Sandy • It’s becoming clockwork.
Since Jefferson Savarino’s arrival with Real Salt Lake, he’s scored two goals in a game around the same time every season. The first was July 2017, the second August 2018.
On Saturday, Savarino continued that trend. He put away two goals in RSL’s 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Union. Albert Rusnák and Damir Kreilach scored late to provide the final score.
“Honestly, it’s curious that that has happened,” Savarino said in Spanish. “But it’s very important always — not in June or July — always scoring goals for the team in every moment. The important thing is to keep improving to be the best for my team.”
RSL coach Mike Petke, when asked what may be behind Savarino’s summer scoring, hypothesized that it had something to do with his home country of Venezuela.
“The dog days of summer, while most of my players are tired and running out of steam, he’s picking it up,” Petke said with a smile. “Is Venezuela hot? It’s a hot country, right? He’s used to it.”
Joking aside, Petke praised Savarino for his play. In addition to his two goals, Savarino provided an assist as well.
“I thought tonight was possibly his best game [this year] since we’ve got him on loan,” Petke said.
RSL’s win puts it back above the playoff line in the Western Conference. With 29 points, it is now in sixth place, putting it above FC Dallas. RSL has 14 games left in the Major League Soccer season.
Saturday also marked the fourth consecutive home win for Salt Lake, as well as the third shutout in the last four games. Petke said there has been a focus on defending.
“I think over the last three games, we’ve taken a real commitment to team defending and recognizing that where we are on the table, it’s right around the playoff line and every point counts,” Petke said.
Savarino used his speed and timing to break the seal in the 23rd minute. Aaron Herrera sent a cross into the path of Savarino, who was barely onside when he made his run between two Union center backs. All Savarino had to do was settle enough for the shot.
A goal for RSL felt inevitable in the minutes leading up to Savarino’s finish. Kreilach had a good opportunity saved at the near post by Philadelphia keeper Andre Blake, and Herrera’s opportunity in the box was blocked because he took one touch too many.
Savarino put in his second in the 71st with help from Kyle Beckerman. The Venezuelan also dispossessed a Union player in the backfield and found Rusnák less than 10 minutes later.
Kreilch’s goal in the 89th minute was initially overturned due to an offsides call. But a video review resulted in the goal standing.
Salt Lake almost got a goal in the 54th. But Rusnák’s header off a corner kick skimmed Blake’s knee just enough to stay out of the goal.
Real were without three regular starters in Sam Johnson, Nedum Onuoha and Donny Toia.