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Stewart F. House, The Dallas Morning News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Silva (20) gets in position against FC Dallas defender Reto Ziegler (3) during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Frisco, Texas, Saturday, March 3, 2018. (Stewart F. House/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

FRISCO, Texas — No matter the circumstances, Real Salt Lake is still happy over leaving Toyota Stadium with a point after a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas on Saturday night.

RSL (0-0-1, 1 point) led for 61 minutes after Joao Plata scored 25 minutes in, a goal that looked like the game-winner until an unfortunate own goal by Salt Lake defender Marcelo Silva in the 86th minute when he inadvertently knocked a ball from Maxi Urruti into the top of his own net.

“I think Urruti did good getting to the byline, just hoping for a deflection or to find one of their players,” RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. “Unlucky for Marcelo. He tried to clear the ball and it went inside the goal.”

RSL head coach Mike Petke said postgame that Silva wasn’t culpable on the goal. Instead, he saw the roots of the equalizer as coming moments earlier.

“I just think the goal started a heck of a lot higher up the field than that. Not going to name anybody, but we got to be a bit more intelligent as far as just kick the ball in the damn stands,” Petke said. “Marcelo was the end result, and everybody always looks at the end result. Nothing on Marcelo whatsoever.”

Ten minutes before that equalizer, RSL could have iced the victory on a Jefferson Savarino breakaway with FCD goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. However, Savarino’s touch betrayed him, and the ball scooted over the endline before he could take a shot.

And, despite that disappointing sequence four minutes from full time, Petke sees numerous positives from this draw, including the performances of midfielder Damir Kreilach in his MLS debut, Rimando, and his team’s fitness level and commitment to defense.

“We worked a lot this week and the week before knowing Dallas would be in better shape due to the two CCL games, maybe a little sharper. It’s hard to swallow that late (goal),” Petke said. “Having said that, they had their opportunities, but we did as well. Perhaps 1-1 is a fair result, but our guys, they worked hard. For a first game with a long way to go, it’s a good start.”

Now 1-13-3 all-time in Dallas across all competitions, RSL scored its lone goal off a beautiful sequence between Plata and Albert Rusnak 25 minutes into the match. Rusnak got the ball just inside the FCD half of the field and delivered a perfect through ball to Plata, who was streaking up the left flank. Dallas defender Reggie Cannon was closest to Plata, but, after Plata cut inside, he evaded Cannon long enough to fire a right-footed shot just inside the near post to stun the 16,116 in attendance.

“The gameplan today when we were in transition, it was exactly what we wanted it to be,” Petke said. “Our counterattack, our transition play, our off-ball movement and interaction between guys like Plata, Savarino, Albert (Rusnak), Luis (Silva), Damir (Kreilach) stepped it up, even Kyle (Beckerman) at times was fantastic.”

Rimando made all five of his saves in the first half, none bigger than the larceny he committed on Urruti in the 38th minute. Urruti attempted to score off a cross on a bang-bang play at the left post, but Rimando alertly dove on the line to deny Urruti’s low shot to preserve RSL’s slim lead.

“He was huge,” Petke said of Rimando. “I think Urruti, Barrios and Diaz were top of the box in the first half. They had three chances, and we had three or so chances, but Nick came up huge. That’s why we wanted him back so bad. To have it in the 85th minute the way it was scored is tough to swallow because he makes the impossible saves. He’s done great.”

Petke didn’t have updates on Kreilach, who came off in the 78th minute with an injury, and Savarino, who left six minutes later after spending several minutes writhing on the ground in front of the far sideline.

Real Salt Lake returns to action next Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium against 2018 MLS expansion side Los Angeles FC with first kick set for 1:30 p.m. MT.

Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.