Real Salt Lake, needing a home win to keep their momentum alive and their playoff push going in the right direction, dropped two points to Montreal Impact in an intense match of back-and-forth soccer.
A 1-1 draw was perhaps a just result at the conclusion, but it was hardly the sort of thing RSL would have been hoping for.
RSL dodged an early bullet after the Impact broke down the right side of RSL’s defense, pushing past Brooks Lennon and forcing Nick Besler into some early heroics. But for some strong defensive play from the man replacing Marcelo Silva — a planned rest for the Uruguayan center back — Nick Rimando would have found himself one-on-one.
The 15th minute saw Montreal break on a counter, but with RSL facing a 4-on-3, Lennon took advantage of a loose pass to break up play — but for a moment, it looked like a terribly dangerous bit of play. It underscored the approach Montreal wanted to take, with Piatti leading a flurry of counterattacking slashes.
Joao Plata had RSL’s first good chance of the match, with Evan Bush diving low to parry the free kick out for a corner.
That same man had the opener in the 25th minute, scoring from the penalty spot after winning a penalty kick after being taken down during a promising RSL counterattack and muscling his way in front of two defenders.
It was a magnificent run from Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreilach that set Plata up to make his run, with the former staying on a corner kick — along with Plata and Jefferson Savarino, he was one of a rare trio of players staying out of the defensive structure
Not long after, Piatti put himself in a good position to find a potential equalizer, but his shot with RSL struggling to recover was nowhere close to on-target, leaving in a fortunately dominant position.
Continuing a strong run for RSL as the first half reached its intensity peak, Beckerman found himself free from a corner kick but couldn’t put his header on-frame, with the ball bouncing just a foot past the post.
Of course, even strong runs of play can lead to dangerous moments for the opposition; the 36th minute saw Montreal’s Matteo Mancosu split the defense with a smart run, with Nick Rimando rushing out to sweep the ball out of danger. He hardly got it far enough, but a poor shot from the Impact saved RSL’s hide, with Rimando on the outer edge of his box and a chip in startlingly easy range.
The 43rd minute saw RSL saved again by some last-gasp heroics from Lennon, who is certainly feeling the heat of competition as Tony Beltran inches closer to a return and Aaron Herrera’s form continues trending in a positive direction.
Herrera, for his part, was involved in same heroics in the first half, too, stopping Alejandro Silva from going through on goal after Justen Glad fell short with a tackle.
It was perhaps too exciting a half for RSL, who found themselves facing a very good attacking team in the Impact.
Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush found himself on the edge of controversy after the halftime whistle, when he kicked a ball — perhaps purposefully, perhaps not — at the RSL bench. The ball appeared to hit a player or coach, and RSL defender Shawn Barry appeared to take the most exception. Barry and Bush had to be separated as the teams went down the tunnel, with RSL staff holding back Barry and the refereeing crew standing in front of Bush. It was as dramatic a moment as the first half deserved.
A bit of trickery nearly put RSL ahead in the opening of the second half, with Joao Plata flicking on a short corner to Jefferson Savarino. His low, hard ensuing shot was saved by Bush and put out for a corner.
But the dangerous attacks by Montreal were too much for RSL to bear, with Jukka Raitala scoring an equalizer for the Impact with a perfectly placed shot from outside the box. It was a particularly poor moment for RSL defensively, who had struggled to keep the opposition at bay.
As the second half soldiered on, there was little truly happening for either side, with the majority of play coming through quick attacks down the wings.
The 71st minute saw Montreal with an enviable opportunity: Ignacio Piatti, in the box, with just Nick Rimando to beat after he worked his way past Nick Besler and Justen Glad with his terribly effective skill. Rimando, of course, was equal to the task, and the Impact will want that opportunity back.
In a late bid for a win, RSL made two substitutions: Luis Silva for Corey Baird and Sebastian Saucedo for Damir Kreilach.
Nick Rimando was forced into an 89th minute save, knocking another shot out for a corner. With a draw in their sights, Montreal was not particularly ambitious, and they gave up a foul for a push on the ensuing corner kick.
With three minutes of stoppage time made available, RSL made a late push for opportunities, but heavy legs for both sides made that difficult. A late salvo from Sebastian Saucedo went directly to Evan Bush, and from there, it was more or less game over.
- 25’ RSL 1-0 Montreal, Joao Plata goal (PK)
- 65’ Montreal yellow card, Daniel Lovitz
- 74’ RSL yellow card, Corey Baird
Real Salt Lake
Brooks Lennon, Nick Besler, Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera
Kyle Beckerman (c), Damir Kreilach (Saucedo 84’)
Jefferson Savarino, Albert Rusnák, Joao Plata
Corey Baird (80’ Silva)
Bench: Andrew Putna, Danilo Acosta, Shawn Barry, Pablo Ruiz, Sunny, Sebastian Saucedo, Luis Silva
Raitala, Cabrera, Camacho, Lovitz
Piette, Krolicki, Taider
Silva, Mancosu (67’ Amarikwa), Piatti (c)
Bench: Diop, Diallo, Petrasso, M. Choinière, Shome, Azira, Amarikwa