by Tyler Creer | 267 days. That’s how long it has been since RSL last claimed a victory in MLS play. That win came against the Portland Timbers in the MLS cup playoffs on a cold evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. It feels like it’s been a lot longer than 267 days, with the COVID-19 pandemic hitting right as the 2020 season began, forcing a league-wide shutdown. With two draws to officially begin the Freddy Juarez era in late February and early March, it all led to last night’s victory against the Colorado Rapids.
RSL dominated this match. They controlled possession and tempo throughout the whole 90 minutes and created plenty of chances in the process. The back line did well too, especially considering that Marcelo Silva and Justen Glad were tasked with dealing with known goal-scorer, Kei Kamara. Aaron Herrera and Donnie Toia did well handling Rapid’s wingers Nicolas Benezet and Andrew Shinyashiki as well as getting up and involved in the attack. Everton “the enforcer” Luiz and club legend Kyle Beckerman handled the Rapids newest designated player signee Younes Namli and USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta.
It didn’t take long for RSL to have a legitimate goal scoring opportunity in the match. Corey Baird and Damir Kreilach connected for a beautiful one-two which saw Baird put an absolute laser of a shot off the frame of the goal. RSL stayed the aggressors from that point on, dominating possession and controlling tempo of the match. The breakthrough goal for RSL finally came from Albert Rusnak in the 27th minute, as an oddly struck shot from the top of the box bounced off of Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin and rolled right through the legs of defender Drew Moor. RSL rode this 1-0 lead into the halftime break.
As the second half wore on, tired legs grew more and more evident. Kyle Beckerman was subbed off in the 67th minute and was replaced by Nick Besler (who, by the way, has a fantastic mustache; the same can be said with Donnie Toia). Soon after, RSL capitalized on a poor back pass in the 72nd minute where Douglas Martinez intercepted the ball and drew a foul from keeper Steve Irwin in the box. Albert Rusnak stepped up to take the penalty and unfortunately failed to convert. Recent sub in Nick Besler had a solid shot on the deflection but Irwin did well to stop that as well.
The dagger came in the 76th minute where Corey Baird intercepted yet another pass from the Rapids deep on their side of the field. Corey gently laid it off to Damir Kreilach who placed a great shot outside the box into the lower right corner of the goal. To throw salt into the wound for the Rapids, the ESPN commentators were doing a live interview with Rapids coach Robin Fraser. His reaction was priceless.
From there, RSL managed to hold on , but not without new keeper Zac MacMath making some great saves down the final minutes of the match. We saw the likes of Justin Meram, Sam Johnson, Giuseppe Rossi, and Erik Holt all subbed on in the final minutes of the match to ensure that RSL would hold onto their lead. Overall, this was an impressive win for Freddy Juarez’s group. RSL dominated this match on all areas of the field.
In my opinion, the Man of the Match this game was Damir Kreilach. However, that’s not to say that there were multiple guys who put in MOTM caliber performances. With this win, RSL moved to the top of group D, and will face the current team in 2nd place – Minnesota United. That match is scheduled for Friday night, with kickoff at 8:30 PM MST.
Until then, follow me on twitter @t_creer54 and let’s talk RSL!