RSL’s home-opening draw included healthy frustration, so many almost-goals and pinpoint crosses

(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.

Three observations from Real Salt Lake’s 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls.

1. Healthy frustration

RSL created 13 scoring chances as a team. New York, just two. RSL shot 14 times from inside the box. New York, just once from that area. And, RSL felt collectively that it dominated the game against a Red Bulls team that had a winning road record in 2019.

Despite all that, however, Real got only a point Saturday instead of three. Credit is due to New York, which was in the right positions to prevent the home team from scoring more than once. But it felt like RSL should have four points through the first two games of the season instead of just two.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” forward Corey Baird said. “I definitely feel like they stole some points from us today. But at the end of the day, there’s a lot of positives. We played really well. When we’re getting that many shots, that many opportunities, I think we’re going to win a lot more games than we won’t.”

That was the message coming out of the RSL locker room: frustration with a hearty side of confidence. Coach Freddy Juarez said there will be games like Saturday’s where shots just don’t go in. But there will also be games where RSL won’t get many shots at all and win. It’s just soccer.

Juarez liked the aggressiveness of his team and thinks if it can be consistent in that, wins will come.

“What I’m happy about is the team was exciting,” Juarez said. “They were dangerous, creating opportunities. We fought.”

Defender Nedum Onouha admitted there was some frustration about the draw, but getting the result rather than losing was the takeaway for him.

“It wasn’t a perfect game by us, it wasn’t a perfect game by them,” Onuoha said. “But we did have a lot of chances and we stayed true to our game plan. … To come away with something when we were a goal down was definitely a positive.”

2. So many almost-goals

Like, literally so many.

RSL probably should have scored at least four goals on the Red Bulls based on the types of shots it got and how close those shots were to the goal. Taking advantage of good set piece preparation, Real got whatever they wanted on corners kicks and even throw-ins — so much so that it was surprising how none of those opportunities resulted in goals.

On this first one, midfielder Damir Kreilach gets all of the ball on the header. But New York goalkeeper David Jensen’s catlike reflexes denied him.

Then there’s this one. Onuoha gets the initial header and midfielder Nick Besler’s flick directs the ball toward the goal. Alas, it hits the post and a Red Bulls defender is right in front of Kreilach as he tries to score on the rebound.

Last one. A pass goes to defender Marcelo Silva, who heads it on frame. If not for Sean Davis sneaking behind forward Justin Meram and clearing it away, that’s a goal.

“Overall, you could easily say we had seven just golden opportunities,” Baird said. “Normal game, I think we’re putting at least four of those away.”

3. Pinpoint crosses

The goals RSL did get — one was waved off — were beauties. But even more beautiful may have been how they were set up.

Forward Douglas Martinez scored the first one, but it was disallowed when video review revealed the ball hit his left arm before going in. Just because the goal didn’t count, however, doesn’t take away from the quality of Baird’s cross.

It helps that Baird got the ball in space and had a good look at where he wanted to place it. But those kinds of crosses so often are under or overhit. Baird weighted the ball perfectly.

And defender Aaron Herrera’s cross for Kreilach’s goal, which did count, may have been more difficult, and thus, prettier. He launches from what looks like could be about 30 yards and he still gives Kreilach a chef’s kiss-type delivery.

Juarez said the team worked on final-third situations on Thursday in which a player would send a ball into the box and others would crash their defenders to see if they could get a goal out of it.

“It proved to be effective today, at least in the one goal,” Juarez said.