SANDY, Utah — There doesn’t seem like a better way to celebrate a birthday than to score in front of 17,319 fans in Rio Tinto Stadium en route to a 2-0 Real Salt Lake (9-8-2) win over FC Dallas (10-3-5). Albert Rusnák may not have been able to deliver on a penalty kick earlier in the week, but on his birthday, he got to have his cake and eat it, too.
When RSL played Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night, Rusnák missed a penalty that ultimately wouldn’t cost his team. But on Saturday — his 24th birthday — Rusnák scored a penalty kick in the 11th minute to put RSL up 1-0 early in the game.
Sebastián Saucedo drew a foul in the box in the ninth minute as he got tripped up by Kellyn Acosta, thus setting up Real Salt Lake’s first goal of the night. Rusnák’s penalty kick to the bottom left corner of the net gave the home squad a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
“The keeper tried to put me off before the PK, and he had a few words with me, and I gave him the words back after the PK. You know if you talk stuff like that, you have to be prepared to take it as well,” Rusnak said. “I have to thank my teammates who had the confidence [in me] … and there were a few guys who wanted to take it, but most of them came to me and said, ‘It’s your PK,’ so it’s a nice birthday gift from them.”
This was the second meeting between the two teams, as they squared off against each other in the first game of the 2018 MLS season, when RSL came out with a disappointing one point on the road in a 1-1 draw after conceding a late own-goal.
With Real Salt Lake earning three points this time around, head coach Mike Petke thinks his team came into this match with the right game plan, which his guys were able to perfectly execute. Petke wanted his players to be careful to not allow FC Dallas to burn them on a counterattack. Though that carefulness made for a slower game, a win’s what Petke wanted in the end — and that’s what he got.
“The patience we had at times, it was a bit boring, but I could care less,” Petke said. “We knocked the ball around, got them running and tired them out a little bit and we found gaps.”
The icing on the cake was a stoppage-time goal from Luis Silva. Damir Kreilach, who had a handful of opportunities pass by him throughout the game, put aside his desire to score as he found a wide open Silva sprinting down the left side of the pitch. Silva’s strike to the left corner in the 91st minute sealed the 2-0 win for the home team.
“We’re at our best when we’re defending and in transition we’re able to play the ball three lines quickly and exploit them with their numbers forward,” Petke said. “We did it against Kansas City and we did it tonight, and that’s when we’re at our best.”
With a quick six points at home, RSL is gearing up for a playoff push, and Saucedo thinks the team is well equipped to make it far.
“We have such a special team, and I think we got to make the most of it,” Saucedo said.