Real Salt Lake 1 vs. 2 Atlas FC

September 22, 2022; America First Field, Sandy, Utah

Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni

On Aaron Herrera’s goal:

“Ironically, as we were preparing for this game, we were working on our buildout and it was probably our fourth rep, and [Aaron Herrera] gets the ball, and he tried the same damn shot in training, and I did everything not to lose my head, because I was like, ‘here we go again.’ Players make plays, and tonight, Aaron made a fantastic play. I was screaming at him from the sidelines, ‘play forward, don’t go back, we want to play forward,’ and he launches the ball, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘where are you playing forward to?’ But he played forward to the most dangerous area, which was in front of the goal. Fantastic awareness, fantastic goal.”

On playing some of the younger guys tonight:

“I thought they were great. I thought every single one of them stepped in and did a fantastic job. Axel [Kei] running the channels, down a man, not easy to do. You usually have a partner up there, but he carried a heavy load defensively–he put in the shift. Bode [Hidalgo] was one of the highlights tonight, he did some tremendous work on both sides of the ball, some really good understanding. To see his growth from the beginning of the season to this game–I have to give kudos to a young man who is determined to play with the first team consistently. He had a great performance. Zack [Farnsworth] came in and had a couple good actions, Gennaro [Nigro] came in and did some really, really good stuff, he has some bite to his game, and that type of mentality sprinkled into a break like we’re having now is what I emphasized after the game. You have to have that bite, you have to have that desire, you have to have that bravery to take guys on. Tomas [Gomez], as well, who hasn’t had a lot of action, came up and played a really good game. And the guys who haven’t played a lot– [Nick] Besler, [Erik] Holt, they did a good job. It was a big ask to go a lot of minutes, but they stepped in and we didn’t miss a beat. I’m super proud of the performance, super proud of the fight, and the results are eluding us, but you can only lose for so long.”

On players bouncing back:

Jasper [Loffelsend] had his best game in an RSL jersey. The amount of ground he covered, he’s running beyond the ball, his ability to link passes, and he didn’t stop fighting for 90 minutes. I thought that was great, and Pablo [Ruiz] did a lot of good things and had a really good chance on goal to make it 2-1, but the biggest thing with Pablo, which we’ve been talking a lot about, is the transition. Our default is always to go backwards, but when you’re brave and you play forward and you run forward, you’re going to create more chances, you’re going to get better opportunities, and that was just the finishing piece.”

Defender Aaron Herrera

On coming to the decision to shoot the ball:

“I saw [the Atlas player] off his line for pretty much the whole first half when we were building out at the back, and on that specific throw, I was looking, and I saw pretty far out and I was hoping they would swing it around so I could touch and shoot it, and luckily, it happened to happen exactly how I was picturing it. I just took the chance.”

On how this game’s result affected team morale:

“It’s a game that’s hard to look into too much. You saw all the new guys we had in the mix, and I think these games are more of a cool experience more than anything–being able to play a team from Mexico that comes up here, they were the champs over there last year, so that’s cool and obviously a good experience for a lot of the guys. We wanted to win, but it’s not going to affect us too much going into next week. Once we get all our guys back from the international break and start fine-tuning things for LA, it’s all eyes on that, and this game won’t matter.”

On what needs fine-tuning before the next game:

“Keeping the ball out of the net and putting the ball in the net. If we can do those things–if we can try getting the first goal more often than we have been, it always feels like we’re on the front foot, and then the other team gets a goal and runs a play on us, and then from there, it’s just another battle for us. Getting the first goal and being more stingy defensively than we have been, since we’ve been giving up cheesy goals. We have to fine-tune all of those things if we want to make playoffs.”