It was a surprisingly nice match for Real Salt Lake, as they opened their outlay in the MLS is Back tournament with a nice 2-0 win over Colorado Rapids.
Here are four winners and one loser from the match — and while it’s tempting to just list most players here as winners, let’s be a little selective. You know, so you don’t have to read 5,000 words on it, and I can get some sleep tonight. Great!
Winner: Douglas Martinez
The young Honduran striker got his second all-time start for Real Salt Lake ahead of players like Giuseppe Rossi and Sam Johnson, and he looked good for it, especially in the first half. He also earned a penalty, and while it wasn’t put away, his awareness to capitalize on a bad back pass, catching Colorado’s Lalas Abubakar out and forcing Clint Irwin into a foul, didn’t go unnoticed. If Martinez continues at this rate, I suspect he’ll be in contention for starting minutes more regularly.
Loser: Albert Rusnak
Yes, the designated player scored a goal, but his missed penalty was enough to nudge him into this column, for me. Beyond even that, his distribution from set pieces was poor, and he looked slow. There’s certainly a case to be made for rust, and certainly being on the right flank is not his usual position with Real Salt Lake, but he was second-best on too many occasions.
It is perhaps telling that scoring the game-winning goal has not moved him into the winner column, and that, for me, is down to one thing: Albert Rusnak has incredible potential and skill. If he is focused, he could be one of the top players in the league. But he’s falling well short of that, and it is troubling.
(An earlier version of this story mistakenly gave Rusnak an assist. Baird assisted on the second goal )
Winner: Marcelo Silva
Marcelo Silva has gone from a liability to a strong figure under Freddy Juarez, and its especially important that he’s playing well: Justen Glad left the match with an apparent injury, and Nedum Onuoha has quite understandably stayed home from the tournament. Throughout, Silva controlled the defensive proceedings, and he had a few neat moments on the ball, too.
Winner: Aaron Herrera
Our once-slender right back has apparently put a good deal of time in on his strength-training, and it really is paying off. He’s fast, smart and strong, and if he’s not RSL’s starting right back for the foreseeable future, we will have made a mistake somewhere along the way. I might also argue that he’s inching toward USMNT-caliber material, although with the pandemic, one doesn’t really know what that means at this time.
Winner: Freddy Juarez and the coaching staff
I was extremely impressed with how well-organized Real Salt Lake was throughout, and they came out with an actual strategy that worked. In these very trying times, that’s a big statement from Real Salt Lake. I certainly didn’t expect us to look generally good — I’ve seen plenty of teams play very badly and win, or very badly and lose, or any combination of the two. But we looked generally good, and we looked like ourselves. Perhaps I’m looking through rose-tinted glasses, but I hope not. This bodes well (though, of course, is no guarantee, especially in a bubble in which there could be COVID-19 spread.)