role for Real Salt Lake on Saturday night. He was very active in the box, intercepted FC Dallas corner kicks and crosses, and made a save in the first half to keep the game even.
Another key play came in the final minutes when Rimando came all the way out of his box to boot away an opposing challenge by Dallas. He also had a lot of help from his backline, forced to make only one save all night.
But Rimando brings much more than just a save of the week, he is a leader on the field. He was key to keeping RSL organized and also motivated his teammates to keep fighting after the red card ejection.