Real Salt Lake 2 vs Orlando City SC 1
April 13, 2019; Rio Tinto Stadium
Real Salt Lake (2-4-1, 7 points); Orlando City SC (2-3-2, 8 points)
Man of the Match: Sam Johnson showed his quality in three first-half chances. Two he put off-frame. One – and perhaps the most difficult – he put in the back of the net. On the goal – his first in MLS – he took a tumble in the box, got back on his feet and recovered the ball from an Orlando defender, then rocketed a low-angle shot past Brian Rowe, leaving the Orlando keeper with little chance at making the save. It wasn’t just what he did with the ball in those key moments though. He also was solid in his hold-up play, his ability to get behind the Orlando defenders and force them into difficult decisions and his combination play with his teammates. It wasn’t, by any means, a complete game for Johnson, but it was a good window into what he brings to RSL’s attack.
Telling Stat: For the third time this season, RSL put five or more shots on target. The other two came in a draw at Houston in the season opener and a win against Vancouver in the home opener. In the four games in between, three were on the road and three saw at least one red card for RSL. All four were against teams at or near the best records in MLS this season. The moral of the story – this team looks a lot better than its record would indicate.
What You Missed: On RSL’s second goal of the match and the eventual game-winner, Aaron Herrera sent a pin-point long ball up the right side that found an on-rushing Jefferson Savarino. The winger then gathered the ball just inside the endline and nutmegged the oncoming defender to a wide open Damir Kreilach as a late-runner into the box, leaving him with a first-time shot past a flat-footed Rowe. After missing last-week’s match due to a red-card suspension, it was sweet redemption for the Croatian standout.
So What: It is just one win – and Head Coach Mike Petke was quick to point that out in his postgame comments – but getting the reward of the hard work and execution that had been there in road tilts with LAFC and Seattle in recent weeks without results had to feel like a step in the right direction for RSL. There were opportunities to add to the lead before Nani’s late goal made things interesting, but withstanding the late pressure from a quality opponent and coming out with three points was nothing to take lightly either. As Petke said, only time will tell if the team is able to take momentum from the game.