Sandy • Sunday turned out to be Opposite Day for Real Salt Lake.
The last time RSL hosted LAFC, it came away with a dominant win against a lesser lineup after both teams had just two days in between games. Sunday’s match saw both teams with a week’s rest, but a flipped result.
RSL lost 3-1 to LAFC in front of 3,062 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium. Salt Lake fell behind 3-0 before pulling one back in the 64th minute.
Despite the loss, Salt Lake (4-5-6) stayed above the playoff line in eighth place on the Western Conference table.
RSL defender Aaron Herrera said the team’s turnovers and poor quality on the ball contributed to the loss.
“In the first half, I think every time we turned the ball over, they were coming right back at us because we had players pushing forward,” Herrera said. “We got caught out of position. So if we got a soft turnover, there was was somebody just straight down our throats the other way.”
RSL goalkeeper Andrew Putna said the team lacked “bite” when it turned the ball over and didn’t seem to have the energy it took to win it back.
RSL was without three of its regular starters. Midfielder Albert Rusnák missed the first of six games due to international duty, defender Justen Glad served a suspension due to yellow card accumulation, and Nedum Onuoha was deemed not medically cleared to play.
“Those are two of our top guys on the team, so obviously we miss them a little bit,” Herrera said of Glad and Onuoha. “But I think [Erik] Holt and Marcelo [Silva] can step in in a heartbeat. It’s was a team effort. It wasn’t any individual that sort of let the game slip out of our hands.”
The goals Salt Lake gave up looked preventable. A well-played ball into space gave LAFC a shot just inches from the goal, but it hit the crossbar. Brady Wright-Phillips was right there to clean it up.
Five minutes later, Diego Rossi put defender Erik Holt on skates in a one-on-one situation and scored in the 27th minute. In the 59th, Brian Rodríguez gave Los Angeles a 3-0 advantage when he outran two RSL defenders for the ball and chipped a goal over Putna.
On the second and third goals by LAFC, Putna was by himself having to negotiate how to best position himself for the save. The second goal went over his left leg and the third went over one of his shoulders, he said.
“Once it’s within five [or] six yards to the goal, I think you just try to spread yourself and make yourself as big as possible,” Putna said. “It’s a game of inches at that point.”
Putna called both goals “quality.” He also said every player on the field “could have done better” defensively.
RSL travels to Seattle on Wednesday to play the Sounders. Five of Salt Lake’s next eight games are on the road.