Here are three takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 loss to Liga MX side Tigres UANL.
1. The dawn of RSL Cat
There must be some kind of kooky farm of soccer-match-interrupting animals in Sandy somewhere because it happened again.
Last year, a duck went onto the field at Rio Tinto Stadium and had grounds crew members and even Albert Rusnák chasing after it. On Wednesday, it was a cat.
The cat randomly appeared on the field during a Tigres attacking opportunity and disrupted play. It ran around for close to 30 seconds and eventually found its way through a space in the stands, but not before getting some cheers from the raucous crowd.
After the duck appeared last September, RSL went through a difficult stretch of results — one win, two losses and two draws to be exact. It will be interesting to see what transpires in the games immediately following RSL Cat’s debut.
2. RSL actually almost won that game
Tigres came in as arguably the best team in Liga MX, but Salt Lake gave them a run for their money. If it weren’t for a couple of unlucky sequences, RSL could be the team advancing to the Leagues Cup semifinals.
Brooks Lennon called the goal Real conceded “unlucky” because the shot by Eduardo Vargas was deflected by Justen Glad, who was just trying to get his body in front of it. Instead, the graze may have changed the ball’s trajectory just enough to beat Nick Rimando. Glad was not credited with an own goal.
On RSL’s side, Joao Plata had a shot that hit so much of the post, just a few inches would have resulted in a goal. And Corey Baird’s goal in the 51st minute was called back because he was deemed offsides. Any one of those opportunities go RSL’s way and it’s a totally different game.
“We created some pretty good opportunities,” coach Mike Petke said. “They just weren’t precise enough.”
3. Fans can’t say RSL didn’t take Leagues Cup seriously
In previous years with the U.S. Open Cup, RSL has routinely played lineups made up of a mix between first-team players and the Real Monarchs. That practice has left many fans upset and they have criticized the team for not putting its best foot forward to compete for an Open Cup trophy and a chance at the CONCACAF Champions League.
But the organization didn’t do that with the Leagues Cup. Petke said he was going to put the best lineup out there with the intent to win and he did that. Sam Johnson, Nedum Onuoha and Albert Rusnák didn’t play because they were not physically able to go. Otherwise, the lineup Wednesday consisted of mostly regular starters.
What that means for Saturday against FC Dallas remains to be seen. Petke said he knows his players will have tired legs, and it doesn’t help that the team has to travel to play Dallas.
But this time, with a midseason tournament that doesn’t mean much of anything at the moment, the team actually tried this time.