SANDY – Atlanta United FC entered Friday night’s match at Real Salt Lake on the heels of a 1-0 loss to their Eastern Conference nemesis the New York Red Bulls last week, giving up their first goal in six matches in the process. As the best possession team along with being the stingiest defense of late in Major League Soccer, the defending MLS Cup champions’ showdown at Rio Tinto Stadium against an in-form RSL team held plenty of intrigue. Salt Lake proved they could handle the pressure and emerged with their third straight victory thanks to a 36th-minute goal from forward Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo and a 93rd-minute stoppage-time rocket from Jefferson Savarino. Reigning MLS MVP Josef Martinez tallied for the visitors in the 78th minute off a fine assist by Julian Gressel.
Sava at the death pic.twitter.com/b9ERwMSmiH
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) May 25, 2019
With the victory, RSL earned their first-ever result against Atlanta after losses in 2017 and 2018. Salt Lake (6-6-1, 19 points) jumped up to fifth place in the Western Conference for the time being, while Atlanta (6-5-2, 20 points) remains in the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Three things to note from tonight’s match for the Claret-and-Cobalt:
- Rio Tinto Stadium is becoming the fortress Real Salt Lake needs it to be as they improved to 4-2 on the year at the RioT. With back-to-back wins over the previous two MLS Cup champions, RSL is rounding into form at home just as the summer is beginning and just as they they start to enjoy a home-heavy stretch of matches after the upcoming Gold Cup break. RSL road their home dominance to the MLS Playoffs a year ago and with their road form slowly improving, the club should remain firmly in the playoff hunt.
- Bofo Saucedo is showing he can be an every match starter for Mike Petke. The Park City native has never been shy about his belief in his abilities and his ambitions to be an every match starter and it appears he is making good on his bet. He scored his second goal in as many matches with his signature cut inside off the left wing and another rocket home past a helpless Brad Guzan. Saucedo was among the glut of wing options for Salt Lake entering the 2019 campaign but it looks like he’s grabbed hold of one of the starting winger spots for Salt Lake and isn’t planning to let go anytime soon.
- RSL’s defensive lapses are still a wart they are working to eliminate despite the stoppage time heroics from Jefferson Savarino. Atlanta’s equalizer was brilliant moment for Josef Martinez but also a head-scratching moment for RSL as Justen Glad was beaten goal side by the lightning-quick Martinez when it appeared he had the angle to close things off. For Salt Lake to truly become the contending club their fans hope for, they need to avoid those momentary lapses. The club is much improved this season on defense as a whole but still not a finished product by any means. But a win is a win is a win, right?
Real Salt Lake now heads out on a two-match road trip next week, beginning Wednesday evening north of the border in Montreal against Ignacio Piatti and the Impact. Match time is set for 5 pm Mountain Time Wednesday night and you can catch the action on KMYU, the KSL TV app or KSL.com.