by Brayden Palmer
Real Salt Lake needed something to change going into Saturday’s match with the Colorado Rapids. Since the first two games of the season, RSL has won just twice. Both times, the wins came against the struggling Vancouver Whitecaps. Salt Lake handed the Rapids a loss and several changes sparked the 3-0 victory.
Bobby Wood got his first start with Real Salt Lake in the dismantling of the visiting Rapids. Wood, a former U.S. international player, has seen limited minutes and touches in those minutes. Having only been used as a late game sub, Wood has struggled to make any sort of impact in his time on the field.
In this game, he got his much-needed goal. It is the first of hopefully many for the RSL club. Wood ran onto a ball played nicely by Albert Rusnak and turned towards his defender. He kept enough speed to maintain the one-on-one matchup all the way to the opponent’s end and into the goal box. A nice little shimmy created just a yard of space to take the ball onto his left foot and finish near the post.
Wood’s goal wasn’t the first of the game. RSL has opposing goalkeeper William Yarbrough to thank for that. Yarbrough took a simple back-pass and made a complete mess of it. He let the ball slide under his casually outstretched foot and over the goal line to gift RSL the opening goal. There was a bit of confusion in the stadium about what had happened, but eventually the cheers went up and the fans were ecstatic. They even cheered Yarbrough on with every touch on the ball he got after that.
Real Salt Lake went into the halftime break with a two-goal lead. For RSL, that hasn’t generally meant much in terms of getting results by the end of the game this season. Whether it was luck or by design, the team held firm to the final whistle this time.
Colorado came out strong in the second half, and for a while it looked as if the Rapids would get their first goal to start a comeback. Luckily, though RSL were outshot and trailed in time of possession, they never conceded what would have been a devastating goal.
Freddy Juarez made several substitutions to try and ignite the fire of desire under his team. The most notable for this game was the addition of new winger Jonathan Menendez. He came on in the 72nd minute to replace Maikel Chang. Menendez immediately provided what RSL has been lacking this season: a dangerous winger that is willing and able to take defenders on. He created space and chances for his teammates.
It was only minutes after Menendez came on that RSL scored their third and final goal of the night. With the Rapids’ defense worrying more about Menendez than they had been worrying about Chang, Damir Kreilach found himself in a big pocket of space outside the eighteen. He picked his head up and sent an inch-perfect pass into the feet of substitute forward Rubio
Rubin. The forward took an excellent first-touch toward goal. He finished neatly into the bottom corner from the center of the box in the 76th minute.
The goal perched RSL comfortably atop with a three-point lead. It was an excellent showing from back to front to get three goals and keep the clean sheet. The match provided that much needed change for the RSL faithful, and there aren’t many better teams to do it against than rival Colorado. The first game of this year’s Rocky Mountain Cup sees RSL as the victor. RSL will next face the Houston Dynamo this upcoming Saturday.
Featured image courtesy Real Salt Lake Twitter