Jul 21, 2018; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder Nick Besler (13) kicks the ball over Colorado Rapids midfielder Jack McBean (32) and up the field during the first half at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
SANDY, Utah — A weather delay and some rain put out an early Real Salt Lake (9-9-3) spark. After going up 2-0 in the first 20 minutes of the game, an RSL win over the Colorado Rapids (4-11-5) seemed inevitable. Following an hour-long lightning delay midway into the first half, Colorado came back to the pitch refreshed and energized whereas RSL took its foot off the gas pedal. The Rapids ended up scoring two goals —one penalty and one in the 88th minute — as the teams played to a 2-2 draw.
“We feel like we lost two points at home,” said midfielder Albert Rusnák. “… To concede that equalizer so late in the game makes it a lot worse.”
Because of a two-game suspension issued by MLS following a rant about the officials and VAR after Real’s 3-2 loss to Minnesota, head coach Mike Petke wasn’t on the sideline. Assistant coach Freddy Juarez assumed coaching responsibilities. At the start of the game, Petke’s absence didn’t seem like it was going to be an issue.
The home squad found success right from the get-go as RSL came out in full force. Real took a 1-0 advantage in the 11th minute when a cross from Joao Plata found a diving Damir Kreilach, who headed the ball in the back right side of the goal. Just a few minutes later, Plata scored his sixth goal of the season. As Jefferson Savarino neared the goal line, he played the ball back to Plata and Plata’s right-footed strike to the center of the net barely escaped Tim Howard in the 17th minute to give Real Salt Lake a 2-0 lead.
There was a stoppage in play in the 24th minute because of lighting in the area, and the delay lasted just over an hour following a 10-minute warmup. After that delay is when momentum shifted hands.
“Opened up the game, dominated, break comes and the only thing they change is a bit more bite, a bit more aggressive, and we didn’t handle it well,” Petke said. “We let two points slip away.”
In the 33rd minute, Colorado players petitioned the officials to go to VAR after a foul in the box, and Jack McBean’s penalty kick got past Nick Rimando to make it a 2-1 game. The boos were deafening from the announced 19,207 fans in Rio Tinto following that goal.
Factoring some of RSL’s issues concerning VAR, Rusnák didn’t want to speak too much about the penalty decision, but he seemed frustrated about the situation.
“I’m not going to make any comments because I’ll probably get fined, too, if I say something about what’s going on the field. But when they decide to check something, they check the VAR, some other games they don’t decide to check the VAR, and to be honest with you, I don’t understand the point of VAR,” Rusnák said.
Rimando came up with a couple of great saves in the 55th and 69th minutes to keep Colorado from tying up the game. Sebastián Saucedo had a chance to secure a win for Real in the 82nd minute, but his strike went right into Howard’s hands.
In the 88th minute, Rimando was tested, and even though he came up with a save, Colorado got on the rebound. The second opportunity proved fruitful for the visitors, with Dillon Serna scoring his first goal of the season.
Overall, Juarez thinks his squad was a little over zealous and should have been more patient with the ball.
“At times we’re a very excited team and our guys get a sense, and the fans even get a sense, when we’re getting to goal or the final third, but then we let the game spread out too much,” Juarez said. “Once it gets spread out, it becomes a complicated game, especially against Colorado, who wants the game spread out, who can beat you on those duels. They can go and close you down and tackle and make it messy, and we didn’t quite adjust to slowing the momentum down with ball possession.”
Rusnák understands the team will have to make up these two lost points somewhere on the road, and as Real Salt Lake gears up for the San Jose Earthquakes, the worst team in the MLS, Saturday at 8:30 p.m. MT, it could provide a perfect opportunity to grab those additional points.