BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (Saturday, March 11, 2017) – Real Salt Lake (0-1-1, 1 point, t-6th West) suffered its first loss of its 2017 campaign with a 2-0 decision Saturday afternoon at Toyota Park against the Chicago Fire, conceding a pair of goals against the run of play just five minutes apart in the first quarter-hour. Goals in the 11th minute by Fire FW Nemanja Nikolic and the 15th minute by former RSL man Arturo Alvarez gave Chicago the luxury of sitting back and absorbing RSL possession and pressure the rest of the way, sending 13,024 fans home happy after the 2017 Fire home opener on a 28-degree day in suburban Chicago.
After RSL appeared to be on the front foot of the match in the first 10 minutes, an attempt by RSL MF Sunny to dispossess Michael de Leeuw at midfield ended up toe-poking the ball behind the RSL back line, with Nikolic – his offside position nullified by the final RSL touch – able to run in alone on GK Nick Rimando and slot the ball home.
Less than five minutes later, Fire DF Johan Kappelhof found Alvarez on the right side of the Fire’s attacking third, with the former El Salvador international dribbling across the top of the RSL box and eluding a trio of defenders to set up a shot from 18 yards out on his left foot. Alvarez’ offering deflected off DF David Horst, wrong-footing Rimando and giving the Fire a very early two-goal advantage.
With RSL looking to force the action, FW Jordan Allen traveled deep into his defensive right corner to challenge a 50/50 ball, tangling with a Fire player and suffering a right quadriceps strain that forced his removal. Allen was replaced by a fellow homegrown player – one of eight on the 2017 RSL roster – as M/F Ricardo Velazco, the former Real Monarchs standout who earned a first-team contract late last year and made his MLS debut last week – entered in the 26th minute.
Velazco and FW Luis Silva forced the action moving forward for RSL, which saw their shots denied by a staunch Fire defense. Despite five corners in each half and 10 on the day, FW Yura Movsisyan saw his 41st-minute shot – RSL’s lone shot on goal of the day – saved by Fire GK Jorge Bava.
RSL’s second half kicked off with Head Coach Jeff Cassar replacing Sunny with MF Luke Mulholland in the 46th minute. RSL pushed ahead through the efforts of Captain Kyle Beckerman and playmaker Albert Rusnák, while GK Nick Rimando made a pair of key saves to keep the Fire within reach.
Despite the late insertion of FW Chad Barrett – Major League Soccer’s 7th-leading active scorer with 59 career goals (including his first 18 with Chicago back in 2006/07) – new to RSL this year after signing in the offseason, the Utah side was unable to find the back of the net.
Up Next: Real Salt Lake returns home next Saturday to host the LA Galaxy in a Week 3 matchup at Rio Tinto Stadium (7:30 p.m. MT kickoff), RSL’s first match of the season against a Western Conference foe. RSL and LA have met in the MLS Cup Playoffs five times in the last eight seasons, RSL winning MLS Cup in 2009 and eliminating LA in the 2013 West Semis, while the Galaxy emerged victorious in 2011, 2014 and 2016 to end Claret-and-Cobalt dreams.
KEY MOMENTS AND DEFENSIVE STOPS:
RSL – Nick Rimando, 50th minute: After a giveaway at midfield, a trio of Fire passes ended up freeing Nikolic at the top of the box, his right-footed blast destined for the back of the net when an outstretched Rimando pushed the ball just wide of the post with his fully-extended fingertips.
CHI – Juninho, 54th minute: A 50-yard breakaway by Chicago finds Juninho on the right side, his cross eluding Dax McCarty and David Accam across the face of goal.
RSL – Yura Movsisyan, 61st minute: A perfectly lofted entry pass from Kyle Beckerman finds Movsisyan at the penalty spot, but three Fire defenders converge on Movsisyan, blocking his attempt on goal.
RSL – Yura Movsisyan, 77th minute: Mulholland wins a ball just inside midfield to spring the RSL attack, playing wide right to Chad Barrett. His cross to the top of the six finds Movsisyan but takes a late hop, denying the Armenian international from cleanly shooting, the ball instead deflecting wide right of the post.
RSL – Nick Rimando, 80th minute: RSL’s goalkeeper demonstrates his acumen once again, diving to his left to punch away a Juninho free kick which had curled around the RSL wall with pace from 20 yards out.
- RSL was held scoreless for the second consecutive game this season, after last week’s 0-0 draw against Toronto FC. FW Joao Plata, the club’s 2016 “Golden Boot” leader with 12 goals and 12 assists across MLS, CONCACAF Champions League and U.S. Open Cup play, suffered a hip contusion in Wednesday’s training session in Sandy and did not travel to Illinois.
- Rookie RSL DF Justin Schmidt made his MLS debut Saturday, starting and playing a full 90 minutes in place of injured centerbacks Aaron Maund (hamstring), Chris Schuler (foot) and Justen Glad (knee). Schmidt became the first rookie to start for RSL in the first two weeks of a season in 11 years, since MF Mehdi Ballouchy and MF Kenny Cutler each started the second game of the 2006 campaign.
- Also making a return of sorts to the RSL starting XI was M/F Luis Silva, who last started for RSL on Sept. 27, 2015 in an 0-1 loss at San Jose. Silva – who played 70 minutes before giving way to Chad Barrett – spent all of 2016 with Tigres UANL in Mexico, after arriving to RSL midway through the 2015 season from D.C. United in exchange for FW Alvaro Saborio.
- Another RSL returnee from Mexico who dressed but did not see action Saturday in Chicago was homegrown M/F Sebastian Saucedo, as the Park City, UT native returned to RSL availability after his last appearance with the club, back on Sept., 2015, in a scoreless CONCACAF Champions League game at Santa Tecla in El Salvador. “Bofo” spent all of 2016 on loan to Veracruz of Liga MX.
MATCH: Real Salt Lake at Chicago Fire
DATE: March 11, 2017
VENUE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.
WEATHER: Partly Cloudy and 28 degrees
SCORING SUMMARY: 1 2 F
Chicago Fire 2 0 2
Real Salt Lake 0 0 0
Real Salt Lake (4-2-3-1): Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, David Horst, Justin Schmidt, Chris Wingert; Kyle Beckerman, Sunny (Luke Mulholland 46’); Jordan Allen (Ricardo Velazco 26’), Albert Rusnák, Luis Silva (Chad Barrett 71’); Yura Movsisyan.
Subs not used: Matt VanOekel, Demar Phillips, Danny Acosta, Sebastian Saucedo.
Chicago Fire: (4-4-2): Jorge Bava; Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent; Arturo Alvarez (Luis Solignac 70’), Juninho, Dax McCarty, David Accam; Michael de Leeuw (Djordje Mihailovic 93+), Nemanja Nikolic (Brandt Bronico 85’).
Subs not used: Matt Lampson, Jonathan Campbell, Patrick Doody, Drew Conner.
CHI / RSL
Shots: 6 / 12
Shots on Goal: 4 / 1
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 10
Fouls: 12 / 14
Offside: 1 / 1
RSL – Chris Wingert (caution) 79’
Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referees: Kyle Atkins, Peter Balciunas
4th Official: Nima Saghafi