Here are three takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s 3-0 blowout win over the Seattle Sounders
1. Sam Johnson and Nedum Onuoha have productive returns
Johnson and Onuoha both started Wednesday after recently returning from injuries — a quad for the striker and an adductor for the center back. And both made the most out of it in significant minutes.
Johnson got himself a goal midway through the first half, putting him at nine on the season with nine games remaining. He played 66 minutes after logging just 26 over the weekend against Sporting Kansas City.
Before Johnson went down with a quad injury last month, he had scored three goals in two games. RSL must be glad he picked up right where he left off in his start. Johnson said he was just happy to be back on the field.
“Since I arrived, I’ve been in and out with injuries, but I’m happy to be back and I’m happy to be with the team again,” Johnson said. “They all support me when I was injured and encouraged me, so I wanted to come back strong to help them.”
As for Nedum, he was all over the place on defense, making slide tackles and wreaking his usual havoc on that that end of the field. Marcelo Silva had taken his place in the starting lineup while he was out and even when he was available to play. To top it off, Real was performing well on defense in his absence.
So Nedum felt he was in “a bit of an awkward situation” coming back to the starting lineup.
“I felt a bit of pressure [Wednesday] — because they’ve been doing so well recently — coming back into the side,” Onuoha said. “The way the team is, it was the perfect game for me to come back into.”
Now that they’re healthy, RSL’s outlook looks that much better for the remainder of the season.
2. RSL sharing the wealth on offense
Three different players scored a goal against the Sounders — Johnson, Albert Rusnák and Corey Baird. It was the continuation of a trend that’s emerged since Johnson has been out with an injury.
The goals lately have come from all over the field. Rusnák, Baird, Jefferson Savarino and even Nick Besler. And although Johnson returned Wednesday, the ball was still moving and finding several players in positions to score.
Assistant coach Tyrone Marshall said other players have helped shoulder the scoring load in Johnson’s absence, and he expects that to continue even with the Liberian striker back.
“So it does show that everyone's contributing and they're working and looking for each other,” Marshall said. “That's the key. Everyone's looking for each other. And when you have a team that's unselfish, there's a good potential that you're going to see a lot more goals from a lot more people.”
3. Biggest test looms with LAFC coming to town
RSL has been riding a high for weeks now. It’s winning games, it’s defending with gusto and the players are finally all healthy at the same time.
But on Saturday, the best team in the league is coming to Rio Tinto Stadium and could knock Salt Lake back to reality a little bit. However, RSL seems up for the challenge.
Defender Aaron Herrera said, despite the short rest, he expects the team to go for all three points. And Marshall pointed to the good form the team has been in as a reason Real might actually do that.
“I think this is a good point to catch them,” Marshall said. “We're playing well. They're coming in. They've been fantastic all year, so it's good for us to catch them on a rhythm like this that we're in. I think the boys are going to be full of confidence, and that's what you want, especially playing against a tough team. We're going to rise up to that standard as well, and then we'll see what happens when the ball rolls out.”
If RSL manages to get some kind of result against LAFC, the team it upset in the playoffs last season, it would show that this run isn’t a fluke.