Sandy • Real Salt Lake came into Wednesday’s matchup against the L.A. Galaxy badly needing a win at home.
They got it.
RSL beat the Galaxy 2-0 in front of 3,943 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL came into Wednesday’s game with two consecutive losses at Rio Tinto Stadium. It was the last of a four-game home stand.
“It was a must-win game,” midfielder Albert Rusnák said.
The win put Salt Lake at 17 points and moved it above the playoff line after entering the game in 11th place in the Western Conference.
“Yes it matters, and that’s what we play for,” coach Freddy Juarez said about the team’s playoff positioning.
• Real Salt Lake snaps a two-game home losing streak.
• Albert Rusnák and Damir Kreilach net goals.
• RSL moves above the playoff line.
The playoff race in the West is still packed tight. Just three points separate eighth-place RSL from third-place Sporting Kansas City.
Defender Donny Toia said continuing to get results is “crucial” with the standings as they are in the conference.
“I think it’s big time,” Toia said.
RSL earned its first shutout since its 3-0 win against LAFC on Sept. 9. Since that game, the team had given up seven goals and scored only one.
“I feel like we’ve given up quite a bit of goals the last few games,” Toia said. “So it’s a bit frustrating when that happens. … It was big time to get a shutout. Everybody worked their butts off.”
RSL goalkeeper Andrew Putna had two saves and the team blocked two of L.A.'s shots. Real also ended up with a slight possession advantage over the Galaxy.
RSL’s two goals came off connecting pinpoint passes in threes. Rusnák and Damir Kreilach became the beneficiaries and added to their goal totals.
RSL quickly got off two shots to start the second half. They missed, but they were close enough to give the feeling that a goal would soon follow.
Defender Nedum Onuoha dribbled up the middle of the field and passed to Everton Luiz. The defensive midfielder then found forward Justin Meram on the right wing. L.A. goalkeeper David Bingham came out to meet Meram but fouled him in the box, leading to Rusnák’s penalty.
Then Toia sent a long ball to Rusnák, who dropped it off to Krielach for his goal.
The game was scoreless at halftime, much like was when RSL played and lost to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. The teams combined for only six shots in the first 45 minutes.
Juarez said RSL didn’t play the ball behind the Galaxy’s back line enough in the first half. So in the second half, the team wanted to stretch L.A.'s defense more. Juarez said Kreilach and Corey Baird’s runs allowed them to do that.
“We just found that balance in the second half as opposed to the first half [where] I think we were trying to play a little too safe,” Juarez said.
Rusnák said the message during the pregame meeting was all about getting the win at all costs. Ugly soccer, pretty soccer — it didn’t matter.
“The most important thing was three points and we got that,” Rusnák said.