Here are three takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s resounding 4-0 win Saturday over the Philadelphia Union.
1. Sam Johnson will miss significant time
Coach Mike Petke revealed after the game that the club’s Liberian designated player will miss “six to eight weeks” with a quad injury he suffered two weeks ago. You don’t have to be a doctor to recognize that timeline does not bode well for RSL.
Before Johnson’s injury, he had scored three goals in his last 112 minutes. He was — and still is — the team’s leading scorer with eight goals. It seemed that after a somewhat rocky start, he was finally starting to get into a groove.
Going into Saturday against the Union, Johnson had scored four of Salt Lake’s five goals in the past six games. The only other RSL player to score during that stretch was Albert Rusnák, and that was on a penalty kick. So there was a question as to how the team would fare with him absent, especially when it failed to score against San Jose.
Real performed beautifully against Philadelphia, notching four goals from three players. But with Johnson out for the better part of two months, and the Western Conference standings so tight around the playoff line, missing the top scorer is huge going forward.
2. So many yellow cards
Like, so many. Five to be exact, and four of them were given to RSL. In the span of just 11 minutes in the first half, Sebastian Saucedo, Damir Kreilach and Kyle Beckerman all picked up yellows. One was given to Philadelphia’s Brenden Aaronson before Aaron Herrera earned one of his own in the second half.
Four of the five yellows were handed out for unsporting behavior, while Saucedo’s was for something called “not retreating.” It’s unclear what exactly that means.
But now Saucedo is one yellow card away from a one-game suspension due to accumulation, and Herrera is ineligible for the next game for the same reason. Not long ago, Beckerman had to miss a game due to suspension.
There’s no problem with physical play, and yellow cards are part of the game. But RSL is without Johnson and Onuoha, and Donny Toia missed Saturday’s game due to a right hamstring injury with no set timetable for return. It’s just not a great time to have key players missing games because of yellow cards.
3. VAR is good!
Well, if it goes in your favor, that is. Salt Lake was the beneficiary of three — yes, three — calls made by the video-assisted referee. The first game on Kreilach’s yellow card, which was reviewed to potentially upgrade it to a red. But no further punishment was given after the review.
Then, Philadelphia scored a goal, but only after the ball appeared to bounce out of bounds a few seconds beforehand. The referee looked at it and pulled back the goal.
Lastly, Kreilach’s goal in the 89th minute was initially called back because he was called offside. On replay, it appeared one of his arms was offside, but the rest of his body was onside. After further review, the goal stood.
VAR frequently draws ire from players and fans alike, and it was the subject of much controversy during the Women’s World Cup. But it worked for RSL on Saturday. In fact, on the second review, the crowd of more than 18,000 chanted “VAR, VAR” to get the Union’s goal overturned. It’s all about perspective.