Real Salt Lake earns first road win of season in 3-0 shutout over FC Cincinnati

Real Salt Lake forward Sam Johnson, center, celebrates after scoring during the first half of the team's MLS soccer match against FC Cincinnati, Friday, April 19, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

As Albert Rusnák executed a tackle, he made hip-to-hip contact with his defender and fell to the ground, bracing his fall with both hands. When he rose to his feet, he noticed something off about the ring finger on his left hand: It bent to one side in the most unnatural of ways.

But trainers put his finger back in place, taped it up and he was no worse for the wear. Although the pain started to set in, Rusnák scored two goals soon afterward and led Real Salt Lake to a 3-0 win Friday over FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium for its first road win of the season and second straight victory overall.

“It was not a question of me not continuing (to play),” Rusnák told KMYU after the game. “My hand is not that important to the game, so I knew I was going to play on. … When you score the goal you don’t feel the pain.”

Sam Johnson scored the third and final goal for RSL, his second in as many games.

Real had to endure several moments of adversity, particularly early in the game. Cincinnati earned five consecutive corner kicks within the first 10 minutes, nine in the first half and 13 for the game. Because Cincinnati scores the majority of its goals on set pieces, defending those was a focus for RSL.

Save for a dangerous sequence in stoppage time of the first half, RSL kept Cincinnati away from the goal on those opportunities. Real amassed 23 clearances for the game.

RSL also had to overcome keeper Nick Rimando missing his first game of the season due to a knee injury he suffered in training this week. But Andrew Putna answered the call, made a save and earned the shutout.

Coach Mike Petke told KMYU after the game that he was very pleased with how his team played.

“This team, since I’ve taken over, we’ve gone through some rough patches,” Petke said. “But when we click and when we do the things that we work on — the video, scouting the opposing team — and we put it together, we play really well. But we have to have that more consistently.”

In the 42nd minute, Corey Baird attempted a shot from a difficult angle and was blocked by Cincinnati keeper Spencer Richey. The ball found Rusnák off the rebound, and the Slovakian midfielder buried a right-footed strike into the back of the net.

A few minutes later, in the first minute of stoppage time, a nice-looking sequence of open play led to Johnson’s goal. Jefferson Savarino started the play with a pass through the midfield to Damir Kreilach, who touched it to Baird. The reigning Major League Soccer rookie of the year passed to Rusnák, who passed backward to Kreilach for a shot.

Richey saved Kreilach’s attempt, but the ball went right to Baird on the rebound. Baird’s volley was saved by Cincinnati defender Alvas Powell. On yet another rebound, Johnson scored with his left foot and gave RSL a 2-0 lead moments before the halftime whistle.

Savarino was tackled hard in the 56th minute and forced a penalty. Rusnák converted the opportunity for the 3-0 Real lead.