SANDY — Real Salt Lake doubled down on its statement victory from earlier this week.
Four days after dispatching the Western Conference's then-leaders Kansas City in a high-scoring affair, RSL hosted new West leaders FC Dallas on Saturday night and played an incredibly smart tactical match to came the memorable week.
It got an early penalty kick from Albert Rusnak and then a late goal from Luis Silva and in between possessed the ball better than it has all season to knock off FC Dallas 2-0 in front of 17,319 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The win extended Real Salt Lake’s home unbeaten streak to nine straight (8-0-1) and helped it remain in a fourth-place tie in the Western Conference with 29 points on a night when the fourth- through eighth-place teams in the West all won as well.
“Any week that you can get six points, two wins in a row against the top team in the West on that day it’s special, and it’s a great feeling,” said RSL coach Mike Petke. “But the guys are already focusing on the next game.”
RSL hosts German club Eintracht Frankfurt in a friendly on Tuesday and then travels to Minnesota on Saturday seeking its second road win of the season.
Real Salt Lake always knew that scoring against the West’s stingiest defense would be difficult, but it got help just nine minutes into the match when Dallas’s Kellyn Acosta kicked the back of Sebastian Saucedo’s foot in the box. Acosta never saw Saucedo as he darted behind him to try and win the ball.
Albert Rusnak, who missed a bad penalty kick in Wednesday’s win over Sporting Kansas City, stepped up to the spot confidently this time and drilled it low and to the right of Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez for the 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
“I have to thank all my teammates who had the confidence in me. There were a few guys around the ball today and wanted to take it, but most of them came to me and said it’s your PK. I guess that’s a nice birthday gift from them,” said Rusnak, who turned 24 on Saturday and scored his fifth goal of the season.
The rest of the first half was like a slow dance with RSL leading 1-0.
FC Dallas applied mild pressure when RSL’s backline was in possession, with the defenders either moving it quickly through the midfield to ignite the attack, or dropping it back to Nick Rimando — where the methodical buildup started again.
The pressure rarely gave RSL trouble, as it patiently knocked the ball around which forced FC Dallas to quickly drop into two banks of four defensively.
Real Salt Lake enjoyed a 65-35 edge in possession in the first half with FC Dallas totally content to sit back and defend. And RSL was totally content to make them chase by knocking the ball around.
“I thought my players managed the game perfectly. Dallas is a very good team, but they’ve also become more of a direct team and three games in a week and them coming to altitude we knew they were going to sit in large chunks of the game and look for counter attacks. The patience that we had at times was boring but I could care less,” said Petke.
FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja wasted no time trying to inject life into his team’s dormant attack at halftime. With Dallas coming off a big win over East-leading Atlanta on Wednesday, he elected not to start his top two playmakers — forward Maximiliano Urruti and midfielder Roland Lamah.
Urruti had started all but one game this season, while Lamah had started 14 of 17 games. The duo has accounted for 13 goals and six assists this season.
It took Urruti just seven minutes to generate his first scoring chance as he tried to redirect a corner kick header from Matt Hedges in the 52nd minute. Standing just a few yards in front of Nick Rimando, he tried to flick a back heel shot past Rimando, but RSL’s keeper made a quick reactionary save to paw it away.1 comment on this story
The rebound was still in a dangerous position and was cleared away by Jefferson Savarino near the post just before Dallas’s Victor Ulloa could get a shot off.
Savarino was again called upon to make a big defensive play in the 71st minute as he made a leaping header clearance following a powerful Hedges corner kick header that was headed for the upper corner of the goal.
FC Dallas only mustered up half chances the rest of the game, and then Real Salt Lake iced the game with a stoppage time goal by second-half substitute Silva on a 2-on-1 breakaway pass from Savarino.