Sandy • Three observations from Real Salt Lake’s scoreless draw Nashville SC from beat writer Alex Vejar.
1. Albert Rusnák gets more involved
The team’s captain and designated player appeared in his natural position for the first time this season. And that position change gave him the opportunity to be more involved in the attack.
As a winger, Rusnák’s touches declined in each of the RSL’s first three games. But on Saturday, he tallied 57 touches and a key pass, per WhoScored. It was a far cry from the game against San Jose when he had only 29 touches.
Coach Freddy Juarez said he changed Rusnák’s position because of how difficult Nashville is defensively. He put Anderson Julio, who returned from injury, into the right wing spot. Julio and Justin Meram as natural wingers helped RSL be more aggressive when the ball got to them, Juarez said.
“Overall I think Albert had a solid game,” Juarez said.
Rusnák’s play has been a story line for the entire season thus far. He’s on the last year of this contract and the front office is expecting him to have a good season. Through four games, the results have been mixed.
But Saturday was a step in the right direction for Rusnák, at least statistically. However, he could move back to a wing position as soon as next week. RSL needs these numbers to be a trend rather than a one-off.
2. Ochoa’s first shutout
It took four Major League Soccer games, but the young goalkeeping phenom picked up his first career clean sheet as a member of the first team. He was happy about it.
“That’s what we want to do,” David Ochoa said. “It feels really good, especially just because all the work we put in preseason and training every week. We try to emphasize our defensive block and to be really sharp back there. It feels good to get the clean sheet tonight and hopefully it’s the first of many for my career.
Juarez praised the team’s defensive effort against Nashville, a team that for two games in a row has played a 4-2-2 after playing with just one striker in their other games. Nashville gave Ochoa some trouble down the stretch, but he managed to pick up three saves to keep the game scoreless.
“I thought I was locked in the full 90,” Ochoa said. “And the way I hold myself, I should be making those saves. Hopefully I can just be a rock out there for the guys and just keep getting saves and clean sheets.”
3. A weird game
RSL had the bulk of the possession yet again. It amassed 12 corner kicks. It had Julio back in the attack to pair with Rubio Rubin. And as mentioned before, Rusnák was in his natural position.
But the game was strange. RSL didn’t get a single shot on goal. The shots they did get missed badly, which Juarez chalked up to a lack of technical ability in those moments.
Additionally, so much of RSL’s passing was lateral and among the back line, per the MLS Passing Network feature.
The thicker the line, the more times the ball was passed between two players. And according to the graphic, Justen Glad and Erik Holt played a very lengthy game of catch.
“We would’ve wanted to be a little more dynamic,” Juarez said. “But they (Nashville) do a heck of a job. They’re very disciplined.”
Ochoa said the team is happy with the result even though the team didn’t get the win at home in front of 10,555 fans.
“Obviously, especially at home, we want to come out with the [win] for the fans,” Ochoa said. “But it happens in this sport — sometimes you just can’t break down the opponent. And honestly, we walk out of that game with our head up because honestly the clean sheet is the most important. We did that.”