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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake forward Brooks Lennon (12) protests the call against him in Sandy on Saturday, March 30, 2019.

SANDY — Everything that could go wrong early did go wrong for Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

Concede a goal in the first minute. Check.

Make a defensive injury sub. Check

Get a red card. Check

All of that misfortune unfolded in the opening 18 minutes.

RSL showed fight dealing with the 10-man adversity — and even equalized briefly in the first half — but a third straight game with a red card produced a third straight loss as it fell to visiting FC Dallas 4-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“We donated two goals and a red card and that’s why we lost this game. If we finished 11v11 we win this game tonight,” said RSL coach Mike Petke.

RSL might’ve been able to chalk up the prior red cards to bad luck or a questionable decision by the ref, but not Damir Kreilach’s red card in the 18th minute. He made a knee-jerk reaction to getting stomped on by Carlos Gruezo while laying on the ground, and quickly popped up and head-butted Gruezo.

It was by no means a Zidane-esque headbutt, far from it, but Kreilach put his forehead into Gruezo’s face — with the ref right behind him — and Gruezo sold the faintest of contact by going down immediately.

Baldomero Toledo went straight to his back pocket and pulled out the red card, and RSL was suddenly down a man again.

“I want my guys to fight, I want my guys to stand up for themselves, I want my guys to compete,” said Petke, who added that he thought Gruezo milked the contact. “Do I think that Damir meant to get up and head-butt him? No, not at all. If anybody knows Damir he’s the calmest guy on our team. Do I think he got up and head-butted him? No I don’t, but that’s just my opinion.”

Kreilach wasn’t available to the media after the match, but Petke said he had five stud marks on his inner thigh from the stomping.

RSL’s prior red cards were all in the run of play, whereas Kreilach’s was the first dead ball red card.

“I think a lot of people, Damir himself, is probably surprised that he reacted in the way he reacted today, so that’s not normal for him. I think he’s only had two (red cards) in his career,” said defender Nedum Onuoha.

Kreilach’s red card forced RSL to play with 10 men for 70 minutes, and naturally chances were few against a quality FC Dallas side. Petke praised the fight of his players amid those difficult circumstances.

“The positives were to me, going down a goal and a man, scoring two goals and creating some good stuff in transition,” he said.

Jefferson Savarino made the most of his chance in the 31st minute with a sublime finish from outside the box. His simple touch on a square ball from Sebastian Saucedo allowed him to get around Gruezo, and his next touch he whipped into the lower right corner of the net leveling the score 1-1.

With the crowd still buzzing about Savarino’s strike, however, FC Dallas pounced on another mistake.

Marcelo Silva — who was the 11th-minute defensive sub when starter Erik Holt sprained his ankle — misplayed a clearance attempt at the top of the box, with his volley dropping right into the path of sprinting Paxton Pomykal who buried the shot past Nick Rimando.

FC Dallas never trailed again.

It stretched the lead to 3-1 in the 64th minute on another Pomykal goal, and even when Silva headed in a corner kick in the 66th minute to trim the deficit back to 3-2, Dallas responded quickly again on a Jesus Ferreira goal for the 4-2 advantage.

“We stayed competitive for a while, but I think too many errors have cost us yet again which is a shame,” said Onuoha.

Of RSL’s 12 goals conceded this year, seven have come playing shorthanded.

Well before Kreilach’s red card changed the game, FC Dallas set the tone just 47 seconds into the match.

Quick passes by Ferreira and then Michael Barrios set up Gruezo in behind Real Salt Lake’s backline and he quickly buried the goal before Onuoha could make a recovery tackle for the 1-0 lead.

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FC Dallas kept pressing with the lead and made it difficult for Real Salt Lake to try to settle down with simple possession.

“They did a great job in the beginning as far as limiting our opportunities to build out. They’re a very big sideline press team and if you don’t find those second and third outlets through the lines or switching the point of attack you get in trouble, and they did a very good job the first 10-12 minutes for sure,” said Petke.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Real Salt Lake next weekend, either, as it travels to Seattle, which is 3-0-1 so far this season.