RSL Guts Out Shorthanded Draw Against SKC

Adversity is part of sports, and while every team faces adversity, only the greatest find a way to overcome it.  Real Salt Lake has already encountered adversity this season in the form of a rash of injuries while facing one of MLS’s most difficult early-season schedules.  How has it reacted to this challenge?


With its draw last night against Sporting KC, RSL bagged another road result in spite of a depleted lineup and a top-flight opponent.  The shutout at hostile Sporting Park was keyed by an 8-save performance from RSL backup goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, whose highlight reel saves preserved RSL’s third shutout of the season.

Going into last night’s match, RSL was without four regular starters, as Tony Beltran, Joao Plata, Nick Rimando, and Chris Wingert all sat out nursing injuries.  Filling their roles were Rich Balchan, Olmes Garcia, Attinella, and Abdoulie Mansally.  The result was a bend-but-don’t-break lineup that accomplished its primary mission of not conceding a goal.

Most of the quality chances in this game came from Sporting KC.  The 11th minute brought the match’s first great opportunity, as Dom Dwyer got behind the RSL defense for a one-on-one opportunity.  But Attinella quickly closed down Dwyer’s shooting angle and then correctly read the striker’s hips, making a diving save on Dwyer’s far-post attempt.  Additional quality chances for SKC went begging in the 34th minute, with Attinella providing a stunning save on Benny Feilhaber’s full volley from a long throw-in; the 51st minute, as Graham Zusi’s open shot from just outside the six-yard box went wide; and again in the 63rd minute, when Sal Zizzo’s shot was cleared off the line by Nat Borchers after Attinella had been drawn out of his net to close down another Dwyer breakaway.

RSL got a break late in the second half as a reckless challenge by Oriol Rosell resulted in a straight red card to the Sporting midfielder.  The ensuing advantage permitted RSL to control possession for the final ten minutes of the match, but the Claret-and-Cobalt were unable to capitalize and ultimately ended the night with a single shot on goal.

Sporting KC’s pressure created problems for RSL from the opening whistle.  RSL struggled to complete passes in the midfield and attacking thirds, resulting in the team’s lowest passing accuracy (73%) and lowest possession (43.1%) of the season.  The Claret-and-Cobalt were outshot on the night by a 20 to 5 margin.

But in the end, the score line is all that matters, and Real Salt Lake escaped Kansas City with a point in hand and a still-undefeated record.

Storyline Wrap Up

  • Effects of International Play.  The midweek international match between the U.S. Men’s National Team and Mexico certainly had an impact on the game.  Unexpectedly, that impact was decidedly one-sided: Graham Zusi and Matt Besler returned and played 90 minutes for SKC.  For RSL, on the other hand, Nick Rimando (knee) and Tony Beltran (sprained ankle) were both unavailable due to injury.
  • Injury: It’s What’s for Dinner.  Time lost to injury has been a recurring theme thus far this season for RSL.  The squad has fielded 17 different starters through five matches and has yet to start the same lineup in consecutive games yet this season.  Only Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, and Alvaro Saborio have played every minute of RSL’s five games.  Yet, against that backdrop, RSL has nevertheless taken points against all of its opponents.  Those opponents are no slouches: three of RSL’s opponents finished 2013 with more than 50 points (L.A. Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting KC) and the fourth opponent is perfect in its other games this season (Toronto FC, 3-0-0 in its other matches).
  • He Hate Me.  Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake traded barbs through the press in the week preceding last night’s match.  That didn’t stop after that match ended, although the post-game jawing did seem to be good-natured smack talk instead of hate-filled rhetoric.  Take a look at this epic exchange between injured RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and SKC striker Dom Dwyer:

About Heath Waddingham

SLC-raised and BYU-educated. RSLTID.