Real Salt Lake may not have all their attacking pieces yet, nor their identity truly sorted. But after a 1-0 victory over the LA Galaxy on Saturday afternoon, this much is clear: The Claret and Cobalt are still awfully tough to beat at Rio Tinto Stadium.
With last year’s leading scorer Damir Kreilach sidelined with a back injury and reinforcements like Anderson Julio not yet in uniform, RSL used a set-piece goal off Marcelo Silva's head, determined defending and a bit of good fortune to remain unbeaten at The RioT in 2022.
The victory took Salt Lake’s haul to 10 points in four home matches this campaign, and marked a second consecutive clean sheet kept after a 0-0 draw at the Portland Timbers in Week 8. And it continued their response from a lopsided 6-0 defeat at New York City FC in Week 7 at Yankee Stadium.
“We talk about the mentality and the character of the group,” Mastroeni said. “And after last week, or the week before or whatever it was, where we didn’t show up in New York, it was basically a call to arms.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy | April 30, 2022
Silva's header off Pablo Ruiz’s 49th-minute corner kick gave Salt Lake the lead on a day they struggled to convert promising sequences in the run of play into threatening chances.
Despite controlling most of the opening hour, Mastroeni’s side finished the day outshot 13-6 overall and only matched the Galaxy with efforts on target (4). And the tilt of the field shifted clearly toward the visitors after Dejan Joveljic’s introduction as a second forward just after the hour mark.
It was Joveljic who appeared to level the match in second-half stoppage time, only for the goal to be called back following a Video Review that determined the Galaxy’s Derrick Williams was offside and involved in the play.
“To be honest, LA didn’t want to defend, and we basically didn’t make them defend. So we’ll go back and look at that,” Mastroeni said. “But in real-time, when points are on the line, when you’ve worked extremely hard, when you’ve come off a tough week, that performance was exactly what was needed to get three points.”
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The result moved Salt Lake back even on points with the Galaxy in a crowded Western Conference upper half of the table. And it takes some pressure off Julio and Kreilach to try and do too much when they do return to play.
Julio is returning to RSL on a permanent transfer from Liga MX's Atletico San Luis in a signing announced earlier this week after he scored eight goals last season. Kreilach led the team with 16 goals a year ago. He was listed as questionable on the team injury report, but missed a second match in a row.
“I think the most important thing is the guys that have been here from preseason have done a fantastic job of really setting a great foundation,” Mastroeni said. “And guys like Anderson provide something that we don’t necessarily have, which is speed.
"And when you have a speed player, even if you don’t connect behind, but you threaten that, the gaps in midfield start to open. And guys like Dami, guys like Pablo will have space to really start to orchestrate.”
RSL are also close to signing Venezuelan international winger Jefferson Savarino from Brazilian Serie A side Atletico Mineiro, as reported by MLSsoccer.com's Tom Bogert. The 25-year-old originally joined RSL in 2017 from Venezuelan Primera Division side Zulia FC and enjoyed three successful seasons, with a reunion close to being finalized.