Real Salt Lake was well-represented in the first match of the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Thursday at Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico.
In a crucial match touted as critical to the possibility of advancing to the 2021 Olympics in Japan, goalkeeper David Ochoa and defenders Justen Glad and Aaron Herrera all started for the U.S. against Costa Rica. By the end of the match, two more RSL Academy products joined the fray when Sebastian Saucedo subbed on in the 59th minute and Sebastian Soto came on in the 67th minute.
In the end, the US held on for a 1-0 victory and RSL’s representation proved vital to the success in the match, as Glad and Herrera cut off some runs by Costa Rica early in the match and Ochoa finished the match with an incredible nine saves to clinch the shutout victory.
In a frenetic start to the match, Ochoa was tested early and often. In the 17th minute, Costa Rica forward Alonso Martinez got in behind the defense off a miscue along the backline. Glad charged in from the far side to slow Martinez down, then Ochoa charged off his line to make a big save to set the tone for the match.
In the 23rd minute, Glad nearly got the U.S. out to the lead when he connected on a corner kick from Djordje Mihailovic, but his powered header missed just over the crossbar and the match remained scoreless.
The U.S. finally got its breakthrough moment in the 35th minute when Sam Vines sent a ball across the box that skipped past two players at the near post before finding Jesus Ferreira for a thundering shot at the far post for the 1-0 lead.
“As a nine I had to help the team in any way,” said Ferreira, a forward for FC Dallas, on the FS1 broadcast. “That was scoring the goal today so I was happy that I was able to help the team with a single goal to get the three points and now we are ready for the next match.”
Ochoa sprung for diving saves left and right throughout the second half, parrying, catching and trapping balls as heavy legs plagued the U.S. in the heat (86 degrees at the final whistle) and altitude (5,138 feet above sea level) of Guadalajara.
The U.S. will face the Dominican Republic on Sunday (5 p.m. MT) and Mexico to close out the Group Stage play on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. MT). All remaining matches will be seen on FS1.