SALT LAKE CITY – Houston has traditionally been a place Real Salt Lake has struggled to earn results at. The heat, humidity & travel have all been used as reasons for the club’s issues in the Lone Star State. RSL (0-0-1, 1 point) opened their season Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium and earned a result for the second-straight season with a 1-1 draw against the Dynamo (0-0-1, 1 point) after taking the full three points in 2017.
RSL talisman Albert Rusnák gave the visitors the lead in the 40th minute after he took a pass from Corey Baird and slotted it past Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis. Mauro Manotas drew the Dynamo level in the 62nd minute when he latched onto a cross from Adam Lundkvist in the box and his volley beat Nick Rimando to the near post.
Here is a hat trick of thoughts/takeaways from the draw for Real Salt Lake:
- Real Salt Lake has a bevy of attacking options this season and it showed in their season-opener. Mike Petke opted to start Albert Rusnák, Damir Kreilach, Jefferson Savarino & reigning MLS rookie of the year Corey Baird while benching presumptive starter Joao Plata. Baird and Rusnák hooked up to produce RSL’s lone goal on the night but the match also saw designated player forward addition Sam Johnson make his debut up top while Plata made a late appearance. Against a makeshift Houston backline RSL played on the front foot & very nearly came up with the game-winner late on a cross from Aaron Herrera that had eyes for Savarino before Joe Willis was able to get his fingertips on it. All in all, it appears that RSL’s attacking prowess they showed down the stretch in 2018 has carried over to 2019.
- The RSL youth movement is in full effect. Many believed that with Tony Beltran’s return to full fitness he would naturally regain his spot at right back for the club. Not so, it appears, as head coach Mike Petke started Brooks Lennon at the position. Lennon emerged as a legitimate MLS-quality fullback in Beltran’s absence in 2018 and it appears the spot will be his to lose to begin 2019. In addition to Lennon, RSL started former Academy products Aaron Herrera and Corey Baird while young stars in Savarino and Rusnák also started. The club added a number of former RSL Academy products in the offseason and with a compressed regular season schedule it can be expected the new young guns will get their chances to prove themselves.
- For one match, it appears that RSL has found their heir apparent to Kyle Beckerman. Everton Luiz was brought to the club during the offseason on a season-long loan from S.P.A.L. of Serie A in Italy with an option to purchase his contract at the end of the deal. Luiz was a bulldog against Houston, popping up all over the field and being the box-to-box menace that a younger Beckerman was when he was among, if not the, best defensive midfielder in the league. The early returns for Luiz are positive and that’s good news for RSL as they have been searching for someone to take over for Beckerman when the legend ultimately decides to call it a career.
Real Salt Lake will play in their home-opener next Saturday when they host Western Conference foe Vancouver Whitecaps at Rio Tinto Stadium. Match time is set for 4 p.m. MST and you cant watch the game with David James and Brian Dunseth on the call on KMYU, the KSL TV app or online at KSL.com.