It was an absolutely massive victory for Real Salt Lake tonight, who put some doubt to the side — if not to rest just yet — with a four-goal performance against a Javier Lopez-hat-trick-led San Jose Earthquakes.
Here are my winners and losers from this unreal match.
Winner: Albert Rusnak
He has far more often been in the winner column over the last two months than otherwise, and he was a huge part of the victory tonight. providing on two of the goals and scoring one of his own. It was a match in which he was decisive, engaged, and insightful.
Rusnak is now sitting at seven goals and eight assists — a real turnaround from his early season woes, and at this point, his performance has surpassed what we’ve seen from him since 2019 — or possibly even 2018.
A quote from Pablo Mastroeni:
“I just thought, on this road trip, both his leadership and Dami’s leadership have been critical to this group. We talk about mentality all the time ... and you need a bunch of guys that believe in that. Albert has been exceptional, he’s taken it on, and his leadership has come from an organic place, where he’s thriving, finding pockets, linking the play, finishing at the top of the box, and he’s scoring goals. Dami, the same thing. Two guys that now have the real attention of this group, the attention this group wants to move in. A performance like this leaves you confident in how you want to move forward.”
Winner: Rubio Rubin
It was an excellent match for RSL’s top striker, who scored a brace to bring his goal total to seven on the year. He’s played in every match this year, and though he went through a pretty substantial dry spell — his first tonight was his first since July 24 — he was back at his goalscoring best. Also, his first goal is a thing of beauty. Go watch it. What a way to score.
Rubín gives #RSL the equalizer in first half stoppage time! pic.twitter.com/o6L2d4dTe3— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 16, 2021
Loser: Erik Holt
Alright, to be fair, this is actually Erik Holt’s first win for Real Salt Lake in which he played more than 22 minutes. But he was particularly bad after coming on as a substitute, and we are lucky that we did enough in the attack to account for his mistakes.
Loser: Donny Toia
See Holt, Erik.
Toia should be better than he’s been in these last two matches. He’s a veteran in this league. Tonight was far from good enough, and if something doesn’t change, he’ll be replaced. By who? I don’t know. Our left backs that aren’t named Donny are apparently cursed, with Noah Powder having some sort of setback, Andrew Brody breaking his toe, and Ashtone Morgan apparently not a great fit for a wacky
Winner: Damir Kreilach
What is there to say about Kreilach that hasn’t already been said? He was a creative outlet playing in a sort-of attacking midfield role, and it’s the role he’s typically been best in for this team. (And arguably, it’s the position in which he’s been best in his career.) He didn’t score a goal, and he didn’t have an assist, but he did have four key passes. On any night, that’s good. (Rusnak had seven. Pretty remarkable.)