Here are three takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s 2-2 draw to FC Dallas from beat writer Alex Vejar.
1. Andrew Brody and Aaron Herrera start together
With Brody’s emergence after Herrera got injured earlier in the season, it became a serious question as to how coach Freddy Juarez would handle Brody’s minutes when Herrera returned to health because they both play the same position.
During the week, Juarez joked that once Herrera wasn’t injured anymore, he would ask the league if RSL could play with 12 players. It was an indication of just how difficult it is for him to leave Brody off the field.
But he opted to start Brody and Herrera together against FC Dallas, moving Brody to left back, which put regular starter Donny Toia on the bench. Brody has played on the left side of the field at various points of his career and Herrera’s service into the box with his right foot is elite, so Juarez felt playing them at those positions would work.
It did. Herrera’s long cross late in the game found Damir Kreilach for the tying goal.
As for Brody, he was his usual active self, and even delivered a good left-footed cross into the box.
“I thought Brody did a fantastic job tonight,” goalkeeper David Ochoa said. “He was killing the ball, he was good defensively. And Aaron is just a solid defender that we have. I thought both of them stepped up tonight and had a good performance.”
It’s definitely in the realm of possibility that Brody and Herrera continue to play together in order to maximize RSL’s attacking potential with them as outside backs who run the channels and also their defensive work rates.
2. David Ochoa continues to shine.
There may be a new Wall of the Wasatch in town.
Ochoa faced 29 shots and had eight saves against FC Dallas. It’s by far his most saves of the season just before he’s slated to join the U.S. Men’s National Team for a camp and then a friendly next week.
Ochoa seemed candid postgame when he said having to get that many saves isn’t exactly what RSL wants.
“If I come out the game with zero saves, I’m honestly happy,” Ochoa said. “But sometimes the game of soccer doesn’t give you what you want. So I just have to be locked in the full 90 [minutes] and prepare for anything. I have to make that save when the team needs it. So honestly, it’s whatever. We don’t want it, but it’s fine. I’ll take the saves.”
Defensively, the back line always wants to make the game easy for the goalkeeper. If the keeper is having to make save after save, that usually means there’s an issue higher up the field. But Dallas also attacked RSL with reckless abandon all night and earned 15 corner kicks.
Through five games, Ochoa has given up six goals. One of them was a penalty against Dallas, so that one holds less weight than the ones that come in open play. So essentially, he’s allowing a goal per game. That’s not bad for a 20-year-old in his first Major League Soccer season.
And when he makes saves, they’re mostly technically sound. He makes himself big with his body, he deflects the shots he can’t catch at an angle so they go out of bounds.
Juarez said Ochoa performed great on Saturday, and liked his demeanor throughout the game.
“For me, the chin up and his posture lets the defenders know, ‘I’m here. I’m here to back you guys up,’” Juarez said.
It’s difficult to imagine Ochoa not playing most if not all of the games this season with how he’s performing so far.
3. Slip-n-slide soccer
The forecast in Frisco, Texas, for Saturday’s game was a 60% chance of rain. Well, it turned out that it was a 100% chance of not only rain, but repercussions from that rain.
For most of the first half, players on both RSL and FC Dallas were slipping all over the field as they tried to clear the ball out of danger, or set up for a shot, or kick a burst of speed. Ochoa’s first goal kick saw him slip and fall to the ground and subsequently give the ball away on accident.
The field conditions were a big story line for the game, and affected some of RSL’s opportunities specifically.
“I had an opportunity, but I slipped in front of goal and it cost the team a big chance,” said forward Rubio Rubin, who scored his fourth goal of season Saturday.
Juarez said the field conditions sped the game up faster than usual considering FC Dallas was at home and RSL expected Dallas to come at it with aggression.
“It took us a while to find the speed of the game and get to tackles a little quicker and get to loose balls a little quicker,” Juarez said. “I thought we lost a little of those in the first half and adapted better in the second half.”