Winner: Albert Rusnak
I had some sharp criticism of Rusnak last week (or I thought it was sharp — maybe it was less pointed than I thought), and when I saw him walk out with the armband, I was concerned. (OK, to be clear, this was pointed out to me, and I wish I remembered who did. If it was you, please don’t let me not give you credit.) To my eye, he hadn’t been captain material.
I don’t know that I was wrong about what I’d seen before — I don’t think so — but I do think that RSL coach Freddy Juarez saw something in him that I hadn’t. (Obviously. He works with him daily.) Rusnak was heavily involved in play throughout, stayed engaged, and supported his teammates.
In a more concrete, countable way, Rusnak was the driving force behind Real Salt Lake being good at set pieces, which is not a sentence I really ever thought I’d be writing. We created a mountain of opportunities, and his service was a huge reason why.
Interestingly, though, Rusnak was actually not at his passing best, with a meager 70 percent passing rate and 44 passes attempted overall, ten of which were from set pieces. Of those, seven were key passes, which is quite nice. He even had three key passes from the run of play. All told, I think this was a huge step up from Rusnak.
Now, I don’t know if it was because he had the armband put on him, or if it’s because he stepped up independently, or if he was pushed forward by the coaching staff, or some other reason entirely. These are the inner goings-on that we simply don’t have access to, especially when we consider the role his own motivations play.
Winner: Damir Kreilach
We know what we get with Kreilach at forward, and while we’ve been urging Real Salt Lake to play him in the midfield a bit more, injuries and hamstrings conspired to keep Kreilach up top. Now, I think we could have used Kreilach in the midfield, as we needed a bit more of a creative oomph.
That said, Kreilach is here because he was brilliant from set pieces. Rusnak found him repeatedly, and as a result, he had three of RSL’s six shots on target. He could have scored on each of those — they were close — but for some New York heroics.
Loser: Nick Besler
I think we were all a bit disappointed with what we saw from Besler, particularly as he gave the ball away on a few too many occasions. His 70 percent passing accuracy — which you’ll note is the same as Rusnak above, which is interesting — wasn’t what we have come to expect from a defensive midfielder, and players in his position simply can’t concede possession like that. Now, Besler did have some good moments, but that wasn’t great.
Winner, loser, somewhere between: Zac MacMath
He faced only two on-target opportunities, and one of them was a goal that he probably should have saved. MacMath is an asterisked winner because of that goal. But his distribution was excellent, and he came outside his box without hesitation when necessary. He made our team work. That said, he had just a 45 percent passing success rate. So I don’t really know what to make of this.
Winner: Douglas Martinez
He came on and stretched play immediately. It was magnificent. He also should have had a goal, which I guess is his fault for having long arms. I don’t know what to think any more.
Loser: Video Assistant Refereeing
OK, so I get that the Douglas Martinez goal was rightly called back, but why on earth does the referee wait until everyone’s back, lined up for kickoff to signal for video replay? Not only does it delay things further, but it kills the energy of the game. I would much rather see the referee immediately blow the whistle at the first sign of trouble. I know PRO has talked about how it just doesn’t happen all that often that goals are taken away, but this was sure not fun.
I’d also love a bit more transparency around all this. PRO is actually on the leading edge of that sort of thing, but I’d love to know if the video referee reviewed the tackle on Marcelo Silva in the attacking box. I’d also love to see more than a three-second replay in the stadium. Transparency and clarity are virtues, and we too often miss those with VAR.
Winner: Aaron Herrera
HELLO, DID YOU SEE HIS ASSIST ON THE STOPPAGE TIME GOAL. IT WAS MAGNIFICENT. IT WAS GLORIOUS. IT WAS AARON HERRERA AT RIGHT BACK IN A NUTSHELL.
What a hero.