SANDY — Real Salt Lake was forced to play normal soccer again on Saturday night, not that video game type of soccer that produced 12 combined goals the past two matches.
Goals are always tougher to come by in normal soccer, which then puts added pressure on protecting a lead when you get it. Real Salt Lake didn’t do either particularly well against visiting Minnesota United FC.
RSL did well to grab the early lead but couldn’t capitalize on numerous chances to double the advantage, which opened the door for Minnesota to secure a late equalizer as the teams shared the points in a 1-1 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium in front of 19,785 fans.
“I’m at a little bit of a loss right now, I did not see this coming. We allowed them to walk out of here with a point. All the good that these players have done the last three games with really going for the jugular, we just didn’t seem to have that tonight,” said RSL coach Mike Petke. “We didn’t finish them off when we had opportunities.”
RSL outshot Minnesota 13-7, but the finishing boots weren’t shining like they had been in recent six-goal outings against Colorado and the L.A. Galaxy.
Minnesota briefly appeared like it had stolen the win with a goal that came two minutes after its 84th minute equalizer, but the ref overturned it after using VAR to determine there was an offside on the buildup to the goal.
In the big playoff picture, the tie doesn’t hurt RSL too badly, as the teams giving chase below the playoff line — Vancouver and the L.A. Galaxy — both lost. However, dropping points at home is a tough one to swallow against a team with one road victory all season.
“On the one side, it’s good that we’re not the only team who dropped points today, but on the other side, these are the weekends you want to win to push a little further from everyone else. We’re going to have to get these points somewhere else, and it’s probably going to have to be on the road,” said Albert Rusnak.
Despite conceding late, RSL still extended its home unbeaten streak to 14 straight (10-0-4). Real Salt Lake returns to action next Saturday with an extremely difficult match at Atlanta United FC, which leads the league with a 17-5-6 record.
Damir Kreilach opened the scoring for Real Salt Lake with a terrific strike in the 11th minute, which came less than a minute after putting an even better chance wide of the post.
Kreilach showed off his strength in scoring his team-leading 11th goal. First, he held off a challenge from behind by Fernando Bob, then made a quick turn around Bob before uncorking a low driven shot from outside the box that slipped just past the outstretched fingertips of Minnesota keeper Bobby Shuttleworth and inside the far post.
RSL continued to dictate the pace throughout the first half, but the second goal never came. Getting to halftime 1-0 seemed to energize Minnesota as it found some new life in the second half.
“They came with some fight in the second half, and they started to press us a little bit more and win the second balls and we were on the back foot in the second half. We lost some sloppy passes as well that gave them a chance to counter attack,” said Albert Rusnak, who was subbed off in the 80th minute for precautionary reasons because of his recent international flights to play with his national team.
He was the second big-name midfielder who was subbed off as Kyle Beckerman was replaced in the 66th minute because of hamstring tightness he started to feel in the first half.1 comment on this story
“We didn’t really regroup in the second half and keep pushing the ball forward, I thought we went back too much. I thought that killed us, they pressed us really well,” said RSL defender Brooks Lennon, who thought the momentum shifted even more when Beckerman was replaced by Pablo Ruiz.
There were more giveaways without Beckerman on the field, and Minnesota eventually capitalized.
Miguel Ibarra slipped in behind RSL’s defense on a pass from Darwin Quintero and then chipped his shot up and over Nick Rimando for the 84th-minute equalizer.