SANDY, Utah — A beautiful set piece was exactly what Real Salt Lake (7-7-2) needed early in the second half against the San Jose Earthquakes (2-9-5) on Saturday night.
After both teams went scoreless in the first half, even with RSL dominating possession at 62.4 percent and shot attempts — the home team had 28 on the night — it seemed as if Damir Kreilach’s header in the 54th minute was going to ignite a fire in Real Salt Lake.
Instead, Corey Baird thinks the team reacted poorly. San Jose, on the other, hand took advantage. San Jose’s Danny Hoesen kept his eye on the ball as his rebounded goal ended RSL’s six-game win streak in Rio Tinto Stadium. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
RSL coach Mike Petke knows his guys should have won this game on their own, but he wasn’t too happy with how things were being officiated and the 18,472 fans in attendance agreed, booing at the final whistle.
During his postgame press conference, Petke mentioned the fact that in the 79th minute, the officials finally started to tell the Earthquakes to stop committing hard fouls, but he feels like they should have been warned much earlier.
“One yellow card tonight when [Jefferson] Savarino spent the majority of the time on the ground, because he’s getting absolutely hammered. … It’s frustrating,” Petke said.
Real Salt Lake was riding high before the MLS World Cup break, winning three consecutive games before dropping an Open Cup match and its final MLS game against the LA Galaxy entering the Cup break.
Starting Saturday’s game, the team looked like it was clicking on all cylinders by virtue of dominating the ball and it had plenty of solid chances at scoring. Baird had the best look in a one-on-one with the San Jose’s goalkeeper in the 11th minute, but his shot was wide right.
“I scuffed the shot,” Baird said. “That’s one of those chances you have to put away.”
RSL put itself in great scoring position to start the second half, and eventually its efforts paid off. In the 54th minute as Rusnák was taking a corner kick, he connected with Baird, who then headed the ball perfectly for Kreilach to also head the ball in for the go-ahead goal in a rather beautiful sequence of ball placement.
Five minutes later, it looked as if RSL was going to double its lead, but Rusnák’s shot outside of the box hit the bottom of the crossbar and spun right out.
Nick Rimando came up with a save in the 64th minute, but Rimando wasn’t able to hold on to the ball and as a result of it not being cleared, Hoesen immediately put away the rebound to make the score 1-1. It was his 10th goal of the season.
“A poor goal to concede, we had the ball, we lost it and a rebound goal —just an ugly goal,” Rusnák said.
As Real was arguing a no-call in the box in stoppage time, Hoesen almost gutted the home team again as he went sprinting down the field to chase a cleared ball, but his attempt was rushed and sailed well over the crossbar. RSL had a couple of late opportunities as well, but none led to a game-winner.
Overall, Petke thinks the team did more than enough to earn three points and was disappointed with the result.
“It’s tough in the moment to take too many positives because it essentially feels like a loss,” Petke said.