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The Salt: A duck, RSL shuts down Zlatan, and the Western Conference remains wild

By the time you read this, RSL will have scored approximately 27.4 more goals.

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports


I think I might have crossed over into an alternate reality — one where Real Salt Lake has cracked the no-forward code (you can read more from me on that on Tuesday.)

One where Damir Kreilach and Albert Rusnak are competing in the tightest Golden Boot race we’ve had in ages.

One where it doesn’t matter if we have a number nine. What is nine but a number, anyway?

So here we are. I’ve crossed over. I haven’t noticed anyone with a suspicious goatee, but I’ll be on the lookout.

Let’s talk.

The most fun home game in eons

The last time I had that much fun at a home game was probably in 2013 during our US Open Cup run. That was primarily conditions-related, as there was a downpour of rain against — I think — Charleston Battery in a 5-2 win after extra time. Or maybe it was the 3-0 win against Carolina Railhawks. I just don’t remember.

At any rate, those were fun games for conditions outside of the games themselves. We shouldn’t have been forced into extra time against the Battery, and a 3-0 win over a lower-division side isn’t anything to truly write home about.

But once we scored our first goal, it was a party atmosphere. It continued all match. There was a certain sense that we were flying, even before we took off.

But also, there was a duck. If you haven’t read about the duck, sit tight. Basically, a duck flew onto the field. It waddled around, as a duck does. We took a couple corner kicks, and the duck was still there. LA Galaxy had an attack, and the duck was still there. Eventually, the grounds crew came on to the field to chase the duck away, but the duck was still there. Joao Plata chased the duck too, but the duck was still there. Albert Rusnak even tried to get the duck to leave, and the duck was still there.

(I’m practicing for my future kid book career. Don’t judge.)

Anyway, the grounds crew got the duck. The end.

But yeah, that really did change the atmosphere. Without the duck, maybe there would have been some of our patented anger, but thankfully, we didn’t have to speculate. That duck wasn’t just a good omen: It was also a source of some much-needed fun.

Goodbye, Zlatan

This one, though? The marketing leading up was all Zlatan, all the time. We took that marketing and threw it out the window — as a team. Ibrahimovic was limited to one or two good opportunities, with our center backs dealing with him. Our center backs, consisting of a 21-year-old future star and a 25-year-old defensive midfielder. Those two kept the most famous athlete in Los Angeles (you heard me) quiet.

Sure, Ibrahimovic took eight shots. Maybe that’s not that quiet. But only one was a good chance, and it hit the post. We kept him to lower-probability shots, and, importantly, we kept him without a key pass — a pass leading directly to a shot. We talked a lot about his goals coming into this one, but he has eight assists, too. That’s nothing to shake a stick at. (Yet another phrase I don’t really know the origin of but use anyway. Whoops.)

At any rate, there’s something very delightful to me about Ibrahimovic coming in with all the fanfare (and yes, I get it, selling tickets is a real thing, and we probably needed to do that to get to a sellout. I’m still salty about it. It’s fine.) and then being kept without a goal or assist. Credit to us there, but especially, credit to Justen Glad and Nick Besler. Nice work, kids.

The Wild Western Conference

Our 44 points are good enough for fourth place in the Western Conference, but that fact isn’t all that interesting on its own.

Much more interesting than that? FC Dallas, the top team in the West, has 49 points. LAFC, second, has 46. SKC, third, has 45. We’ve played more games than each, but we’re still within touching distance, should the rest of our season continue to go well.

But that’s not all. This part’s less great. Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers are on 41 points. Vancouver Whitecaps are on 40. We’ve played more games than them, too.

So sure, we’re in fourth, but we could also be outside the playoffs after a couple games, too. I don’t like this feeling.

Remember, we play Portland twice in October. The end to the season’s going to be insane.

Just insane.

The other stuff

I’ve been reading: You already know I’m a nerd, so I don’t need to try to hide it. I’ve been reading the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine relaunch novels. I’m on Avatar, Book Two, and it’s been a breezy, fun read. But I also just picked up 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, so I’m looking forward to diving into that, too.

I’ve been listening to: My reminds me that I listened to The Books recently. Their album Thought for Food is absolutely one of my favorites.

I’ve been watching: Yeah, you guessed it. Star Trek. No points for you — it’s too easy. But I am reminded how good ST:TNG’s fifth season is. “A Matter of Time,” “Unification,” “The Game,” “Ensign Ro,” “Cause and Effect,” “The First Duty,” “I, Borg,” and, of course, “Darmok” AND “The Inner Light”? It’s just so, so good.

I’ve been playing: Into the Breach just got a release on the Switch, which has been an absolute blast to play. It’s kind of a tactical-RPG-rogue-like game, and if any of that sounds remotely interesting, you should check it out. I also played a bit of Hollow Knight, which remains a very fun little game.

I’ve been boardgameplaying: I recently picked up a copy of Now Boarding, which is designed by Utah board game designer Tim Fowers. It’s a fantastic cooperative game with some realtime elements, and it’s a lot more difficult on first play than I would have anticipated.