Real Salt Lake got its internationals back into preseason on Monday and on Wednesday they were already back in action in a 1-0 win over Phoenix Rising FC at Kino North Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.
Albert Rusnak scored the lone goal in the match as he was joined by Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad and Douglas Martinez in the starting lineup as RSL continued its steady climb in training camp. With just one more preseason match on the schedule and 17 days until the season opener against Minnesota United, RSL inched closer to the form Head Coach Freddy Juarez wants to see in his squad for the start of the 2021 season.
“As we got deeper into the game, we got sharper and our organization got better. But I thought we were always pretty good defensively. That’s something that we’ve really been preaching,” Juarez said. “The whole team is defending and we’re not getting caught in chaotic moments. … It was a good learning experience and a good game.”
Early in the match, Juarez had to make a change to the lineup because of injury, as RSL Academy defender Zack Farnsworth was replaced by his Academy teammate Jaziel Orozco. He stepped in alongside Glad and worked his way into the game while RSL withstood early pressure from Phoenix.
After managing the defensive side in the earlygoing, RSL took control when Rusnak scored on a ball from Ashtone Morgan in the 26th minute. After Martinez won the ball with pressure from the forwards, Morgan got into the box and slid a pass to Rusnak for a shot from 16 yards out for the 1-0 lead.
With both Martinez and Rusnak returning from international duty, it was a good opportunity to capitalize while also working back into the rhythm of the team.
“The most important was the win. I got some minutes since I came back from the national team so that was a positive,” Rusnak said. “I thought we played well as a team today. We could have added more goals but the good thing was that we did create those chances. Unfortunately today it didn’t go in more than once, but on the other side we got the shutout. Overall, it’s a great preseason game.”
Jeizon Ramirez nearly doubled the lead when he got on the end of a long cross from Martinez, but his volley skipped past the far post and the teams went into halftime with RSL toting a 1-0 lead.
RSL continued on the front foot and earned corner kicks throughout the match, but couldn’t convert. In the 66th minute, Milan Iloski got his head to a cross from Maikel Chang, but his shot thundered off the crossbar.
In the waning moments, RSL again managed the game defensively and held possession for long stretches to keep Phoenix from mounting any sort of comeback and clung to the 1-0 victory.
“It took us a little bit of time to get into the game, but I think that’s to be expected with a bunch of the international guys coming back,” Besler said. “It was an open game to start. They’re a good team. We handled their pressure for the first 15 minutes and once we settled into the game we started to work on things that we’ve been working on since the beginning of preseason so it was good to finally find the game after that first 15-minute spell.”
RSL concludes the trip to Arizona on Saturday with a matchup against the LA Galaxy at Kino North Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. MT with a live stream on the KSL TV app.
Real Salt Lake (4-2-3-1): Andrew Putna; Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad, Zack Farnsworth (Jaziel Orozco 7’), Ashtone Morgan; Justin Portillo, Nick Besler; Maikel Chang (Chris Garcia 71’), Albert Rusnak (Bode Davis 71’), Jeizon Ramirez (Noah Powder 79’); Douglas Martinez (Milan Iloski 61’).