Maikel Chang had played only 37 minutes in a Real Salt Lake uniform for the entirety of the 2020 season. It was two games in Florida for the MLS is Back Tournament, and he recorded one shot, no goals and no assists.
But coach Freddy Juarez called Chang’s number at halftime to replace midfielder Everton Luiz in what appeared to be an offensive substitution. The next 45 minutes functioned as the 29-year-old Cuban’s coming out party.
“Honestly, he was our game changer,” midfielder Damir Kreilach said of Chang.
• Maikel Chang scores a goal and adds two assists in RSL’s win.
• RSL beats Colorado for the second time this season.
• Aaron Herrera credited with an own goal.
Chang scored a goal and added two assists in RSL’s 4-1 win Saturday over the Colorado Rapids at a fanless Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. The victory marked the second time this season RSL has beaten the Rapids, the first coming in the opening game of the tournament in Florida.
RSL trailed 1-0 at halftime after defender Aaron Herrera’s own goal highlighted a 45-minute period in which it dominated possession and shots on goal, but could not get much offensive rhythm. Juarez then made the change so he could move some players around and get on the attack more.
Chang first made his presence known when he gave Salt Lake a 2-1 lead in the 76th minute. He was in the right place at the right time after a save by Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough spilled away from his gloves and into Chang’s path.
Chang then created RSL’s next two goals — a pinpoint pass to an open Corey Baird, and a floating cross to Justin Meram.
“Performance speaks for itself,” Meram said of Chang. “Overall, I think we should all tip our hat off to Chang. He was the man of the match for sure. We’re all so happy for him. Hopefully more to come for the young Chang.”
Chang spent two seasons with the Real Monarchs before signing with RSL. He led the team in assists both seasons, and scored 15 goals in 2019, when the Monarchs won the USL Championship trophy for the first time in franchise history.
Kreilach said he was not surprised whatsoever by Chang’s performance.
“We train every day together and everyone knows Chang’s qualities,” Kreilach said. “He shows today what he can [do].”
Juarez said the coaching staff had discussed the possibility that Saturday’s game against the Rapids might be one in which Chang could make a difference. He proved them right.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Juarez said. “Today, it worked and it helped us get the result.”
Kreilach, Chang, Meram and Corey Baird were the goal scorers for RSL, which jumped to fifth place in the Western Conference with the win.
It remains to be seen how much more Chang will contribute to RSL. But he likely put himself in a good position moving forward.
Juarez said he hopes Saturday’s performance helps give Chang the feeling that he belongs in MLS.
“Hopefully it gives him the confidence that he can make a difference in this league,” Juarez said.