Real Salt Lake’s 15th regular season in Major League Soccer has come to an end but the quest for a trophy is not yet over after the team finished in 3rd place in a competitive Western Conference.
From jaw-dropping moments, to matches filled with 90 minutes of pure excitement, here are the top regular season moments – mostly on the field – that helped RSL to its 10th playoff appearance in the last 12 seasons. 2019 saw spectacular strikes, staunch defensive performances and regular international call-ups such as Sam Johnson, Albert Rusnák, Corey Baird and Jefferson Savarino propel the team to yet another playoff appearance.
- Savarino Stunner
On May 24, RSL welcomed defending MLS Cup Champion Atlanta United to Rio Tinto Stadium and with the match deadlocked at a goal apiece through 90 minutes, Jefferson Savarino decided to make the match his own. In the 94th minute, Savarino took on two defenders some 25 yards from goal to create space for a shot near the top of the box. The Venezuelan playmaker successfully evaded those two defenders before sending a rocket of a shot into the far top corner of the net, delivering the full three points all the while sending the RSL faithful into pandemonium.
- Rusnák Rocket
On August 3, RSL took on New York City FC at Rio Tinto Stadium for a pivotal cross-conference match. Conceding a goal after just four minutes, RSL stormed back to claim the 3-1 victory at home in a match highlighted by Albert Rusnák’s game-winning strike in the 75thminute. His wonder-goal propelled RSL to three points and Interim Head Coach Freddy Juarez’s first win in MLS.
- Plata Wins the Rocky Mountain Cup
RSL and the Colorado Rapids have played countless exciting matches since 2005 with memorable moments throughout the rivalry, but 2019 wrote an entirely new chapter into Rocky Mountain Cup lore. When RSL needed the points at home against its rival, striker Joao Plata took his opportunity to bury a stoppage-time penalty kick past Tim Howard to usher RSL to victory and again send the Rapids back to Commerce City empty-handed.
- Baird’s Brace
After the win over NYCFC, RSL traveled to Sporting Kansas City to face a team struggling to find points and put itself into the playoff picture which presented the Utah club with an opportunity to generate separation in the standings. Reigning Rookie of the Year Corey Baird lit up SKC with two goals on either side of halftime to bury SKC and help RSL to a crucial three points at Children’s Mercy Park, clinching a season sweep over Salt Lake’s heated rivals.
- No Soup for You (Nedum’s Block Party)
Since OPTA started keeping stats for MLS in 2010, Onuoha was the first player to record six blocked shots in one game on August 14 against Seattle. Only two players have ever blocked five shots in one game – Nat Borchers for RSL against Kansas City (Aug. 7, 2010) and Frederic Brillant for D.C. United against the LA Galaxy (Aug. 11, 2019). Quite an impressive feat for the longtime Premier League centerback to help RSL claim a dominant 3-1 victory over the Sounders in mid-August.
- Welcome to the RioT
While this particular note didn’t happen on the field, it’s worth noting that for the first time in the club’s 15-year history, the RSL supporter’s groups united under one flag named the RioT. Located in the south end of Rio Tinto Stadium, the RioT propelled RSL to the second-best home record in the Western Conference behind Supporters Shield winner LAFC. Needless to say, fans are the lifeblood of the success of the club and the unification of the supporters changed the stadium environment for the better.
- Honoring Legends
In 15 seasons, the club has seen many legends don the RSL crest at Rio Tinto Stadium and in 2019 fans were able to honor some of those legends. Prior to the start of the season, Nick Rimando announced that his 20thseason in the league would be his last. In September, Tony Beltran announced his retirement from the game and against the LA Galaxy, RSL’s 2009 MLS Cup winning team was honored and Javier Morales’ name was placed atop Rio Tinto Stadium next to Jason Kreis’. 15 years in sports doesn’t necessarily translate to a history-laden conversation, but RSL’s legends have made the club what it is today and for that, we applaud them.
- Homegrowns Reign Supreme, Again
For the second consecutive season, RSL saw its Homegrown stars play the most Homegrown minutes of any team in the league with 12,274 total regular season minutes. Homegrown defender Aaron Herrera led RSL in minutes played with 2,768 in 2019 as nine total Homegrown players featured in matches for the club this season.
- Beasting the East
The top-four finishers in the Eastern Conference – NYCFC, Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United and Toronto FC – didn’t stand a chance against RSL in 2019. Earning a perfect 4-0-0 record over the East’s top teams, RSL outscored those opponents by a resounding 12-2 margin in those four matches. Points earned against Eastern Conference opponents can prove vital over the long season, and RSL made sure to claim those points against some of the best the Eastern Conference has to offer.
On July 6, Nick Rimando became the first player in MLS history to start and play in 500 regular season matches. The match against San Jose on that day did not go in favor of RSL, but the achievement was nonetheless incredibly important to the success of the team as a whole from a player who acted as an integral cornerstone for the club for 13 seasons.
Naturally there are other moments throughout the 2019 season worth mentioning. Let us know what your favorite moments during the season were and we’ll see everyone at the RioT on October 19 for Round 1 of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. Tickets to the match can be purchased at RSL.com or by calling 844.REAL.TIX.