But a win like that didn’t come easily, and it didn’t quite come with the strength we might have wanted. We gutted out a win, and that was exciting and terrifying in equal measure.
With that in mind, here’s who really stood out — for good and bad reasons — in my post-match thoughts.
Winner: Jefferson Savarino
Venezuela and Colombia played Tuesday. Jefferson Savarino played 20-ish minutes in that match. He flew back to Salt Lake City on Wednesday morning, then played for Real Salt Lake on Wednesday evening.
At his own request.
Wild, isn’t it? He’s a winner for that. Also, because he entered play and immediately changed the game. Wow.
Winner: Nick Rimando
Nick didn’t have too many saves to worry about — three, to be exact — but that isn’t to say he had an easy night. San Jose, on several occasions, ran past our high-playing back line, and Rimando was forced to come out to make a crucial clearance. On one particular play, from my view in the stadium, I could’ve sworn he’d handled the ball outside the box. He hadn’t, apparently. Quite wonderful, really.
Loser: Marcelo Silva
If you’re Marcelo Silva, how do you work your way into this lineup? Nedum Onuoha and Justen Glad have formed an excellent partnership at the back, and I think we saw a lot of that on the field. Barring injury or wacky selections by the coach, I don’t think we see Silva again in a starting role.
But I could be wrong. After all, Justen Glad was benched heading into the playoffs last year by then-RSL-coach Mike Petke. So, yeah. I dunno.
Winner: Sebastian Saucedo
So I know he didn’t have much time on the field, but Bofo Saucedo was fouled three times in less than 30 minutes. That’s pretty wild. He’s a very interesting player to me, and I really think he can be a difference maker for this team — now. Not in a year. Now.
But he needs to turn that switch on, and he very much turned it on tonight.
Loser: Tate Schmitt
Schmitt didn’t play, but being behind Douglas Martinez in the pecking order already doesn’t reflect incredibly well on Schmitt’s standing at RSL. Now, he’s a rookie, and he’s a homegrown player, and he doesn’t necessarily play the same position as Martinez. But Martinez starting should give him something to think about, and hopefully that depth provides a little extra motivation for him.
Winner: Damir Kreilach
Kreilach took more shots than the rest of the starting XI — combined. They were some good opportunities, too. He really should have — or at least could have — scored two more, but it wasn’t his night. Until it was, and he kept taking his chances until it worked out. That’s what we need right now, and I love him for it.
However, I have to say, the spacing was a bit weird between him and Douglas Martinez in the first half. I’m not sure who to blame there, so I’m just sort of dropping it here.
Loser: Joao Plata
I don’t think Plata exactly had a bad game, but I also don’t think he had a good one, either. His passing was imprecise, he struggled to create, and he didn’t do enough — in my book, at least — to win a starting spot. I truly think, barring injury, we’ve seen Plata’s last start with Real Salt Lake.
Winner: Donny Toia
Quietly — very quietly — Toia has become a key player in our defense. Without the external pressure of a player behind him in the depth chart, there was always a risk that he’d stagnate. He’s done nothing like it, and he made some huge plays to get there.
Winner: Freddy Juarez
RSL were dreadful in the attack in the first half. Nothing was working. It took until the 35th minute for our side to get even a single shot off. If things had continued that way, he’d be in the losing column. Instead, the second half showed a distinctly changed tenor of play, and I think he mastered the double-substitution. At the time, I was braying for Brooks Lennon to come off. Instead, we were treated to a transformation. Saucedo and Savarino fit perfectly into that game, and that’s very much to Juarez’s credit.