RSL’s unlucky shot attempts, Rusnák’s solid return, and a lackluster second half on offense

(Rick Bowmer | The Associated Press) Real Salt Lake forward Douglas Martinez (12) scores against Portland Timbers goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic (31) in the first half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Sandy, Utah.

Here are three observations from Real Salt Lake’s scoreless draw with FC Dallas from beat writer Alex Vejar.

1. RSL knocking on wood proves unlucky


That’s the number of times an RSL player’s shot attempt hit the outside edges of the goal. Crossbar, posts — all of it. It’s like there was a lid on the mouth of the goal Saturday night for Salt Lake. That’s how unlucky the team was with its shot attempts.

The official stats had RSL with just three shots on goal and 24 total. But for some reason, shots that hit the crossbar are not considered on goal. Maybe they should be because at times, those attempts beat a goalkeeper and don’t go in only because the ball comes off the goal frame, which is literally part of the target.

Stats aside, RSL felt good about all the chances it created but understandably frustrated.

“We are disappointed. It’s not necessarily just the result itself, it’s the fact that we had so many chances in the game,” defender Nedum Onuoha said. “We need to be able to capitalize on those. We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to get the three points because, overall, it feels like a game that we dominated and deserved more from.”

Take a look at the times RSL hit the goal frame. These shots are open and mostly clinical. You can argue that Douglas Martinez’s attempt looked a bit awkward, but it still goes in more times than not.

RSL can ill afford another game where so many chances don’t result in goals. Yes, they’re happy with what they’re creating, but at point, these shots have to go in. Saturday was the epitome of the phrase, “Close, but no cigar.”

2. Rusnák solid in return

Real Salt Lake played the past five games without midfielder Albert Rusnák. He was called up to the Slovakian national team so he could help his country qualify for the UEFA European Championship tournament.

In those five games, RSL won one game, lost three and drew one. Rusnák’s absence should have lasted six games, but the matchup against the Colorado Rapids was postponed due to COVID-19 cases among the Rapids.

When Rusnák took his place in the starting lineup on Saturday, he was effective. He shot three times and drew two fouls, one of which was just outside of the 18 yard box. Forward Corey Baird, however, took the shot on the free kick, which Rusnák usually does.

Rusnák’s passing was mostly positive, as he completed many that drove the attack forward. He tallied three key passes on the evening as well.

“Solid performance,” head coach Freddy Juarez said of Rusnák. “I think we could have got him involved on the ball a little bit more in the first half. We kind of corrected that in the second half — we talked at halftime. But, overall, it was good. It was nice to have him back. He offers some quality in there, where he can get in the tight areas to distribute the ball for guys and start attacks.”

3. Lackluster second half on offense

It wasn’t exactly a tale of two halves, but it was almost a tale of two halves.

Now that the terrible writing cliche is out of the way, we can focus on substance. RSL dominated the first 45 minutes against FC Dallas. Absolutely dominated. Eighteen of their 24 shots came during that period, as did all of their shots on target (three). Had things gone their way a bit more, the game likely would have been over after halftime.

Both teams, however, had to fight tooth and nail to score in the second half. And FC Dallas brought it — despite being the road team and being in a playoff spot.

Salt Lake had only six shot attempts in the second half, and none was on goal. And for the opening 20 minutes or so of the second half, FC Dallas pressed more, attacking better and putting RSL on its heels.

“We kind of took the foot off the pedal a little bit in the second half,” Juarez said. “I think we could’ve been more aggressive. For the first 15, 20 minutes it seemed a little too — [FC Dallas] got a little more control of the ball, we weren’t as aggressive in trying to win the ball back.”

Goalkeeper Andrew Putna said FC Dallas sat in more defensively after bringing in Matt Hedges late in the game. Aside from that, he didn’t see much of a difference between the first and second halves, particularly on offense.

“I don’t think it was that different from the first half,” Putna said. “I still think we had our chances in both halves.”

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