Real Salt Lake and Atlanta United met for the first time at Rio Tinto Stadium. While the Claret-and-Cobalt looked to remain perfect under Mike Pekte, Atlanta looked to get back to their early success after two draws and a loss.
Atlanta drew first blood in the ninth minute. The chance was generated when Chris Wingert, under pressure, sent a back-pass to Nick Rimando who then sent a ground pass to midfield in hopes of reaching Luke Mulholland. The Englishman, however, was beaten to the ball by Carlos Carmona.
United lived up to their reputation as the best transition team in the league when the loose ball was collected by U.S. International Greg Garza. The full-back who had pushed into the attack released Miguel Almiron, who split RSL’s central defenders. The Atlanta playmaker’s initial shot was parried away by the Wall of the Wasatch, only to find the feet of an on-rushing Hector Villalba. His first shot was again saved by Rimando, but the Argintine finally scored on his second opportunity.
RSL was pinned back for most of the first half and created very few scoring opportunities. The host’s best chance came in the 39th minute when Beckerman earned a free-kick 30 yards out. Albert Rusnak stepped up and shot the ball just over the crossbar, fooling everyone in the stadium.
The second half did not start any better than the first for the Claret-and-Cobalt. A minute out of the locker-room, RSL elected to play under pressure when Wingert was the outlet for a Rimando pass. Immediately, the replacement center-back could not control the ball and was swarmed by both Almiron and Yamil Asad. Almiron ultimately dispossessed Wingert and drew the RSL goalkeeper out of position. With a quick flick, Asad had the ball and an open net in front of him. Asad made the most of his opportunity by placing the ball perfectly into the lower half of the host’s goal.
The night went from bad to worse when Rimando signaled he needed a substitution in the 56th minute after sustaining an injury to his leg earlier in the match. He was replaced by Matt Van Oekel in the 58th minute.
The situation improved slightly for the hosts in the 70th minute when Rusnak finally got his side back in the match. After Demar Phillips dribbled through what seemed like the entire Atlanta defense, Joao Plata and Mulholland linked up to find Rusnak just outside the 18. After only an instant of hesitation, the Slovakian International tagged the ball for the far, bottom corner which found its mark.
The hosts did their best to manage six minutes of stoppage time but no-calls by the referee, time wasting by Atlanta players, and a three man back-line lead to space open ingup which was further exploited by Atlanta. Brandon Vazquez iced the match in the last minute of stoppage time after Julian Gressel played a through ball to the forward who then dribbled past Van Oekel and tucked the ball into the back of the net.
With a scoreline of 3-1, RSL dropped their first points of the Petke area.
Real Salt Lake Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Nick Rimando (Matt Van Oekel - 58’); Danilo Acosta, Chris Wingert (Sebastian Saucedo - 71’), Chris Schuler, Demar Phillips; Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland (Luis Silva - 85’); Brooks Lennon, Albert Rusnak, Joao Plata; Yura Movsisyan
Atlanta United Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Alec Kann; Tyrone Mears, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza; Jeff Larentowicz, Carlos Carmona; Hector Villalba (Julian Gressel - 78’), Miguel Almiron, Yamil Asad (Miles Robinson - 90’), Kenwyne Jones (Brandon Vazquez - 90’ +3’)
9’ - Villalba
46’ - Asad (Almiron)
69’ - Rusnak (Mulholland)
90’ + 6’ - Vazquez (Gressel)
21’ - Beckerman (YC) - RSL
38’ - Carmona (YC) - ATL
77’ - Garza (YC) - ATL
83’ - Almiron (YC) - ATL
90’ + 3’ - Kann (YC) - ATL