RSL’s set pieces come alive in home-opening draw against Red Bulls

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) New York Red Bulls forward Brian White (42) collides with Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha (14) as they go for the ball, in MLS acton between Real Salt Lake and the New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium, Saturday, March 7, 2020.

Sandy • Real Salt Lake may have found something in its set pieces.

They may not have gotten any goals out of them in the 1-1 draw to the New York Red Bulls in Saturday’s home opener at Rio Tinto Stadium. But Real had a plethora of opportunities right in front of the goal — sometimes inches away — that all came from either corner kicks or other types of dead-ball situations.

RSL secured the draw in stoppage time with Damir Kreilach’s header off Aaron Herrera’s pinpoint cross. But that goal came in open play.

RSL finished with six shots on target of its 21 overall. Most of those came on set-piece opportunities, and were taken primarilyy by defenders or midfielders who got their heads on the end of corner kicks.

“We train [for] this all during the week,” Kreilach said of RSL’s set-piece dominance. “A lot games, they are going to be decided from the set piece. We have so many players that can score from set piece. So it’s our big advantage.”

Coach Freddy Juarez said the club’s new set piece coach, Matt Glaeser, did a good job of scouting the Red Bulls and how they defend certain situations with zonal marking. The club felt it could have some “dominance” because of New York’s defense.

Juarez also credited midfielder Albert Rusnák, the team’s corner kick taker, for accurately making passes despite windy conditions.

“We were pretty effective,” Juarez said. “It also starts with the service from Albert. I thought his service was spot on today in a difficult situation. Any time it’s windy, it complicates things. But the service was there.”

RSL brought in Glaeser in the offseason to help with RSL’s set pieces and corner kicks. His task is to help the team score more goals in those situations.

Some players said before the season started that if RSL can’t score any goals off corners or set pieces, then bringing in Glaeser would essentially have been a waste. But RSL created bona fide chances off its six corners, and it may just be a matter of time before some of those shots go in, if Saturday’s opportunities were any indication of what’s to come.

Defender Nedum Onuoha, who found himself with at least two scoring opportunities, said the personnel RSL has in the 18-yard box could be the key to the club’s potential on set pieces.

“I think with the people in the box now, we have a plan of where we’re supposed to be and things we’re supposed to do,” Onuoha said. “I think it makes it very difficult for teams to defend. We have good size as well. I think the smallest person going into the box is [midfielder] Nick Besler, who’s 5-foot-11.”

Juarez said he turned to the bench in the first half and told those seated, “We’re going to get a goal on a set piece today.” Although it didn’t happen, it’s an indication that the focus RSL is putting on that part of the game is working, at least for the time being.

Forward Corey Baird said getting those set piece opportunities Saturday could be attributed to both the team’s heightened focus on them and also the way New York defended them.

RSL’s effectiveness on set pieces didn’t just pass the eye test — it bears out in the statistics as well. Three of the club’s 10 key passes, which are counted as such if they lead to a scoring chance, came from corner kicks.


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