All draws are not created equal. Real Salt Lake learned that in Chicago with a 0-0 draw against the Fire.
Just a few days after a disappointing home draw in which D.C. United put a late equalizer into the back of the net, the team managed a satisfying scoreless result against the Fire at Toyota Park.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
“I think after the weekend result against DC, I think this feels pretty good,” said defender Nat Borchers. “Our goal was to come in here and get a shutout and I think we accomplished that.”
The game started out in scary fashion for the team, as they saw Fabián Espíndola go down from a rough tackle by Cory Gibbs in just the third minute. It appeared that Espíndola was hit in the hamstring, an area he’d struggled with during Saturday’s match against DC.
Espíndola has taken on many of the offensive catalyst duties since the injury to Javier Morales nearly two months ago, and RSL had to improvise when Espíndola came off for good after seven minutes.
Coach Jason Kreis felt his team responded reasonably well to that bit of adversity.
“I’m very pleased,” Kreis told ESPN700 Sports radio in Salt Lake City after the match, “really impressed with the work that we did in the first half. The defensive work again for us tonight was, I thought, outstanding. And we were able to create a couple of chances, which is always great on the road.”
Part of that impressive play came courtesy of Espindola’s substitute, 17-year-old Luis Gil, who played a key role up top for the remainder of the half.
“I thought, to Luis’ credit, he did a really good job up there,” applauded Kreis. “He made some really nice runs to get in behind, and caused some trouble for their defense. It was the first time that I felt that Luis did a real good job for us at forward.”
Kreis also pointed to veteran midfielder and Chicago area native Ned Grabavoy as critical to the match.
“For me, he’s been an important player for us in the last couple of matches,” said Kreis. “I thought on Saturday at home he was somebody who was very active for us and made a lot of key defensive plays as well. I think he’s in real good form right now, and he’s got a clear understanding of what’s expected of him in that position.”
However, the key was the overall defensive effort of the squad as they were able to get the shutout despite the dangerous speed that the Fire have on the flanks.
“In most of the game, I felt like our center backs were doing a great job of winning the first ball,” Kreis said. “We weren’t doing quite a good enough job of winning the second ball from our midfielders. So that’s where the danger came from tonight.”
Borchers, in his usual center-back position, won more than his fair share of challenges in a man-of-the-match performance.
“I think that our shape was really good,” said Borchers. “We were all compact through the midfielders to the backline and I thought our communication was good.”