Here are three takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City.
1. Is RSL a good comeback team now?
Last week against New York City FC, RSL did something it hadn’t done all season: come back from an early one-goal deficit to win a game. It was such a newsworthy event that it made the three takeaways the next day.
Now it seems as though those types of comebacks are becoming a trend for Salt Lake. The same thing happened against SKC in that Real gave up the first goal and had to dig deep to earn all three points. For a team that has a reputation of being inconsistent, those types of wins two weeks in a row start to shift the narrative a bit.
Damir Kreilach and assistant coach Tryone Marshall praised the team for having the mentality necessary to come back from a goal down.
“The boys did fantastic tonight,” Marshall told KMYU after the game. “We went down early, but we showed resilience.”
So many times this season, players have said RSL is special. That it wants to be considered as one of the best teams in Major League Soccer. But so often the performances on the field contradict that idea.
But not for the past two weeks. In the past two weeks, RSL is giving its critics something to think about.
2. Sam Johnson is back, and that is very good
When Johnson hurt his quad more than a month ago, he was RSL’s leading scorer with eight goals. He had scored three in two games and looked as though he would start to produce in practically every game.
But his injury kept him out five games and forced the other attackers on the team to pick up the slack. Johnson’s teammates did just that, though, and Real hasn’t really skipped a beat.
Johnson entered the game in the 64th minute against SKC on Saturday and even managed to get away a shot. Twenty-six minutes isn’t much, but it’s a good first step to see where he is physically. Acting head coach Freddy Juarez said earlier in the the week that Johnson looked good in training sessions, and his time against Sporting is the natural progression of Juarez’s assessments.
RSL needs Johnson, and it needs him to be as healthy as possible for the last 10 games of this playoff push. He’s dealt with a couple of injuries already this season, so getting him back now is a positive.
It will be interesting to see how many minutes he plays on Wednesday against Seattle.
3. RSL racked up how many clearances?
Thirty-four. 34! That’s a gargantuan number.
On the one hand, 34 clearances means Sporting was in the attacking third and threatening a ton. And with 12 total shots, that certainly is a true statement. But on the other hand, it shows RSL was locked in on defense during the most dangerous sequences and helped Nick Rimando to have to make only two saves.
That many clearances for RSL is one part of the defensive story that’s been unfolding for weeks. In the past nine games, Salt Lake has allowed only five goals. It’s the main reason why Real has been in such good form lately.
And when the 34 clearances are compared to just nine for Kansas City, it’s easy to see which team dominated the game on that end of the field.