Three Points: RSL’s hockey assists lead to goals, dueling fan sections, and Rusnák fills the stat sheet

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Los Angeles Galaxy forward Nick DePuy (20) battles Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) as Real Salt Lake hosts L.A. Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.

Here are three observations from Real Salt Lake’s 2-0 win over the L.A. Galaxy.

1. RSL’s hockey assists lead to goals

Perhaps not enough is made of passing in soccer.

RSL’s two goals came directly off one-two-three passing sequences that led directly to chances. Forward Justin Meram was the final recipient on a sequence that led to him getting fouled in the box and midfielder Albert Rusnák taking a penalty. And forward Damir Kreilach put one in off of a similar sequence.

But those sequences started with the first pass. Defender Nedum Onuoha’s run up the middle of the field and found midfielder Everton Luiz before the ball got to Meram.

In the video below, defender Donny Toia let go of a deep pass that found Rusnák, leading to his assist on Kreilach’s goal.

“I actually saw that there was no option short, and so I actually saw the space in behind and Albert happened to be in that pocket,” Toia said. “So I just kind of flipped it over the top and he ran onto it.”

If those first passes don’t connect on time and on target, RSL might have come away with a different result.

“It’s nice to see that we don’t always have to connect 100 passes in order to create a chance,” Rusnák said. “Sometime’s it’s one, two good decisions on the ball and the right passes forward and then you can create goal scoring opportunities.”

RSL coach Freddy Juarez said Onuoha and defender Justen Glad started finding passing angles higher up the field that would eliminate many Galaxy defenders from interfering.

“That’s what we want,” Juarez said. “We tell the guys, ‘You have to play with some courage.’”

2. Dueling fan sections

It’s been a while since Rio Tinto Stadium felt like the raucous environment it’s known for. Pandemic crowds will do that.

But on Wednesday, the crowd brought the thunder, aided in no small part by a cheering section of screaming L.A. Galaxy fans.

The Galaxy fans were loud and practically all that could be heard from the nearly 4,000 fans at the RioT. It was a relatively small group, but their chants echoed throughout the stadium.

Then La Barra Real showed up. Remember them? They’re the supporters group who plays drum beats and chants during games. And boy, did they come to play Wednesday.

La Barra quickly drowned out the Galaxy group, who were never heard from again in a significant way.

3. Rusnák fills the stat sheet

Rusnák is a divisive player in the sense that sometimes fans love him, and other times they hate him. And those emotions generally coincide with how much RSL’s highest paid player is involved on the field.

Rusnák does have a tendency to disappear during games, although at times that has more to do with the opponent than RSL’s offense. But there are definitely times it just doesn’t seem like he’s involved with the attack.

But that definitely wasn’t the case against the Galaxy. Rusnák had a goal, an assists, three shots (two on target), two chances created, four corner kicks, one foul drawn and a tackle. The only stat he didn’t record was getting called offside, which is actually a good thing.

Rusnák also had a high pass completion percentage of 90.7%, the highest rate among RSL’s attacking players.

Because Rusnák makes upwards of $2 million and is a designated player, the microscope is on him more than anyone on the team. But his stat sheet Wednesday — and how it translated to on-field impact — shows that he’s worthy of the praise he gets when he plays that way, and the criticism when he doesn’t.

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