Real Salt Lake were never truly at the races against LAFC tonight, with the home team proving the better side in a 2-0 match that kept them in competition for the 2022 Supporters Shield, stopping a three-game skid in which they lost to Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes.
That RSL wasn’t able to put it together in a meaningful way was perhaps not surprising, given the gulf between the two sides. With just one shot taken before LAFC scored, RSL took a defensive stance in the first half. For 45 minutes, it worked, but a 49th-minute goal from Ryan Hollingshead, capitalizing on dismal communication from Zac MacMath and Marcelo Silva, forced a change of plans.
Hollingshead, who gave RSL trouble defensively throughout, scored that opener when Marcelo Silva clattered into MacMath, leaving the goalmouth open.
If you had to guess who scored the second, you’d have plenty of reasonable options to pick from. This time, it was Cristian Arango, who slotted home with a little hesitation move that spilled MacMath to the ground. LAFC only ended up with the ball after a poor clearance from MacMath sent the ball to the midfield stripe, where Rubio Rubin — playing a hybrid winger-forward role — was beaten to the ball. RSL was caught flat-footed from there, with Carlos Vela slotting in Arango seamlessly.
A late penalty from MacMath on Sebastian Mendez threatened to worsen the scoreline, but MacMath made at least some amends for giving up the penalty with an unwise tackle, saving a mediocre Carlos Vela penalty.
A bigger concern might be for Pablo Ruiz, who looks to have potentially hyperextended his knee in the second half. He trod on for the majority of the remaining time, but he immediately went to the bench for attention to his knee when he left. I won’t speculate on the outcome, but Ruiz has been at the center of a lot of RSL’s positive midfield play this year and would be a massive miss in the run-up to the playoffs.