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10-man RSL drops to Austin FC in penalties

Cordova scored twice early to give RSL significant hope.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Austin FC Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake’s playoff run came to a halt only as it started, with the team failing at the first offing to progress in the pursuit of MLS Cup.

RSL opened the scoring with a well-placed header from Sergio Cordova, with Andrew Brody the creator with an excellent cross. It was one of Cordova’s better finishes on the season, and it was a good precursor to what came next.

The 15th minute saw Austin whistled for a penalty after a handball in the box after video review, with Sergio Cordova burying the spot kick low and to the left side.

It was an exciting way to open the match, but things rapidly turned against RSL, with Sebastian Druissi knocking one in past Zac MacMath from a header, with MLS veteran Diego Fagundez providing from an ill-defended position on the flank.

Going into halftime with the lead but very much on the back foot, RSL’s fortunes went from bad to worse when Rubio Rubin, already on a yellow card following a poorly timed aerial challenge in the first half, went sliding in to try to rescue a ball in the box, catching Brad Stuver along the way. It wasn’t malicious and he certainly tried to pull out, but it was a justified yellow card and subsequent sending off.

Playing with 10 men, RSL took on an increasingly defensive stance, with every attack-minded player substituted by the end of the half. Taking on a shower of crosses, Zac MacMath, Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad and Nick Besler formed a defensive unit that kept most out of the way. A late attempt from Austin rebounded off the arm of RSL’s Scott Caldwell, and the ensuing penalty was buried in the 93rd minute, sending the match to extra time.

RSL managed extra time about as well as can be expected with no available substitutes and a plethora of defensive players, and Austin’s inability to finish excellent chances meant the match went to penalties.

Marcelo Silva’s opening penalty was scored but nearly saved by Stuver, but that’s where the good stuff ended for RSL. Right back Andrew Brody missed his penalty, placing it well within Brad Stuver’s grasp. Braian Ojeda’s penalty was instantly forgettable, saved easily by Stuver as well. Tate Schmitt took the final penalty for RSL, with the team needing a pair of saves and a pair of finishes to stay in contention. His penalty was sent sky-high, reminiscent a bit of Landon Donovan, and it sent RSL home.