Real Salt Lake 2 vs Atlanta United FC 1
May 24, 2019; Rio Tinto Stadium
Real Salt Lake (6-6-1, 19 points); Atlanta United FC (6-5-2, 20 points)
Man of the Match: Jefferson Savarino had the big moment with the massive goal in stoppage time. Over the 90 minutes he had some highlight moments, including taking on Brek Shea in several instances throughout the match. There is also a strong argument for Sebastian Saucedo, who scored the first goal and finished the night with two chances created, three dribbles completed and five tackles – showing his willingness to work on both sides of the ball in one of his best games of his MLS career. Another contender would be Albert Rusnák, who had five chances created and made RSL dangerous on its set piece opportunities. An unsung hero would be Nick Besler, who worked to exhaustion in the midfield thwarting Atlanta’s potent offense for much of the match while playing positionally sound defense and getting forward when opportunities presented themselves.
Telling Stat: Atlanta United is the top possession team in MLS, holding nearly 60 percent of possession entering the match on Friday. On the strength of a dominating opening 20 minutes, RSL limited Atlanta to 50.2% of the possession in the match and limited the danger of that possession through disciplined defensive tactics and pressure. That number was the fourth-lowest total for Atlanta this season and they won each of the other three matches with lower possession totals.
What You Missed: Savarino’s ignited an explosive celebration throughout the stadium. The exuberant reaction was echoing through Rio Tinto Stadium even as referee Jair Marrufo blew the final whistle a minute later. While the uncontrolled enthusiasm was prevalent all over the field and in every seat in the stands, it was best embodied by RSL Head Coach Mike Petke and forward Corey Baird, who collided in celebration near the bench.
So What: Real Salt Lake is now 4-1-0 against the Eastern Conference this season, already matching the win total against the East in 2018, when RSL finished 4-6-1 in interconference matches. With two tough road matches upcoming against the Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls on Wednesday and Saturday, The win was the third consecutive victory for RSL too and showed both the fortitude and depth to overtake two top Eastern Conference foes with a convincing style in consecutive weekends.