(IRVINE, Calif.) - Real Salt Lake played its first 90-minute scrimmage of the 2015 preseason on Saturday, showing great progress in topping UC-Irvine 3-1 at Anteater Stadium.
Head Coach Jeff Cassar used two different lineups in the two halves and both squads were able to win their respective halves, getting goals from Luke Mulholland and Devon Sandoval along with an own-goal to erase an early 1-0 deficit and race to the 3-1 victory.
"I saw a lot of positive things - a lot of things that we've been working on during this camp," Cassar said. "I saw some areas that we need work on, but what was really promising was that the area that we need working is just a time thing. It's that final ball. It's that little bit of quality that comes with a full preseason and comes with more games."
Although RSL held the vast majority of early possession, Irvine got on the board first in the 24th minute. Jamison Olave was whistled for a foul just outside the box on the attacking left side, leaving UCI in an advantageous position for the free kick.
On the initial attempt, RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella swatted the ball out of the corner, keeping the ball from dipping inside the far post. However, Irvine had a player put back the rebound and he got just enough on it to put it across the line before Salt Lake could clear it, giving the college side the 1-0 lead.
"We haven't even worked on defending set plays. We haven't even touched on that yet. But it was an eye-opener for us. It was a foul that we didn't need to commit. It was a defensive play that we really needed to focus on. But the response was great."
The goal sparked the Salt Lake attack to convert its possession into opportunity the rest of the way.
In the 36th minute, RSL-Arizona Academy product Ricardo Velazco hustled into the box before cutting the ball back to Luke Mulholland at the edge of the 18. There, he cut a shot inside the far post to even the tally at 1-1.
"I thought the movement was good and as we continue to get in better shape, we'll have more movement," Cassar said. "As we get sharper, as we get cleaner, as we get fitter, it's going to continue to get better."
RSL looked to strike again and just before the sound of the halftime whistle, Devon Sandoval saw it to fruition with a penalty kick.
Olmes Garcia earned the PK on a charge up the left side. He was taken down near the endline, drawing the call from the referee. Sandoval rifled the PK into the net past the diving goalkeeper to stake RSL to a 2-1 lead at halftime.
In the second half, an entirely new lineup continued where the first group left off, peppering the UCI defense throughout the last 45 minutes.
In a combination that would prove dangerous throughout the second half, Javier Morales sprung Demar Phillips on an overlap up the left side to put the left back in behind the Irvine defense. In the 49th minute, it resulted in a cross from Phillips on the left side that clipped a defender and spilled into the net for an own-goal and a 3-1 lead for Real Salt Lake.
Although RSL would threaten throughout the half through the play of Morales, Phillips, Sebastian Jaime and Alvaro Saborio, in particular, that score held to the final whistle.
"I saw a lot of bright ideas from the players out there. I saw a lot of different things. Now it's just a matter of sharpening up," Cassar said. "I feel good. The guys have been great and it's just getting better."
Salt Lake will face the USL Pro's OC Blues on Thursday before returning to Salt Lake City for a brief respite. The preseason will conclude with four matches in the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup from February 18-March 1. The season opener is March 7 against the Portland Timbers and RSL will host the Philadelphia Union on March 14 in the home opener at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake at UC-Irvine
February 7, 2015 - Anteater Stadium (Irvine, California)
Real Salt Lake 3, UC-Irvine 1
Real Salt Lake:
First Half: Jeff Attinella; Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Chris Schuler, Abdoulie Mansally; Kyle Beckerman, Pecka, Luke Mulholland; Ricardo Velazco, Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia.
Second Half: Jeff Attinella; Boyd Okwuonu, Elias Vasquez, Aaron Maund, Demar Phillips; John Stertzer, Lucas Baldin, Javier Morales; Sebastian Jaime (Jordan Allen 78), Alvaro Saborio, Emory Welshman.
RSL: Luke Mulholland (Ricardo Velazco) 36
RSL: Devon Sandoval (PK) 46+
RSL: (Own Goal) 49
Weather: Sunny and 74 degrees