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Five winners, two losers from RSL’s 3-0 win over Seattle

It was a beautiful thing we witnessed at Rio Tinto Stadium.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake’s 3-0 win over Seattle brought along with it a number of very excellent things, from stand-out performances from less often seen players to a true break-out performance from a winger.

Let’s get into the winners and losers from the match.

Winner: Corey Baird

Now established very much as a winger in the last two matches, Corey Baird is finding his feet in a way that’s been missing throughout 2019. I’d put that down mostly to a sophomore slump — it’s not uncommon, and it was convenient. But now, he’s on three goals in two games, and they all came from different approaches. One came from a set piece, one from some counterattacking interchange, and one from a long one-on-one run. It’s remarkable, really.

Winner: Sam Johnson

Our Liberian striker’s goalscoring record speaks for itself. When he starts, he generally scores. I’ll be honest: I was worried early on that Johnson was a square peg in a now-round hole, and that he might be less suited for the possession game we were angling to play. That performance from him wasn’t really inspiring — but there he was scoring a goal, and while it wasn’t his most beautiful, it was as functional as any of them. Thanks, deflections.

But really — when I think about Sam Johnson in a possession system, I get visions of Alvaro Saborio. Johnson may be fast, but he’s strong, and he’s incredibly bright in picking out the right spots to be able to maintain possession or beat an opponent. It’s what makes him a game-changer for Real Salt Lake.

Loser: Everton Luiz

While I actually think Luiz had a very nice game, it stands to reason that his yellow card-earning tackle could easily have been a red card, and for that reason, I’m left a bit worried about what the MLS Disciplinary Committee might do about it.

Winner: Damir Kreilach

There are no words that replace numbers here, so:

  • 92 passes
  • 68 forward passes — 73% of total passes
  • 12 passes targeting the defensive third — 13% of total

Yeah. He was good.

Winner: Justin Portillo

Portillo is, for me, a bit of an unfortunate winner: Nick Besler will be out for an extended period, and Portillo will absolutely be called upon to perform. Last night, we saw a midfielder that could play the possession game neatly. He wasn’t flashy, and he didn’t have to make any crazy tackles. But we did start to see what it’s like to have him playing, and we’re certainly going to be seeing more of him through 2019.

My only question, though: Why didn’t we see him more over the season? He’s clearly capable.

Loser: Nick Rimando

I mean, really. Nick Rimando had one punch and no saves. Come on, Nick. Do better.

(I know this is the internet, but I refuse to include a mark so you know this is sarcasm [or facetious]. It should be obvious.)

Winner: Freddy Juarez

This was the most complete victory from Real Salt Lake I’ve seen in some time. There have been instances where we’ve put bad teams to bed well, and there have been times when we’ve managed to control the game from start to finish. I don’t mean to say we’ve been somehow lacking in any quality over the last three years.

But what we saw tonight was a Real Salt Lake side that took not just competitive control of the game, but footballing control. By maintaining strong possession — absolutely not a hallmark of the Petke years — we saw a team that could play with a new style and verve that’s frankly been missing. This was not about individual skill; instead, it was about a team creativity.