Thursday, September 24, 2015
Real Salt Lake sloppy but effective in grind-out draw in El Salvador
(by James Edwards deseretnews.com 9-15-15)
It wasn’t pretty, but Real Salt Lake got the result it needed Tuesday night in El Salvador.
Fielding a mostly reserve lineup in a CONCACAF Champions League group game against Santa Tecla, the visitors escaped with a 0-0 draw to move to the top of the group and into the driver’s seat while advancing to the quarterfinals.
RSL played the final 11 minutes down a man after John Stertzer picked up a red card in the 79th minute, but Santa Tecla couldn’t capitalize on the advantage.
A big reason why was RSL’s substitutes. In a relatively sloppy match most of the night, RSL coach Jeff Cassar helped settle his team down by inserting Javier Morales and Joao Plata into the match in the 71st minute, and then Kyle Beckerman in the 81st minute after Stertzer’s red card.
The veterans helped RSL see out the road draw, which is always a good result in CONCACAF.
Had Luke Mulholland not squandered a great chance in the 40th minute, Real Salt Lake could’ve easily escaped with the full three points.
Instead, it sits on four points through two group games, tied with Municipal (Guatemala) which also has four points. Municipal, however, has played three of four matches, while Real Salt Lake still has two home matches remaining.
It hosts Santa Tecla on Sept. 24 and then Municipal on Oct. 20. With a win over Santa Tecla, Real Salt Lake would need only a draw against Municipal to advance.
With better finishing on Tuesday in El Salvador, RSL could’ve avoided any potential drama in that last group match, but not anymore.
RSL had more than enough experience on the field to get a positive result, particularly with regulars like Mulholland and Tony Beltran starting after missing Saturday’s match at Houston with yellow card accumulation.
Nobody else on the field could be considered first choice, but between Jeff Attinella, Devon Sandoval, Aaron Maund, Abdoulie Mansally and Luis Gil, they’ve played in a lot of big matches this season already.
The group could never settle into much of a rhythm on the turf at Estadio Las Delicias, but the draw was good enough considering the circumstances.