Real Salt Lake’s loss to LAFC was perhaps unsurprising, but the manner of defeat may have been.
Both sides went down to 10 men; first LAFC, then RSL. Certainly the home side could have capitalized better during that time, and one would also think RSL’s red card was wholly unnecessary.
Here are a handful of Saturday night’s winners and losers.
Winner: Nick Rimando
Despite giving up two goals, Nick Rimando was absolutely essential in keeping Real Salt Lake competitive — fingertip saves, a double-save that included a near-own-goal. He was a fantastic figure on the night, and it’s a shame the field players couldn’t save him a clean sheet.
Loser: Aaron Herrera
Until he got his sort-of-bizarre second red card, Herrera was a very capable left back who dealt exceedingly well with Carlos Vela. Few players manage that in this league. However, the penalty was unfortunate, and had he kept his hand off Vela’s shoulder, he may have been in the clear. I’d much rather see Vela taking a shot from a tough angle against Rimando than a penalty.
Oh, and that first red card? The one that was overturned? That was absolutely massive work from Herrera to clear the ball off the goal-line. Credit to the referee for taking a look, too.
Winner: Everton Luiz
As usual, Luiz was practically everywhere against LAFC. But the thing I think we’re seeing more of as the season goes on is Luiz becoming a crucial attacking player. On several occasions, he charged through the midfield with the ball, and that disrupted the LAFC midfield in some interesting ways. It didn’t play out perfectly, but it was something.
Loser: Joao Plata
It’s clear that Plata still has a fair amount of rust to him, and he’s only going to shake that off with playing time. He came on with 15 minutes remaining, and he never truly threatened. He had a good run or two, and he got into some good positions, but he was never at his most dangerous. If we ever get that Plata back, we’ll be better off for it. I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Loser: Marcelo Silva
While Silva made some good last-ditch tackles throughout the match and was vital in keeping things close, I don’t think he had a particularly good game in his distribution. Too often, he gave things away before we could get started, and it’s always going to be difficult when your center backs aren’t passing particularly well.
Additionally to all this, SIlva kept Carlos Vela onside when he should have stepped up, and that led directly to the penalty. A bit too bad, as one or two steps would have saved the play completely. It’s one of those great examples in soccer where one tiny play changed everything. I also think he made a poor decision on the second goal, but when you have three defenders and one of them is Corey Baird, I guess you can’t complain too much. Certainly, Sebastian Saucedo should have done better there, too.
Winner: Albert Rusnak
While he didn’t get any particularly distinct looks from outside the box — wise on the part of Bob Bradley’s side, certainly — Rusnak was generally good in the attack, and importantly, he maintained possession well against a difficult team. The speed of play was extremely high from LAFC, and Rusnak adapted well to it. There are times when I get bit frustrated with Rusnak slowing the game down, but I think what we’ve seen in the last few weeks is a player that’s been rejuvenated. Hopefully he can take this into next week’s match.
Loser: RSL’s standing in the conference
Because the Western Conference is 100 percent wild right now, this match sees us within touching distance for San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers, who have one and two games in-hand, respectively. A win would have put us in a better position there, but this wasn’t exactly a gimme of a game. I’m certainly not feeling too put out by the loss, given we lost to a team with well over 2 points per game — 2.32. New York Red Bulls and Atlanta in 2018 had 2.09 and 2.03, respectively. If LAFC keep this up, it’ll be record-breaking in some big ways. So, yeah. It’s a little unusual, isn’t it?