The era of Mike Petke was ushered in at Rio Tinto in true Utah fashion: a spring blizzard. While the weather was cold, Petke started a fire in the squad’s soul as they ran rampant over his former teammate’s Vancouver Whitecaps side. Playing their third match in a week, Carl Robinson’s side proved easy picking for the hungry hosts.
The opportunities started early for RSL off a precision pass from Albert Rusnak. In the second minute, the Slovakian midfielder found the feet of the onrushing Lennon Brooks who beat his defender. The academy product looked to reward the run of Joao Plata, who put his shot just beyond the near post.
Vancouver tried to respond a couple of minutes later but their new acquisition, Tony Tchani, put his shot over the crossbar.
Plata had another golden opportunity in the seventh minute. The play came from Yura Movsisyan putting Vancouver’s defense under pressure and winning the ball in the opposition’s box. He then floated the ball across the face of the goal to find Plata who chopped his shot, making it easy for David Ousted to pounce.
Plata’s frustration became visible on another missed opportunity in the 24th minute. Manifesting out of seemingly nothing, Lennon whipped in a curled cross into the box form about 30-yards out. Plata was able to play off the shoulder of his defender which kept him onside but the slick conditions prevented the RSL striker from getting any substantial contact on the ball.
RSL continued with their high-press and Rusnak almost single-handedly scored the opening goal in the 39th minute when he once again won the ball in the offensive third and forced Ousted to make a save.
The Claret-and-Cobalt kept creating chances for players like Movsisyan and Luke Mulholland, but none of the opportunities were converted in the first half. Still, RSL went into the locker-room in dominate fashion. The home side produced the most complete 45 minutes in years, maintaining nearly 63 percent of possession and earning nine corners.
The snow pilled up during the break and the orange ball came out for the first time in Rio Tinto history, making it truly a dual-momentous night.
Despite the snow, the match started to heat up early in the second as both Tchani and Movsisyan attempted to sneak the ball into the net within the first five minutes. Neither succeeded, but the weather helped Rusnak open up his RSL account minutes later.
Off an excellent run that both split the defense, the RSL No 10 was able to beat his defender in the box. Rusnak then oriented his body to suggest he would shoot far-post but instead cheekily tucked it into the netting near post.
Vancouver started to look more comfortable after a substitution reverted the formation to the more favored four man back-line. However, it appeared that the Caps did not learn from past mistakes and Rusnak nearly doubled his tally in the 67th minute. Finding just inches of space at the top of the 18, he let fly and forced Ousted into a leaping save.
Movsisyan doubled the lead in the 74th minute in what could almost be considered a repeat of Rusnak’s opening goal. One-on-one with the Vancouver captain, Kendall Waston, the RSL striker opened up space in nearly the same place as his teammate, but decided to go far-post. Ousted managed to get fingertips on Movsisyan’s shot but could not prevent it from finding the bottom corner.
On the Claret-and-Cobalt’s twelfth corner, Ousted came off his line and it was Luke Mulholland’s turn to score.
Trailing by three, Vancouver forced Nick Rimando to come up with three quality saves as the Claret-and-Cobalt bunkered down defensively to close out the match.
Real Salt Lake Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Nick Rimando; Danilo Acosta, Chris Wingert, Chris Schuler, Demar Phillips; Kyle Beckerman (Omar Holness - 89’), Luke Mulholland; Brooks Lennon, Albert Rusnak, Joao Plata (Sebastian Saucedo - 61’); Yura Movsisyan (Luis Silva - 81’)
Vancouver Whitecaps Starting XI (3-4-1-2): David Ousted; Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, Christian Dean (Christian Techera - 59’); Jakob Nerwinski, Tony Tchani (Mauro Rosales - 59’), Mattis Laba (Andrew Jacobson - 78’), Marcel de Jong; Russel Teibert; Nicolas Mezquida, Fredy Montero
54’ - Rusnak (Plata)
74’ - Movsisyan (Rusnak)
78’ - Mulholland (Rusnak)
29’ - Laba (YC) - VAN
40’ - Schuler (YC) - RSL
42’ - Beckerman (YC) - RSL