Real Salt Lake drew for the third match in a row last weekend, with a 13’ Damir Kreilach goal off of a set piece situation and 78’ Zac MacMath goalkeeping error leading to Minnesota equalizing. Kreilach’s goal was assisted by Aaron Herrera, making it two weeks in a row that pair connected to get on the scoreboard. Although RSL maintained possession play throughout the rest of the first half after opening scoring, but MNUFC came out strong after halftime. Coach Freddy Juarez only made one substitution, bringing on Justin Meram for Anderson Julio in the 71’, and even though Meram almost immediately forced a save from opposing keeper Tyler Miller, it was too little too late. Although both teams recorded 12 shots and RSL put more shots on frame (5) to Minnesota’s one, that one proved enough as the visitors managed to steal back a point from Rio Tinto. With the draw and the Week 2 win away, RSL closes out the fixtures for the 2021 season against Minnesota undefeated.
The slight downturn in form from Real Salt Lake sees the side mid-table through six matches, and with two games in hand over some of the other division teams, there is time and fixtures to make up ground in the standings. The sky isn’t falling (at least for now anyways), and RSL is overperforming many preseason predictions, despite recent dropped points. Fans and media alike are asking themselves and each other how RSL can jump start their offense, with particular focus on captain Albert Rusnak, and stay strong defensively to close out matches like this last one to keep moving up the table. The answers to those questions may lay in the latest signings.
During halftime on Saturday night, RSL announced the signing of Argentine forward Jonathan Menéndez from Club Atlético Independiente. Menéndez will reinforce the front lines, which have seen impact play from recent signings Rubio Rubín and Anderson Julio, and will join striker Bobby Wood, who arrived in Utah this week, well ahead of his previously projected arrival.
This week, the club also announced the acquisition of Croatian centre back Toni Datković on a two year deal from Greek club Aris Thessaloniki. Datković’s presence will bolster the back line, hopefully providing the defensive depth needed to return to and maintain winning ways. The integration of these new signings during the international break and the following weeks will look to solve some of the concerns that are exacerbated by the lack of an owner. Hopefully the next signing will fill the hole in the executive leadership.
The team now has a break of nearly three weeks before their next match at Rio Tinto on Friday, June 18 at 8:00 p.m. MT versus Vancouver Whitecaps. This match has the interesting detail that both teams are based out of Rio Tinto this season, with Vancouver relocating to Salt Lake due to COVID related travel restrictions in Canada. RSL will be the ‘visiting’ team in the later series fixtures in July and August.
In the meantime, keeper David Ochoa will see more international duty with the USMNT while defenders Noah Powder and Ashtone Morgan have been called up to Trinidad and Tobago and Canada, respectively. Notably, Albert Rusnak was left out of Slovakia’s EURO 2020 squad this summer, which compounds questions about his utility and club form. Speaking of the USMNT, the national side will play a friendly in Salt Lake next week on Wednesday, June 9th at 5pm. Tickets are still on sale, so if you’re in Utah or wanting to make a trip, you still have your chance! Is there a better way to kick off summer?
Finally, be sure to follow fellow RSL correspondent Mike Miller (@MikeMiller123) as he covers the USMNT over the international break as they play in the Nations League today and Sunday!
Images Courtesy of Real Salt Lake