Sandy • Here are three observations from Real Salt Lake’s 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps from beat writer Alex Vejar.
1. Albert Rusnák making plays
Much has been said about whether Rusnák, RSL’s captain and highest paid player, is doing enough this season. Whether he’s involved enough. Whether he should be starting or the team captain given his lack of production.
Well, Saturday may have quieted at least some of those doubts.
Sporting a new bleached hairdo and coming off a disappointing situation where he wasn’t chosen to play for Slovakia in the European tournament, Rusnák had probably his best game of the season.
He beautifully assisted on Damir Kreilach’s first goal against, and he could’ve had a goal himself if it wasn’t for timely Whitecaps defense. But he took three shots (one on target) and created two chances.
“I’m happy for Albert,” coach Freddy Juarez said. “I thought he had a very good game.”
A performance like that has to give Rusnák some much-needed confidence, even though publicly he has said that he doesn’t need any more motivation that he already has within himself. But he was in the right areas and impacted the game in a way fans have been waiting to see all season, and that’s nothing but good news for RSL
2. Aaron Herrera, master of the long throw-in
RSL last season brought in Matt Glaeser to help with the team’s set pieces. As a result, the team was better at them overall and actually scored quite a few goals off them.
Incorporated within what the since-departed Glaeser installed is the long throw-in. Basically, if RSL gets the ball out of bounds near the 18-yard box, Aaron Herrera, who usually is tasked with throwing the ball in, whips it into the box to try to make something happen.
This season, he’s definitely made things happen. Two of RSL’s goals have come as a result of him delivering a perfect long throw-in. Against the Whitecaps, Herrera’s throw found Erik Holt’s head in the perfect spot, and he needed to do was flick it on target.
The other time Herrera created a goal off a long throw-in was against San Jose, when his throw found Kreilach’s head, which then found Rubio Rubin, who settled it with his chest and then performed his bicycle kick.
Herrera is already considered one of the best right backs in the country. But his skill of delivering a pinpoint throw-in into the box is a nice addition to his skillset.
“Aaron has that delivery. He has it,” Juarez said. “When you have people like Rubio who is a beast in the box, you have Damir who’s a big target, and you start adding some center backs in there, it becomes a handful. It’s another corner kick, but with a little more control of it because you’re actually getting to toss it.”
3. Should everyone at RSL bleach their hair?
Rusnák and midfielder Everton Luiz took the field Saturday sporting new hairdos: they both bleached their hair. Rusnák’s done it before, but Luiz usually sports a bald head so it was a surprise to see that not only did he grow some hair out, but he bleached it as well.
The question is: MLS goes on break, Rusnák and Luiz return with bleach hair, and the team wins. Coincidence?
RSL says coincidence. But we also know athletes are among some of the most superstitious humans out there.
Juarez said he noticed Rusnák and Luiz hair when he walked into the locker room Saturday, and realized their hair wasn’t like that the day before. But he’s an advocate of players doing whatever they feel will help them.
“If it brings a little bit of extra for them, we’ll take it,” Juarez said, adding that the team will keep the hairdo change isolated to Rusnák and Luiz.
When asked how much of RSL’s win could be attributed to Rusnák and Luiz hair change, Holt said, “None at all. Not at all.”
But maybe some.