Sandy • Here are three observations from Real Salt Lake’s 1-1 draw with Minnesota United from beat writer Alex Vejar.
1. More dropped points
RSL has now drawn three consecutive games dating back to the scoreless tie against Nashville on May 14. While coach Freddy Juarez likes to see the positive side and say the club has gained a point rather than lost two, that’s not how everyone thinks about the situation.
“In my mind we should be 6-0 right now, so it kind of hurts that we’ve dropped this many points,” defender Aaron Herrera said. “It’s just one more thing we have to figure out to be able to take our game to the next level. Once we do that, I think we’ll be a great team.”
RSL has won only one home game so far this season and drawn the other two. And for a team that wants to make Rio Tinto Stadium — which has sold out four games this season — a fortress again, the frustration has to be mounting.
But there is a bright side to this. RSL can still say it has lost only one game this season. That’s better than nothing. The point against the Loons brought Salt Lake to nine on the season, which is good for eighth in the Western Conference with plenty of games to play.
However, there’s no question RSL felt like it should’ve gotten more from Saturday’s game.
“I think we created more than enough chances to win that game,” defender Andrew Brody said. “But I also think we could’ve won that game with just the one goal that we scored if it wasn’t for an unlucky key moment there.”
2. First start for Zac MacMath this season
Speaking of unlucky, the one goal RSL conceded came late on one of the flukiest sequences in recent memory.
A Minnesota player floats a cross into the box that goes past Niko Hansen. RSL goalkeeper Zac MacMath sees it and two-fist punches it away. But the ball ricocheted off MacMath’s fists into Hansen’s rib/hip area, bounced behind MacMath and trickled past the goal line.
MacMath’s reaction said it all.
Juarez was very complimentary of MacMath’s play before that blunder. He started in place of David Ochoa while the latter keeper is away with the U.S. Men’s National Team. He also picked up four saves on the evening.
“I thought Zac was having an amazing game,” Juarez said. “Dealt with crosses very well.”
MacMath hadn’t started a game for RSL since Sept. 6, 2020. His first of 2021 was marred by giving up that late goal, even if it did come off a player’s body in a strange way.
3. Juarez puts his foot down on substitutions
Fans love to criticize Juarez on his substitution patterns and decision-making. To be fair, Juarez does have a tendency to bring his substitutes on a bit later in the game than other teams. And fans getting concerned that RSL players are getting too tired and thus compromising a result is at least one reason to monitor subs.
But Juarez is paid to manage the game as he sees fit. And on Saturday, he flat out said that.
“When I feel like we need to use them, we’ll use them,” Juarez said. “And when I feel that we don’t, we don’t.”
His comment came when asked why he opted to just use one substitution against the Loons. He brought on Justin Meram for Anderson Julio in the 71st minute. At that point, RSL still had a 1-0 lead.
Juarez actually thought about bringing in defender Donny Toia to help seal the game defensively, he said. But once Minnesota equalized, that changed his thought process. Fortunately for RSL, the players on the field were still threatening.
“We were still creating chances,” Juarez said. “There was momentum. We were still attacking them. Sometimes you make those switches when [there is] no need to just because people make switches and they want to make some people happy. But the idea was we were still going, we were still creating. You don’t to break momentum. Simple as that.”
Well, there you have it.