SANDY — So that's why Jefferson Savarino was turning heads at Copa America.
The Venezuelan international player led Real Salt Lake to a 4-0 victory over Eastern Conference leader Philadelphia with two sublime goals and a clever assist on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“He played incredibly, and there’s been a lot of buzz about him,” RSL head coach Mike Petke said, adding that it "was possibly his best game" since joining the club. The performance came just a few weeks after playing well for his national team at South America's biggest tournament.
Savarino’s skill was on display throughout the match, scoring in the 23rd and 71st minutes before assisting on Albert Rusnak’s goal in the 81st minute.
“He was sharp for the start, and he did the defensive work,” Rusnak said after the game. “All around a good team performance; Jefferson had a standout (game).”
Damir Kreilach scored a late goal as well as RSL rebounded from last week’s heartbreaking loss at San Jose with its biggest winning margin of season. The victory also puts Real (9-9-2) back in sixth place and in playoff position. It was also the biggest loss of the season for the Union (10-6-6), which are still atop the Eastern Conference standings.
“It was an unbelivable week of training — that’s what we’re attributing this victory to,” Petke said. “I thought we were incredibly balanced. … From the first moment we had them on the back heel. We hit on almost every avenue we spoke about (during the week).”
While RSL dominated the stat line (14-5 shots overall and 8-0 on shots that were on target), the club was also on the winning side of all three VAR replays. The first one was when a Kreilach foul was reviewed for a possible red card, the second overturned a Union goal with RSL leading 2-0 and the third allowed Kreilach’s goal that was initially judged to be offside.
That goal came after an impressive bit of skill by Everton Luiz. He won the ball defensively with two slide tackles, then nutmegged a Union player before charging up the middle of the field and finally dishing off to Kreilach, who was filling in for Sam Johnson.
“When he’s on, he’s on; it’s incredible to watch him play,” Petke said of Luiz. He also said Johnson will be out for six to eight weeks nursing an injury.
Kreilach was unlucky not to have scored first for RSL. He had a well-struck volley in the 18th minute that was somehow blocked by Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.
However, just seven minutes later RSL had the lead. Savarino took a long ball from Aaron Herrera and touched the ball inside toward the trailing defender, not allowing him to cut off Savarino's path to the goal. He then crushed a volley past Blake. It was Herrera’s second assist in three games.
In the second half, Justen Glad nearly doubled the lead with two point-break headers — one was turned aside by Blake, the other hit the crossbar.
Savarino put RSL in the driver’s seat with long-distance strike in the 71st minute — his fifth goal of the season. Ten minutes later his sneaky back-heel set up Rusnak for an open shot at the top of the penalty box to make it 3-0.
To go with RSL’s the four goals, the team also picked up four yellow cards. Herrera’s was most costly, as he will miss RSL’s next match against Minnesota United on July 20 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Defensively, the center back combination of Marcelo Silva and Glad played well, helping Nick Rimando pick up his 149th shutout in his 501st MLS start.Comment on this story
Rimando's backup David Ochoa will represent MLS in this year’s edition of the MLS Homegrown Game, it was announced Friday. The 18-year-old RSL Academy graduate signed with the big club before this season and has made nine starts for USL side Real Monarchs SLC. He’s the 10th RSL Academy player to be named to the team and the first to have played for the Herriman-based academy.
"This is a great opportunity for David. He continues to show progress and it’s great that the league is recognizing him for his work,” Petke said. “After already playing in the U20 World Cup this is a good chance for him to gain experience and showcase himself.”