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Competitive RSL loses 2-1 to Manchester United in exhibition

A hard-fought friendly with three sets of RSL players involved ended in a loss for the home side.

Manchester United v Real Salt Lake Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

It was surprisingly competitive for a friendly against part of the soccer ruling class when Real Salt Lake took on Manchester United.

Surprisingly competitive, but a 2-1 loss to the Manchurian side wasn’t too surprising a result in the end — it was really the manner in which it came that was the real surprise.

Luis Silva scored what was almost certainly one of the best goals of his career when he put Real Salt Lake up 1-0 over Manchester United. Picking up a brilliantly simple pass from Jefferson Savarino, Silva kept tight control in the box and deftly chipped Manchester United goalkeeper Andreas Pereira.

The lead didn’t last too long, with RSL conceding in the 30th minute from a Henrikh Mkhitaryan strike near the top of the box, leaving Nick Rimando with little chance of a save. It was only minutes before RSL’s first line change of the night.

Then, in the 38th minute, Romelu Lukaku put United in the lead with a bit of excellent hold-up play against Nick Rimando and Aaron Maund. If we’re to retreat to classic English tropes, let’s just say it wasn’t deserved. Not that it matters, really.

The first injury scare for RSL just before the 60th minute, when Sebastian Saucedo took a knock to the face as he beat a player to a ball out wide. He came back on the pitch after treatment without issue. And it was Saucedo again who was the recipient of a bad tackle, with Antonio Valencia thumping him as he beat him again. For that, he received a straight red card, leaving Manchester United with 10 players. Saucedo was substituted minutes later along with several other RSL players.

In the 8th minute, Jefferson Savarino was nearly in on goal after a tremendous pass (from somebody, though I’m not really sure who), but Manchester United goalkeeper Andreas Pereira was wise to the bouncing ball.

Combination play from Albert Rusnak and Luis Silva gave RSL another excellent opening in the tenth minute, with Luis Silva zipping a cross to Jefferson Savarino. That was cleared out, but the danger was clear.

It wasn’t the only good opportunity in the first half that came as RSL put the indubitable stars of the match on trial. In the 11th minute, Savarino was the target of a Tony Beltran cross near the edge of the box, though Albert Rusnak picked it up after a deflection. He laid it off for Joao Plata, who ripped a shot from outside the box, and with Pereira spilling his save, the Venezuelan winger was nearly able to capitalize.

The 18th minute saw Joao Plata in on goalfrom a simple Luis Silva combination play, but despite knocking on the door yet again , his shot was deflected away for a corner.

In the 57th minute, Aaron Maund prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity from United’s Anthony Martial, who very nearly had burst past RSL’s back line.

RSL’s first opportunity of the second half came when United flicked a ball back toward the top of the 18, with Nick Besler (or was it Andrew Brody?) smashing a shot wide, but not too far wide.

Luke Mulholland nearly leveled things for RSL in the 73rd minute, but his patented shot from the top of the box was flung only just past the post.

The two sides traded opportunities, and Chris Smalling nearly put Manchester United up 3-1 from a corner, but his powerful header flew over the crossbar.

It was a partisan crowd for Real Salt Lake, but maybe not in the way you’d have expected. The drums of La Barra Real and company started early, the crowd erupted for RSL’s starting lineup announcement, and strains of “We Love You Salt Lake” were immediate. For all the talk about Manchester United, the focus was clearly on the home team.

RSL lineup


Rimando; Beltran, Glad, Horst, Phillips; Sunny, Beckerman; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; L. Silva


Fernandez; Wingert (70’ Dunk), Maund (70’, Schuler), M. Silva, Acosta (70’, to defensive mid); Mulholland, Besler (70’ Schmidt, to left back); Brody (77’ Curinga), Hernandez, Saucedo (70’ Minter); Lennon (70’ Haber)